Over the last week or so, multiple friends have come to me seeking advice and guidance on how to deal with a discussion/issue/argument that they are having with a loved one. And, in seeing it back to back in multiple different scenarios, I was reminded of something so incredibly important: what you are upset about, is what you are doing. Always. (As an adult, at least.) And the main reason we don’t see it that way, besides the fact that we are blinded by emotion, is that people have different manifestations of the same struggles.
Let’s break this down. For one friend of mine, her defense or go-to when things get tough in a relationship is to push the other person away, or to run, and it manifests in ways like blocking them, avoiding their calls, not answering, etc. And actually, now that I’m writing this, this was a theme in each of the women I talked to this week. They were all trying to avoid the situation by busy-ing themselves, distracting from the pain, and not talking to the person. In the first case, it was extra clear because the man in her relationship has the same defense. So he literally sees her avoiding, and what he does to cope with it - is avoid her. And then she gets mad for him avoiding her, and she distracts herself and avoids him. Kudos to them for not letting that go too far, but….it’s a pretty silly cycle. In the other cases is not that obvious, but it’s the same thing. They distract and busy themselves in order to not confront the pain of the conversation or relationship, and their main complaint is that the other person doesn’t see or hear them. But by not showing up to the conversation, they are clearly not seeing or hearing the other person. What you see is what you do.
Now the thing is, this can look very different. For example, another friend of mine felt like he was really showing up for his relationship. He was taking initiative in having the uncomfortable conversations, and being there for her. And I commend that, I think that’s super important and necessary. However, he was upset with her for not showing up for him. She was doing the avoiding thing, and I’ll agree, it seemed she was not there for him. But here’s the thing, in the conversations they were having, he was showing up to get her to see something. He was showing up to prove to her that she could take the next step in this relationship, and help her grow. And while I agree, personally, with what he was saying, and I believe in his desire to do the best thing for the relationship - he was also not showing up for her and what she needed in that moment. She needed not to be pushed, but to be listened to.
In almost every argument, the complaint is that the other person is not listening. And almost every argument, that can be solved by….guess what….listening. If I blame you for not listening, what are the chances that I’m really listening to you? Really truly, where you are. Even if I’m “right”, even if I’m being more loving than you, or showing up more than you, or less emotionally destructive than you, am I actually doing what I ask of you?
I sat in on an argument between brother and sister, and I think that was probably the most clear. There were plenty of dynamics in the conversation, and lots of different subjects were covered, but because I was just sitting there on the outside, it was so clear that this was the basis of the conversation: she was blaming him for her pain and he was blaming her for his pain. And then, because of that, he was blaming her for blaming him, and she was blaming him for blaming her, both claiming that the other one doesn’t listen. It was like, what he said triggered her and then her reaction triggered him and so on and so forth. Over and over and over and over until someone can’t take it anymore and the conversation is over.
What if we stopped blaming the other person for our upset? What if we, instead, did what we wanted done to us. You remember that saying when you were a kid, “treat others the way you’d like to be treated”? Now’s your chance.
Now if you are in a situation like this right now, or thinking about something you’ve gone through in the past, I bet not blaming them for something hurtful is really tough. I bet that feels vulnerable and icky. I bet that feels like not a smart move, like you can’t let them off the hook. But here’s the thing - try on not blaming them, and taking responsibility for what you are doing. Try it on. And really look at it. In the brother sister example, they both hurt each other so much. It can feel uneven when you’re personally hurt, and because in this case he shows his hurt in a different way than she does, it’s hard to see that it’s all hurt- but it is. But if he can take responsibility for hurting her, he will see that she is human and was just doing the same thing he was. (And often this will have her want to do the same, or visa versa.) In my mind, this is less about forgiveness, and more about responsibility. If you can see that you are doing it, you get to own that, and you almost automatically forgive them because you’ve realized you’re doing it too.
*A caveat - for some of you, you might be stuck in blaming yourself for everything. This is just a trick of the mind that makes you feel helpless. I’d encourage the same process - look at what is upsetting you. What is the other person doing, that hurts you? And then take responsibility for what you are doing to them.
We could talk about this for days, going into details of all the ways this can happen (and you know, call me if you want to, because I love talking about it! lol), but remember that it really can be that simple. What you are upset about, is what you are doing. What you are seeing in another person, is what you see in yourself. The anger, blame, and hurt comes from the self. And rather than letting that defeat you, let it empower you. That means YOU, and you alone, have the power to transform any relationship, any argument, any circumstance into love and freedom. You have the power to create an opportunity for connection even in the yuckiest of circumstances. And I bet, doing that will make it easier to see when it’s time to walk away, for instance. It will make it easier to see your truth, when it’s not clouded with upset and hurt.
You spot it, you got it. Check yourself. LOVE yourself. :)