I have made some serious self-discoveries recently. My personal, internal dialogue has grown increasingly robust and I have found myself awed at how much I have been unaware of, even within myself, even having lived with myself for 25 years, and even as an unusually introspective person.
It occurred to me yesterday that in my relationships, I tend to take a passive role, automatically granting the other person the power to set the parameters of the relationship; overall, that means I am in the postition of being not the one who acts, but who reacts.
This mindset extends to my friends and family and romantic connections and stems from my familial experiences. All my life, I learned from my parents’ interactions that the most powerful personality gets its way. My mother was abusive to us, and browbeat my father, and he was so conflict-averse, he decided to just let her have her way in almost every conflict between them.
Thus, I learned that the only responses in relationships are “avoid” or “placate,” and that there is no place for “respectfully disagree” or “defy” or anything that would allow the right of separate personhood. Consequently, I carried that idea of interaction into my adult relationships, at one point allowing myself to stay in an abusive relationship because I did not truly believe there was an option of escape. The abuse was not fun, but it was familiar, and I somehow viewed it as the natural result of being in ANY relationship.
Intellectually, of course, I understood there was another option, but emotional understanding is something entirely different. Emotional understanding means internalizing it, comprehending it in a way that it can be accessed and activated to achieve a practical end.
When I wait for my friends to call me, it is relational passivity. When I talk endlessly about someone’s life with them and hesitate to expose myself by allowing the conversation to turn to me, it is relational passivity. When I refuse to engage strangers in conversation, yet am willing to talk with someone who begins a conversation, that is relational passivity as well.
Oh, fears… this paralysis must stop. Undetstanding the causes of my behavior is, for me, half the battle. Now, I am making an effort to be assertive in my relationships. Not just in the way of saying, “Listen, the way you’re treating me is unacceptable,” or standing up for my rights (which is something I have learned since 2007, when I got out of that bad relationship). But being healthy and assertive also means being confident enough to make positive assertions: “Listen, you are my friend and I miss you. Let’s hang out, let’s have a phone date, let’s plan something.” Unless I can release this passivity, I will not be able to have truly meaningful relationships with others.
To forge even momentary human connections with others is an affirmation of life and shared humanity, and to come generously to the relationships I already have is to hold my loved ones in trusting hands. 14 months ago