It means being open to the belief that people can change and that IF they demonstrate (not say, actions really do speak louder than words) the ability to be emotionally and physically safe, we may, if appropriate, be open to a new kind of relationship with them. That relationship would have to take shape slowly, cautiously and only under conditions where we feel we are exposed to an acceptable level of risk to us.
No one else can say what an acceptable level of risk is to you.
It also means that if the past cost has been quite high, we accept that it may never be ok for us to have a relationship and recognize that we are ending it because it is the healthiest thing for us.
Some people will argue that if you are not willing to re-engage, you have not dealt with your hurts or your past. In these cases, just remember that only you know if that is true or not.
Here are some quick tells about whether or not there are pulls to the past to help you along:
- Our reaction to a situation or conversation seems uncharacteristically
strong or over the top
- We are left with a panicky feeling (thoughts and heart racing, anxious)
- We can’t seem to let it go after– we get stuck ruminating about it, second guessing ourselves or feeling like we need to back-pedal or fix things somehow or take responsibility for things that are not ours
If you answered yes to any of these questions, it may be worth spending some time in quiet reflection to see if any old hurts surface alongside your current day hurts or frustrations about your circumstances.
- If you are feeling rejected by your spouse, is this stirring up old hurts about having emotionally unavailable caregivers in the past or previous romantic rejections?
- If you are feeling like nothing you do at work is good enough for your boss these days, is it stirring up feelings towards an ever-critical parent of the past?
If they are, the current day situation can seem far more overwhelming than it usually would be, because it is not just about the current situation anymore, it is layered onto past unresolved emotions as well. These types of perfect storms are the ideal breeding ground for feeling overwhelmed, which often leads to unhealthy coping, like over-spending, becoming a workaholic, and “sex, drugs and rock and roll” as they say. You get the picture.
2. If it does feel like old stuff is coming up alongside with the new stuff, go through the stages of readiness for change to see where you are at this point before making any big goals.
3. Then start making small, realistic steps towards either staying present with your discomfort at not acting yet, or making meaningful change. For more about setting SMART goals, follow the link.
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See you next week!