“Happiness is when what you think, what you say and what you do are in harmony.”
- Mahatma Gandhi
Oh yes. Now this is wisdom. Wish I could do it.
How often do we think one thing and do another? Like agreeing to have to a 2nd or 3rd date with someone you’re not really crazy about just because it seemed like, well, what the hell? Or saying yes to volunteering for a cause that wants you, even if you don’t really want it, because you think you ought to, not because your heart cares about it? Or ingesting, imbibing or inhaling stuff you don’t think is good for you because others are – food, drugs, those last 4 drinks? ‘Oh, it’s just one cookie. Try it.’ This list could go on and on.
How often do we think one thing but say something different? Either to spare feelings or spare conflict. Or stay out of a political discussion when we have thoughts or feelings about the subject? Or refrain from voicing our outrage when someone is awful to another person in our presence? Or suck up to the boss?
Someone told me that acting adversely to your inner self causes disease. In my job, I dealt with lots of retirees. Over a 25 year period, I got to watch thousands of people age. My experience showed me how damaging it is over a long term to act conversely to your true self.
It damages relationships. Do you really think your partner would leave or your friends disown you if you voiced your true opinions or if you just went ahead and did what you really wanted to do? You don’t have to be an ass, you just have to say the thing without second guessing, without taking the temperature of the room every time. Sometimes it’s perfectly ok to just say what you think. If you have friends or family who couldn’t handle it, then it might be a good idea to begin steering your relationships towards truth. Have faith in the people who love you to stay and trust that the process will take those out of your life who shouldn’t be there anyway.
It damages health. I’ve watched time after time as some clients aged early and went into decline long before other clients. One day it occurred to me that many of them had the same personality trait in common – they only expressed their true attitudes about money (my realm) with me privately when spouse or family wasn’t present.
It damages time. What good is it to spend a lifetime pretending? When it’s over, will you feel you lived a fulfilled life? Or will you feel you wasted it pretending to be someone else?
My youngest and I have a problematic trait in common, we are both really good at making ourselves actually not want the thing we think others will not want. We are both really good at saying, ‘It’s no biggie. Don’t worry about it. I don’t really care one way or the other.’ In fact, my daughter is so good at this her nickname is Maybe Baby. She is a sweet, gentle soul who prefers to avoid conflict with others – I love and respect her for that.
BUT, sometimes conflict is necessary. And avoiding it can cause more problems than it solves. Sometimes conflict is there to teach us to firm up our borders and say to whomever, ‘it is not ok with me for you to treat to me like that.’ ‘I don’t agree with you.’ ‘You acted badly.’
‘Moderation in all things’ applies to standing up for ourselves and speaking our true selves as well as all the other things to which people like to attach this phrase.
Homework: practicing peaceful conflict (Ha, just thought that up, and I like it!)
Think of ways to disagree without being ugly about it. One of my old friends, Peter, a wise warrior and phenome of living a full life, taught me a technique:
When someone says something to which you might disagree, try saying ‘and’ instead of ‘but’. For instance, when one of your bulldozer friends says, “The WAY to do this is ______!” You could say, “And you could also _____.”
You can try silent active resistance. When someone suggests something you don’t want to do or something with which you don’t agree, you can remain silent. Don’t speak either in agreement or in sympathy hoping to bond with the person. Just let the comment hang there. If they are thoughtful, they will notice and may even ask your opinion, which you should feel free to offer. (I’m not suggesting this for important decisions.) If they are not thoughtful or take advantage of your silence, then you have learned something important about this person that you should file away and remember.
You can practice saying things that are self protective and true –
“I have a different thought about that.”
“We can take turns expressing a preference about where we go. You choose tonight and I’ll choose tomorrow.” Then keep your word, don’t wimp out.
Here’s another brain game to play with yourself:
Pretend you are not responsible to anyone other than yourself, that you live alone, that you work by yourself, that others are simply not around. Now, what would you do if you were happily alone for the moment and had the same decision to make? Where would you eat? How would you vote? How would you dress? What would your environment look like? How would you spend your money? Who would you choose to call and who would you just as soon not speak to? When would you see family or friends if left completely to your own decision making? The answers to these questions might give you a clue as to where you are avoiding conflict.
I’m practicing. I’m trying out these things and some others. I’ll let you know how it goes. If you have phrases or behaviors that have worked for you in maintaining healthy borders, please share.