27 February 2010

Lesson #4: Before you knew me, you were someone else.

We are who we are, usually for a reason.  We're shaped by our experiences, by the people who've touched us, the role-models we choose, the traumas and celebrations that make up our personal timeline.  Maybe this is part genetics.  It's definitely part family and friends, past intimate relationships, and past successes and failures.  These defining moments, big or small, contribute to our responses to life's challenges and successes today.

At times, I have forgotten this.  Especially when someone is close to me.

Think about the last time you had a disagreement with someone, got angry with them.  Or maybe they made a decision that you didn't understand, or one that hurt you, or came as a blindside.  Maybe the relationship fell apart, or they acted in a harmful way.  At one point, you may have asked the question: "What were they thinking?"  or "How could they do that?"  Or you could be focused on a problem, with the very realistic thought of "Well, I want ____, don't you?"

And even if you ask them, you might not get the proper answer.  They might not know.  They might say they know, and not even realize they're ignoring their little voice (see Lesson #10).

I'm not saying that I should rationalize the behavior of other people.  In fact, depending on how this blog goes, I may have a lesson about NOT doing that.  But I should understand that the people in my life, whether they are there for a few minutes or for years and years, come with a depth and breadth of experience that, most likely, I will not fully understand.  So when I think about our relationship, and try to make sense of what is going on, I've learned that I need to stop.

Take a step back.

Understand that the issue may be far more than a 1:1 deal.  Get that they're making their decisions with a whole lot of reasons in mind, their own set of priorities and goals.

And then proceed.

This might not solve the problem.  Every altercation has two sides, and the only one I can really deal with is my own.  But understanding that relationships involve, in some way, everyone in the other person's history, might prevent a knee-jerk reaction, the natural instinct to make the issue all about me.  It might even change the questions I ask.  And certainly, it will remind me that the same is true on my end - my reasons for reaction to someone or something are a direct result of my own experience, or the things I still carry around.  It teaches me the importance of letting go what needs to be let go, and keeping close the things that are good to remember.  And it keeps me from focusing too much on myself, which has happened more often than I like to admit.

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