“Even a great teacher cannot avoid the troubles of his body, cannot avoid sickness, old age, and death. In the same way, we cannot do away with feelings or the messiness of human relationships. Even the Buddha had some relationships that were easier than others; the most difficult ones brought him enemies who tried to kill him, troublesome students, and problems with his parents when he went home to visit. Keeping this in mind, how then might we practice?”
~ Jack Kornfield, Path with Heart
Every one of us has relationships where there is a familiar dynamic set in place.
It is as if you show up on set to play the same characters every episode. When we know the person for many years we have witnessed over time the patterns that unfold over and over again.
The danger in this is that we forget to ever be present. We are so well trained in dealing with this person that we feel we already know what he/she will think, say, and do. We have a deeply etched-in impression our minds—a version of who they are and who you are in connection to that person.
It’s an incredible bond at times, and at the same can be incredibly stifling.
You both have been type-casted within that relationship, and you are permitted to play no other roles because you both have gotten attached to a certain way of relating.
Wouldn’t it be more freeing if you both could express more of who you are and encourage one another in that process? Could you gain enough presence that when you are with your ‘familiar pals’, you can approach them anew each time?
When things are on the up and up, we don’t pay much attention to these things, but when things don’t feel so terrific, well, that’s when we need this teaching the most—in order to shift the dynamic.
Examples of the roles we play out in relationships are countless.
One person is the victim, the other the perpetrator, or one is the savior always saving the suffering, or maybe you have someone who together all you do is commiserate about the struggles you both individually bear. We unconsciously get ourselves very stuck in these familiar dances. They feel comfortable because we know what to expect.
Yet. by continually playing the same roles, we not only stunt our own and the other’s personal growth, but we can easily give our power away unconsciously. The victim gives his/her power away to the perpetrator, the aggressor feeds off that power and often holds onto it as a way to feel powerful.
The savior refuses to look at their own life by disguising himself as a good guy, but in reality it’s a shield to protect himself from what he might see if there were no one to save; the constant sufferer never gains the sea-legs needed to be on her own because the savior always swoops in. We enable one another negatively this way without really realizing it. The commiserating girlfriends only stunt one another’s development because the complaining becomes an addiction, which helps them to feel bonded and ‘cozy’, yet prevents them from truly growing up and ever getting their needs met.
Once we individually get stronger in both mind and spirit, we observe with great clarity the landscape of our relationships.
In doing so, we permit ourselves to ‘show up’ differently. Showing up differently does not mean you show up as a different person, however the way you relate to that person does certainly change. You change your outlook, your energy, and your actions. But first, you need to see very precisely how you give your power away.
Many people need approval, but what happens is they then die by anyone’s rejection of them. They give the rejecter all of their power. What if instead of always needing that approval, you knew who you are with all your beauty, grace, foibles, shortcomings…and you were able to say, “I don’t need your approval to know my worth, thank you very much.”
As we learn to forgive ourselves, we can hopefully forgive others more easily for we understand what we humans are going through. We start letting go—gently. It’s not a forceful letting go like “I have to do this!”—but rather a very soft releasing. In a very grounded way, you say to yourself, this dynamic must change, and I can only change myself, not the other.
Or you loosen your hold entirely and say, my work is done with this person – and you move on. The fear of changing the dynamic by changing your behavior is common—it will be the opposite of cozy; it will most definitely be uncomfortable. You know on a deep level by changing, your friendship won’t be the same.
Can you handle that? Can you trust that as long as you take care of yourself—i.e. taking your power back—all else will fall into place? Your spirits came together to do some work for one another’s evolution.
Once you see that it doesn’t serve you as it once had, give yourself the permission to let it go.
What happens is wonderful—you are free from that stagnant bond, but you have now also created space for new people to enter your life, people who could not fit into your landscape while that other person/dynamic was there.
You are then casted in a new role in a new episode of your life.
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Assistant Ed: Judith Andersson / Ed: Bryonie Wise