60 Shades of Grey!
We like certainty!
We create absolutes out of uncertainty all the time!
We turn things that are not definitive at all, like marriage, religion, politics, right and wrong, and we make them into absolutes!
We insist that when WE say “I do” it will be forever, even though the divorce rate is over 50%.
We have holy wars because we are so certain OUR religious beliefs are the RIGHT ones … the problem, is the other side is equally convinced theirs are too!
We talk about what is “right” and “wrong” as if they are absolute and static things, yet it used to be “right” to beat your children (“Spare the rod and spoil the child” was the saying), to own slaves, to persecute LGBTQ individuals and for women to be considered less than men.
We create absolutes out of uncertainty in other ways too. We like black and white thinking, people are either all good, or all bad! We like clean lines. It is even reflected in our expressions, we talk about being in the “dog house” or in someone’s “good books”, but we don’t really have expressions about mixed feelings do we? There is no “being in the transition house” or in the “mixed books”. There are no shades of grey!
We don’t like ambiguity, so we pretend things are certain when they aren’t- even though it is at our own expense! The problem is, that is not life certain. Unfortunately, no matter how hard we try to make the round peg fit in the square hole, most of life is about mixed feelings and learning to hold both at the same time!
The thing is, a lot of people have learned that the way to stay safe is to pretend everything is fine, and convince themselves that things were not so bad. As a result, they struggle to acknowledge when perhaps, by no one’s intent, their emotional or physical needs were not met, and this had a negative impact. This is why the beginning of therapy is often associated with the whole “blaming the parents” story. It is really hard for us to connect to positive feelings when we have negative feelings built up, and many people struggle more with acknowledging negative emotions than positive ones, so understandably, that is what surfaces first. Click here for a 5 min video on feelings for an animated reminder of this.
By the end of therapy though, the aim is to be able to acknowledge and sit with both what positive was there, and any grief or anger as we learn to accept that our parents, siblings, loved ones etc had a different survival map than us and there was/ is a disconnect between our needs and what they are able to offer. Yet another level of acceptance comes when we learn to also accept that given their survival map, they often did what they believed to be right.
For example, meet Josh. Josh’s parents learned that safety comes from appearances. Their primary form of income was a small Mom and Pop shop. The success of the store depended on their ability to stay in the good
All this to say, life is about mixed feelings, life really is 60 Shades of Grey!
People hurt us, AND we get hurt by them because we allowed ourselves to care, to be vulnerable. We only expose those soft and squishy parts to people we have some loving or positive feelings towards. So as you process your feelings, remember to acknowledge the positive along with the negative.
Life isn’t black or white- so let’s learn to love and dance in grey!