Did you realize that we maintain a tag cloud of emotions for every person within our social network? The mere mention of a person’s name will summon a unique constellation of feelings that we associate with them. All of our previous interactions and experiences leave an emotional imprint on us. Certain emotions will be experienced with greater frequency and intensity. They will stand out among the rest and dominate our overall impression of a person. Given that our relationships are fluid, the tag cloud of emotions will be updated with each new interaction.
Over time, we acquire a baseline of people’s behaviour patterns and can usually determine what to expect from future interactions. Additionally, if someone’s behaviour seems off or out of character, it can signal that something has changed for either the person, or the relationship itself. Some relationships feel light, easy-breezy and give us energy. We feel a sense of openness, acceptance and comfort within them. We experience enjoyment and gladly welcome the interactions that ensue from them. By contrast, other relationships feel heavy, uneasy and deplete our energy. We feel vulnerable, guarded and uncomfortable within them. We go out of our way to avoid or minimize our interactions in these types of relationships.
In the school of life, our most challenging relationships ultimately prove to be our greatest teachers. The journey that we go on with them, provides the personalized curriculum necessary for our personal growth and development. There are certain lessons we must learn and master before we can advance. Skipping classes and avoiding the work, will not provide escape. We will unwittingly draw to us, situations that continue to agitate some aspect within ourselves, that we do not want to face. We will experience our own personal Groundhog Day of feeling trapped in a loop.
I do not believe in coincidence. In the middle of writing this blog post, I came across the following quote on social media:
Last week, I made an important decision regarding someone who wields a certain amount of power in one area of my life. I will refer to him as “Mr. X” to mark his spot in this narrative. I decided to no longer hold back and tolerate situations, just to avoid confrontation with Mr. X. When I had tried to communicate with him in the past, I would beat around the bush and walk on eggshells. I did not want to cause waves and I was concerned about him making my life more difficult. I had experienced reprisals at an earlier time, and they had been seared into my memory.
In prior conversations, my concerns were summarily dismissed or conveniently discounted. I assumed that I was being told the truth. It was implied that I was being difficult and was always the only one who was having an issue. I was told that I have a certain sensitivity, as if it was a personal flaw. I knew the emotional rollercoaster ride that I was in for, but I decided to summon the courage and buy a ticket anyway.
What finally shifted for me? I found a higher objective other than wanting to come out on top, in an ongoing power struggle. After doing some inner work and facing some shadows, I was determined to reclaim my power. My main intention going forward, was to ensure that I would always speak my truth and stand up for myself and my needs. Additionally, at a recent Zoom meeting, I observed how another person had raised a sticky issue in front of a group that included Mr. X. She spoke with authority and conviction, knowing that she had every right to ask her question and get answers. Wow! That was exactly what I wanted to strive for as well.
In hindsight, Mr. X’s approach served him well in making his job a whole lot easier, but it was at my expense. I acknowledge that I allowed it and I own that. Now, my main goal is to show up for myself and express everything I need to say, without fear of repercussions. I became tired of living in this caged way and I wanted to free myself. Regardless of the outcome, if I could follow through on my end, it would be a victory for me. A positive outcome was no longer dependent on Mr. X.
I did get my victory, but as expected, the conversation was one heck of an uncomfortable roller coaster ride. The usual slings and arrows, excuses and diminishing words were directed my way, but this time they emboldened me to honour and speak my truth. I held my composure and remained grounded, while Mr. X’s irritation and impatience seemed to grow stronger. This was the most agitated and off balance that he had ever sounded. He started addressing me as “Ma’am” repeatedly, which is something he had never done before. I was no longer buying what he had been selling and informed him that I might look deeper into matters myself, to understand them better.
After the conversation ended, I felt like someone who had reluctantly gone on a rollercoaster ride, despite their better judgment. Although the ride was over, I still felt shaken up, uneasy and very unsettled. I had confronted fears and broken deeply ingrained patterns. I guess I was triggering all kinds of alarm bells and warning signals. My body felt like it was in free fall and I began to wonder what I had set in motion.
No matter what I tried, I could not get myself to settle down. It was as if a cloud of doom was hanging over my head and I was waiting for the other shoe to drop. The conversation with Mr. X had completely thrown off my equilibrium, more than it ever had in the past. The next day, I happened to stumble upon a YouTube video that caught my interest. Again, there are no accidents. The video was about two hours long and I became completely absorbed in it. The content was so fascinating—and more importantly—it gave my mind something else to focus on. I was absolutely thrilled to discover this new YouTube channel. It had reawakened an interest I had completely forgotten about.
By the end of the video, my entire state of being had completely transformed. I felt lighter, freer and more at peace. It was as if I had popped a pill and found the relief that I was desperately seeking. Perhaps I had found a new ride that was far more enjoyable and worth my time and energy. Discovering the video had helped me detach, zoom out and gain a broader perspective on my conversation with Mr. X. I felt like Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz, who finally saw the man behind the curtain. I felt a great sense of pride in overcoming a pattern that had been holding me back, and deep gratitude for the strength and courage I found to break it. I have no doubt that grace was at play and helped me navigate and find my way.
I finally feel unbound. I have discovered a new and glorious life outside of the cage—one that I deserve. I am already enjoying the benefits of having spoken up and seeing my issues addressed. It is hard to believe that I put up with so much for so long. I am not sure what the future holds, but I know that I will never return to the cage.