Reactions of those close to you may range from criticism, resentment, anger and condemnation to the “silent treatment” and withdrawal when you make a choice that differs from theirs. Some may gossip to others about how they cannot understand your actions or choices, how irresponsible you are or berate you for not following what is expected. The backlash stems from their attempts to assuage their own hurt and fear and reel you back into what helps them feel safe and right.
Of course these reactions feel controlling and manipulative because they are. Humans have an instinctual impulse to belong to ensure safety, security and connection for survival and emotional well-being. When you move into unknown realms or make choices that do not include the beliefs or desires of your family and friends, it often disturbs their sense of attachment and security. Emotional pleas, manipulation and outbursts to change your mind or direction are attempted in order to reconnect and bring you back into the fold.
The concern of your relatives and friends may seem like an expression of love and care and in fact, they may love you deeply and want the best for you. Yet, when your choices, decisions and ideas are disparaged and unheard, it certainly is not a loving response; it is experienced as disrespect, an attack and often as abuse.
"Their disapproval buried me in disappointment and condemnation diminishing and devouring my sense of self. Voiceless, I shrank in confusion. Guilt crept in and I questioned my judgment. At the same time, another energy arose to push back; I felt anger."
Time to Look Inward
The first step in finding harmony with others is to discover what is going on inside of you. The deeper truth is that your need for connection and relationship is bumping up against your need for autonomy and self-determination. You are gripped in internal conflict and confusion because these two are both primary needs. The desire for approval is linked to your need to belong. There would be no conflict if you did not care.
“Personal autonomy is the desire to determine our values and live the life we choose without control by others.”
What is your “Knee-jerk” reaction when Emotions Arise?
Do you react with anger, blame, feelings of guilt or shame? These first reactions are telltale signs that something deeper is going on inside of you. None of these reactions will resolve your differences with others.
- Do I fight back, get angry, run away, become stubborn, pout, shut down, go along to get along or please others, withdraw, silence, sulk, criticize, blame, get mean or retaliate?
How much of the following emotions relate to your need to belong and to be loved? How do they relate to your need for autonomy and self-direction?
Do Emotions of Guilt or Shame arise?
- Am I afraid of the consequences of choosing, believing or thinking something different?
- Am I afraid of not being liked or accepted?
- Do I believe there is something wrong with me or that others will reject me in some way?
- Am I afraid that I am making the “wrong” decision?
Does Anger arise? Anger speaks to the need for protection.
- Do you feel emotionally or verbally attacked? Have your boundaries been violated?
- Do you feel obligated to go along with others even though you disagree? What are the consequences and benefits of going along?
- Do you feel manipulated or controlled?
- Are your values being attacked or not acknowledged or considered?
- Look underneath the anger; do you feel hurt?
If you feel Hurt, what is Underlying the Hurt?
- Do I want to be understood?
- Do I want approval or support for my choices, beliefs, ideas and decisions?
- Do I want to be accepted for who I am?
- Do I want to belong and am concerned that I will be left out, rejected or abandoned if I don’t go along with what others want or think?
- Do I feel invisible or unheard?
- Do I want to be respected and loved?
Embodying your Emotional Truth brings Freedom
When you have clarity about the Emotional Truth of the situation, you are able to see what is causing your internal struggle and ease the pain. You are able to weigh your desire for acceptance and belonging with your need to be true to your inner guidance and discern what really matters to you. With the knowledge of your real feelings and desires, you can take appropriate action in healthier ways to remain connected. There is a greater chance for harmony and resolution when you are centered in your authentic purpose.
And…you know what, more often than not, I have found that when I have reconciled my own struggle for my need to love and belong with my need to follow my heart’s direction, the conflict does melt away. I am able to reach out from a place of compassionate caring, respecting my own emotional needs and boundaries with a willingness to listen and respect other’s viewpoints. I may be uncomfortable when those I care about are hurt, disappointed or react. What I recognize is their fear of losing connection and control and their need for love and understanding. Remarkably, when I allow others the freedom to decide what is important for them without the need to change them, I gain greater respect for myself and the strength to move in the direction of my truth.