Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Blind Determination

 ... can lead us to a destination other than the one we've planned.  When we ignore the speed limit, the caution signs, the signs telling us precisely where we will end up if we take this offramp, we cannot then complain when we arrive, and discover to our dismay, that it isn't where we thought we wanted to go, after all. It's not nirvana, it's not perfection, it's not at all the way we thought it would be. It's somewhere else, and - we don't like it much.

I've always liked this warning:

"When people tell you who they are, pay attention."

I take this to mean that most people give us a fairly good description of themselves in their stories, attitudes, opinions, and also by what they find amusing. 

Romantic relationships seem to be one area of life, in which we can deny the realities of another person's character, while we work like the dickens to try to make the person fit our ideal of them. I don't know why denial operates so powerfully in this area, but I've done this myself, and I've seen it done. We build a container first - this can have roots in our childhoods - and then go looking for someone to force into it. Only problem being:

You can't change other people.

When the person finally musters the strength to break out of the cage in which we've tried to contain them, to reassert what is, after all, their true nature, we can feel betrayed, outraged, angry. But it's not that they've acted out of character, but that they've gone back to acting precisely in character. The character we tried to eradicate, as we attempted to make them fit our construct.

Looking back at my first marriage, I can see that my ex told me who he was quite plainly, and I ignored it. I tried to make him fit my ideal, and he tried to comply, until he couldn't stand it anymore, and went back to being himself. I carried a lot of resentment towards him for that, but in reality, what else could I expect?

In Al-Anon, I have learned that when I accept and admit to my powerlessness, I am allowing my Higher Power the room to make changes for me. I don't have to like those changes right off the bat - they may cause me intense pain, the end of a relationship, grief and sorrow.

My part, is to pay attention when someone tells me who they are, so I'm not lost in a fantasy of how it might be/could be, if I were able to successfully manipulate this person into being and doing what I want.  When I find myself engaged in that activity, I know I've lost my focus, and I'm heading to a place I've visited in the past, and from which I couldn't wait to get away - denial. I don't want to go there.

How do I avoid it? Pay attention. Read the road signs - if they tell me I'm headed toward Disaster -  population too many to count; don't ignore that and start insisting that I'm driving in the direction of My Heart's Desire After Some Major Demolition and Rebuilding.

I can't change other people. If they tell me who they are, and I'm not comfortable with that -  let go, move on. My part in this is to face reality, act honorably, and don't try to change anyone but myself.


  1. GREAT post. Done that a few times - tried to make someone into the fantasy I wanted them to be....I am not the exception. I am the rule.

  2. Great post. So many of us try to make people into who they are not and then get angry with them for letting us down. If we would just let them be....then we could be.

  3. I know those moves. I have often wondered at the insanity of trying to change who people are. It has not worked. And the consequences caused much pain.

  4. I'm new to your site and I haven't even been to my first al-anon meeting yet. This post has touched my soul, thank you for what you have with your blog, I can only imagine the impact it will have once I start al-anon, but so far, I've stuck with therapy to deal with my husbands alcholism and infidelity but am about to start the journey.