We all want to be respected by others. And, we would all love to have control over whether or not others treat us respectfully. Is this realistic?
Nigel, one of my clients, has a lot of confusion about this issue. He believes that people, especially his wife and children, "should" be respectful to him, and he gets very angry when they treat him disrespectfully - which they often do.
What Nigel has failed to understand - which is what led him to seek my help - is that others are often a mirror of how we treat ourselves.
Much of my work with Nigel has centered around becoming aware of the many ways he disrespects himself and what would be respectful to himself.
- He often judges his own feelings, discounting his feelings and telling himself that he "shouldn't" feel this way.
- He often ignores his feelings, staying focused in his head instead of his body, and turning to addictions, such as sugar and TV to numb his feelings.
- He sees himself as a victim of others' choices, making others responsible for his feelings rather than taking responsibility for his own pain and joy.
- He often stays up late watching TV, disrespecting his need for adequate sleep.
- He often grabs junk food, not taking the time to eat well, disrespecting his body's need for good nutrition.
- He doesn't take the time to exercise so he is out of shape, disrespecting his need for a strong and healthy body.
- He dresses poorly, even to the point of wearing socks with holes in them, and often wearing dirty or wrinkled clothes, disrespecting his inner desire for clean and appropriate clothing.
- He is often late, disrespecting his inner desire to get places on time and not be stressed about it.
- His desk is often a mess, disrespecting his inner desire for order in his life.
- He does not balance his checkbook and is often overdrawn at the bank, much to the distress of his wife.
- While he makes plenty of money, he doesn't save anything, creating an inner sense of insecurity.
- He often uses money to try to control how others feel about him, disrespecting his own inner worth by trying to buy others' approval.
- He often care-takes others rather than saying no when he means no, and yes when he means yes, giving himself up to control others, completely disrespecting his own feelings and needs.
- He often explains and defends, trying to control others rather than standing in his own power.
- While he believes in God, he takes no time to nourish himself spiritually.
- He does things in business that he is not proud of, not respecting himself enough to behave with integrity.
These are just a few of the ways that Nigel has learned to disrespect himself. Others, seeing or sensing his disrespect for himself, naturally treat him with the same disrespect with which he treats himself. Rather than becoming angry at them, Nigel is learning to see them as a mirror of his own inner system. Each time his wife or children, or anyone else treats him disrespectfully, Nigel is learning to go inside and see how he is treating himself.As a result of this, more people are treating him respectfully. While there will always be some people who are consistently disrespectful to everyone, Nigel is finding out that others do change in response to his changes. He is also learning to respect himself enough to disengage from others when they are being disrespectful to him.