Tuesday, November 10, 2009

As Is.

Our culture tends to promote the idea that if we just try with enough concentrated effort, we can change another person to fit our specifications. This may involve trying to change behavior of small importance, such as the way someone washes dishes, or it may involve trying to "fix" a loved one's addiction.

That was one of the first lessons I didn't want to learn in Al-Anon - I can't change anyone but myself. I have to accept the other person "as is." I can speak up regarding behavior I find unacceptable, and I can remove myself from an unacceptable situation, other than that, I am powerless - I cannot force the other person to behave differently.

In friendship, if we are not willing to accept "as is," we can be in a state of ongoing exasperation, judging harshly for their failure to meet our expectations, or for behaving differently than we would choose to. I've had to let go of friendships when I sadly realised that my friend couldn't allow me to think from a separate viewpoint. When new to program, I had a friend who would make statements, and then finish off with "...right?" To begin with, if I didn't agree, I'd say so. I quickly learned that wasn't worth the hassle, it was easier to sidestep her with a noncommittal remark. After a short while, she caught on to that, and she wouldn't accept those - her insecurities demanded complete agreement. I used to arrive back at home after visiting with her, and feel exhausted. I was in Al-Anon for quite a few years before it dawned upon me why I found this friend's company so tiring - it was because she couldn't allow me to be myself, with my own opinions, personality quirks, and human frailties. When I was with her, I felt evaluated and reproved. That understanding made it possible for me to choose to let the friendship go. I felt a strange mixture of sadness and relief. This guided me to pay closer attention to when I may be doing this same thing to a friend - requiring that they agree with me about whatever it is I'm feeling het up. I also had to seek out the reasons for which I'd allow myself to become involved with a person who couldn't accept me "as is." If I'm in a conversation, and I begin to feel irritated because the other person doesn't agree with me, I now know to stop talking, sit back, and listen carefully. I don't want my own ego to be creating barriers between me and another human being. I want to be accepting.

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