Examining my shadow side
Part of transformation is examining all facets of oneself. For me, digging deeper is a huge step in understanding why I have made the choices I have in my past and recognizing things within myself that need improvement so that I can move forward and not repeat old patterns or behaviors.
Choosing Emotionally Unavailable People
One of the questions I keep coming back to about myself is why I choose people who are emotionally unavailable. When I look back over friendships or people who I have fallen for, I tend to repeat this cycle of picking people who don’t give back as much as I do. As I dig deeper to try to understand why this is, I find myself asking what it is that I am drawn to about that person. Is it that I want to help them? Am I trying to fix them? Do I see myself in them?
Life experience and having a background in Psychology has taught me that a person has to want to change and that I can’t do that for them. Plus, I love people as they are, so personally, I don’t think that it comes from this place of wanting to “fix” people. By nature, though, I am a caring and nurturing person. If I see someone struggling, of course, I want to help them. But, once again, I go back to the previous answer. One can only help someone so far until that other person has to do the work themselves.
If it isn’t those answers, then what? One thing I recognize is that I am drawn to pain. Anyone who knows me knows that I love music; specifically, any type of music that conveys pain or hardship (think NF, Eminem). When I analyze myself further, I see that I connect deeply to the pain of someone’s voice, of their words, and of their expression. While I am an extraordinarily happy and joyful person, my foundational core was built upon pain. Thus, I am almost like a moth to a flame when it comes to empathizing with another’s pain.
In taking that a step further, I recognize that not only do I empathize with that person’s pain, but I tend to project my old feelings of pain and want to be the person in that other person’s life that doesn’t cause pain. Thus, I want to bring healing in the form of being what was lacking at the source of my pain. For example, I connect to someone who shares that they have been abandoned by partners, their father, their friends. I then internalize my own abandonment issues and try to be everything that I wished someone would’ve been for me.
What happens then is that no matter how much this person pushes me away, I find myself determined to not abandon them. But is this wrong? Does that mean that something is unhealthy about me? I know all about codependency. I know all about boundaries and self-respect. And I get it. But I also know something about my faith and one of the fundamental truths that I feel in my heart is that God promised that he will never leave me or forsake me. Is this not the essence and core of unconditional love?
I feel like I need to make a disclaimer here — I am not talking about emotionally or physically abusive relationships here. Those are deal breakers and it’s important to take care of yourself first.
I am talking about just being that silent entity that models to the other that not all people leave. I recognize that I can’t force someone to want to have a relationship with me, nor would I ever try. Why would I want a relationship that isn’t authentic? I guess what I am uncovering is that I think I allow myself to have relationships with emotionally unavailable people because I feel that is part of my soul’s purpose.
My experience with pain makes me want to stick around to try to see past the “knee-jerk” response, if you will, and see if the other person is able to eventually see that it is safe to allow people in. When I think back to my childhood or being a mom, I think about how often I shut people out or about how my middle boy would run to his room and want to be left alone. What is the real message here? Did I really want everyone to shut me out or was I testing to see if people could handle the real me? Does my son really want me to leave him alone and never share anything or does he secretly want me to come in and check on him?
As I dive into myself deeper, I feel called to have patience and to be the person who stays. And the more that I type this, the more I realize that maybe the question isn’t why I choose to have relationships with emotionally unavailable people, maybe the question is what made those people emotionally unavailable to begin with? And deeper still, why do I care? Which circles back around to my faith — I care because I know that God’s love transformed me. Had he not brought people into my life that showed me love and compassion then I would not be the person that I am today.
I think that what I need to be cognizant of is not pushing people or having expectations. I can only do so much and then it is up to the other person. I can demonstrate love, compassion, empathy, but until the other person allows it in, I have to respect their boundaries.
Not Being Truthful With Myself To Not Hurt Others
Here’s one I am terribly guilty of! In fact, this is probably my darkest shadow as there are aspects of me that I have denied within myself to others all for the sake of saving face. The thought of hurting people I love and care about kills me. And as I type this, I can now see the connection with the previous shadow and why it needed brought to light. In fact, I think I just found my “light bulb” moment!!
I never want to be the source of someone’s pain.
I have spent all my life trying to be the opposite of pain that in doing so, it has caused me to hurt myself over and over to avoid having real and honest conversations. If I know that something I want is going to hurt the other person, I will rationalize the hell out of it until I no longer desire what it is that I desire to avoid telling the other person. I do one even better; I label it “sacrifice” and almost give myself martyr status for denying myself my desire. Of course, I don’t do that consciously, but in examining it, in magnifying it, I can see it for what it is now.
I completely understand why this is so deeply rooted within myself, as I was conditioned that if I gave an unacceptable or unfavorable response as a kid, I was abused. Thus, it didn’t take long to put the two together and I became an avid tight-rope walker at an early age.
So I am going to push myself a little deeper then…
I have come to a place in life where I recognize what I desire and I know that I need to own my feelings and relay my truth to someone I love and care very deeply about. What are my fears? It is time to face that. My first fear would be what if my desire is wrong? Well…there is always that, right? But I need to own the fact that it is my truth. It is how I feel, whether right or wrong, it is mine. So big swallow…I own it. Second, what is the worst that could happen? Yup! I’ve faced that one and while it would suck, I could get through it. And now as I start to type all of this I realize one more epiphany — I could be here for days typing all the fears because at the end of the day, it’s unknown.
I am reminded of a Bible verse, “For we walk by faith and not by sight,” 2 Corinthians 5:7. While part of my transformation has been becoming more spiritually aware and less confined by religion, at the core of who I am, is my faith in the unknown. Thus, I have to trust that I have the feelings I have for a reason, be cognizant of my tendency to over-extend, and be ready to own my truth no matter the outcome.
I think that is the hardest part for me — owning my truth no matter the outcome. That requires taking a risk. It means I relinquish control — which means that I could speak my truth, it could completely backfire, and I am left holding a grenade. When I look back at my life, I have survived through my ability to assess situations and control people’s reactions through my reaction. The moment I allow myself to have a reaction that might differ from someone else’s, the less control I have over the outcome. The less control I have over the outcome, the greater the risk.
And yet, as I bring this to a close, I think about all the things I have learned in life. Do I want to look back and know that I played it safe or do I want to know that I lived? Undoubtedly, I want to know that I lived~