The world really is tiny, relatively speaking. Yesterday I had an Aussie friend I met in Banff a couple of months ago come for dinner and we spent the day together – all the way from Melbourne, via North America, Iceland and now to my tiny home village in Lancashire, northern England (it’s not even big enough to be worthy of the town status).
We went for lunch at my local pub and had a decent few hours there as we ate our fancy braised fennel (lah-de-dah). While chatting and eating we had some pretty deep conversations too, but one thing really resonated with me, which prompted me to write about it today.
As travel friendships do, bonds become quite deep quite quickly and it didn’t take long for us to get to the good stuff; we talked about people in our past that had hurt us, wronged us or misled us somehow. We discussed how ultimately those behaviours are never personal, as hard a pill that is to swallow. We pondered over how it’s ultimately a mish mash of unresolved stuff that people project onto us, but the fact that we’re human is that we want to personalise everything, to remove future threats to our character. The fact so much resistance comes up when you want to believe It’s all about you when in reality It’s not about you. (A refrain coincidentally taken from Arcade Fire’s ’The Age of Anxiety’ from their album WE I currently can’t stop listening to.)
We mulled over how we humans want to avoid discomfort and unfamiliarity at all costs, and how societally, we’ve been raised to believe that everything that happens to us is directly causal of our choices: you got cancer because you smoked; you’re poor because you have a low paying job; you’re unhappy because you’re lonely; you’re this or you’re that because of something you either have or haven’t done that is in your control. Which of course isn’t necessarily true; something things just. Are… Fin.
But the thing that made me audibly go “Ooh” was when Luke said: “You choose who you get to give your power to.” And I’ll let that sit there for a bit.
Whoever causes us confusion, misery, despair, anger, provokes betrayal, fear, anxiety, jealousy – anything that drains us, we have the privilege of being able to choose how much energy we expend from these feelings. We get to choose how much this/these person/s will continue to take away from us. As soon as you realise that you have that conscious choice, it’ll set you free. As soon as you detach from the resentment, the expectation of them needing to hurt too, the injustice of maybe them not hurting at all, as soon as you decide that it no longer has gravitas, that weight you’ve been dragging around will vanish.
We have the innate habit of attaching to things that aren’t good for us, for whatever reasons. By that I mean trying to prove someone wrong, trying to get justice, trying to manipulate someone’s image of us. It becomes part of our identity to wrangle with someone else’s mind like that and thus we become attached; their perception of us or their actions become part of us on some level. By detaching, that strong tie dissolves through a simple shift in perspective. The ‘How could they/why do they/why won’t they?’ turns into a much softer (if not wordier) ‘They don’t have that kind of influence over me anymore; nothing they do or say matters to me.’
Don’t get me wrong, nothing is ever that easy when dealing with the human brain. If this concept of detaching is unfamiliar, it’s going to be alien at first. Like everything we don’t know to begin with; it will feel like some kind of threat. But all you have to do is repeat the practice – keep reminding yourself: They don’t have that kind of power. Over time, you will hopefully find peace, though this isn’t of course the universal solution to everything.
Ultimately, if you can flip your identity from being a victim to the empowered, again, over time and with a lot of self-compassion and patience, it’s one of the most liberating things you can do for your past and future self. Though you may be a victim of circumstance, you can choose whether or not to be a victim of someone else’s actions (or lack thereof) – and that’s another tough pill to swallow, but more often than not, it’s the medicine you need.