Happy Martyr's Day
I get it. I do.
I know first-hand the frustration and rage of being in a difficult relationship - feeling helpless, intimidated, criticized, oppressed - knowing beyond a shadow of a doubt that if this person would only change their erratic, mean, aggressive and impossible behavior, my life would be ever so much better.
And then to be told that it's MY responsibility to change my story and 'accept what is'... that's where the freedom lies? Are you out of your f***ing mind? Am I missing something here?
This was a challenge I saw several people struggling with at a workshop I attended this weekend based on Byron Katie's book, "Loving What Is". It's a challenge I'm familiar with. I have been absolutely sure that the responsibility for the state of my negative relationships rested squarely on the 'actively' aggressive person ...them... I mean, it's so universally obvious! Look at them! Look at their behavior! See how they're yelling at me? Criticizing me? No matter WHAT I do? How can I possibly do any more? Anyone can see that I AM THE VICTIM!
And now 'The Work', as Katie's process is called, is telling me that I am the one who is guilty of all those things I'm saying of the other. I'm clueless and insensitive and self-absorbed and critical and mean and petty and, and... YEAH! OKAY! I KNOW I'M A LOSER! I KNEW THAT ALREADY! HOW IS THIS SUPPOSED TO HELP ME????
It is true. At the bottom of the process, the glorious gift of freedom lies in the realization that all those things we want to change in others for the sake of our happiness is really about us. And only us. The stories we tell about our misery - they are really the filters of our own stuff through which we view the world.
But when we already feel so beaten down by circumstances, we can't embrace the ultimate gift of freedom in this realization... we can only feel it as resignation to a truth that we already believed. After all, if we weren't already convinced of our unworthiness, we wouldn't have allowed ourselves to be in this situation to begin with.
In pondering how to explain the difference between experiencing that truth as an indictment or as a key to joy, it occurred to me that this is like the kyo/jitsu relationship in shiatsu.
Kyo (emptiness/deficiency) and jitsu (fullness/excessiveness) is a way of describing a relationship dynamic. Kind of like the yin/yang principle, is it a description of balance/imbalance. Never are they really equal in any situation, as all is in motion, but the problems come when the degree of distortion becomes too great.
I could go on forever, and will at some point, about the kyo/jitsu nature of relationships, but for the sake of this point I'm trying to make, I'm going to use the example of a person whose overall physical constitution is kyo.
In people who were born with either a weak constitution, or have suffered from long-term chronic illness, their basic resources are depleted. As primarily energy-based practitioners, we are warned to use care with these people because healing itself requires energy. Stimulation of these processes can send the body into further and potentially dangerous depletion.
One has to be very gentle in building a resource base that the body can draw from. This, to me, appears to be the same challenge faced by people whose self-esteem is already so shot, who've already given their power away to the more jitsu person in the relationship. It would make the most sense to try to get it back from them, get them to give up that behavior just a little. We kyo ones are already in a state of taking responsibility for the feelings of the other... avoiding the clear and appropriate expression of our own feelings (after all, we don't want to hurt them them the way we're hurt when they yell at us), the idea of 'accepting' more responsibility just feels like the ultimate in powerlessness and martyrdom (and wewill simply implode if we have to take on anymore).
In shiatsu, addressing the jitsu only adds more energy to it, exacerbating the imbalance. Or at the very least, only offers a temporary sense of relief. We are taught to seek out the kyo (not always easy as it's quiet, guarded and hidden) and bring energy to that, which is the only effective way of drawing the excess power away from the jitsu. It requires careful presence, attention, compassion and a quiet, patient holding... knowing how to make the best and most mindful use of the vital energy that's there in order to expand on it.
How does this translate to our conflicts? How do we get from beating ourselves up with these epitaphs to embracing them as a source of enlightenment, personal responsibility and freedom?
Tune in next time...
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