The Short Circuit of Trying to Change Someone ElseBy Phyllis Stein, Ph.D.
December 25, 2008
The instant you tell yourself that someone else has to change in order for you to be okay, your loving adult is gone. This article is about noticing that you are making that choice.
Recently, I was re-reading an old journal. I only journaled when I was triggered and in pain, so the entries were an ongoing litany of the struggle between my husband and me. Over and over again, I wrote things like, "I realize that I had left my little girl out to be abused and that when he shut down I was not taking care of her and connecting her with divine love. I still don't know how to do this, to simply know that he is having an issue and not be in pain." At the time, I thought that this was coming from a place of wanting to take care of my little girl and not knowing how. I am sure that this is familiar territory for many of us.
But looking back, re-reading this, it is clear that what I wanted much, much more than to take care of my little girl was for my husband to stay open and loving so that I would not have to. Even as I was in terrible pain, even as I said "I need to take care of my little girl," there was a tape running in the background saying "If he could only be okay, you would be okay." I realized, as I read the journal, that this tape, my wounded self, was a complete Inner Bonding short-circuit. It kept me from knowing where the pain was really coming from. So even as I sincerely believed that I was trying to take care of my little girl, it is completely clear to me now that I had not taken the job.
I am grateful that my husband left, because if he had not, I don't know if the short-circuit tape would ever have stopped running. Nothing would have changed. Only when it became completely clear that I was never going to be able to make him the husband I thought I wanted, because he was not going to be my husband at all, could I finally stop the tape.
When it stopped, I realized that it had been telling me a lie. Even if he had been willing to become the loving, caring person I tried so desperately to make him be, it would not have made it okay at all. I found out that it was the very act of giving the responsibility for my little girl's needs to anyone else that was causing all the pain, not what he was doing or not doing. I thought the pain was because he was rejecting her, but it was not. It was because I WAS REJECTING HER BY GIVING HER AWAY! It was then that I really knew what taking the job was about. It was take the job or have my precious little girl be in agony. There were no other choices. And once I did get that, I could recognize that he was having his own issues and there was no pain.
So I remind you. The minute the voice inside your head says "If only he (or she) were different, I would not be in pain," remember that this is a short-circuit that will totally distract you from the real cause of your pain and is guaranteed to keep you from showing up as a loving adult. No matter what you are telling yourself about your intent to take care of your child, if this tape is running, you simply cannot. Your focus will be on trying to change the other person in order to be okay. So notice, with compassion, that this tape is running and know that this was only true when you were achild. Now it is false. Notice that the "he or she" who needs to treat you differently is actually you. In the short run, turning off the tape may increase your awareness of your pain, but in the end, turning off the tape will allow you to experience that the only way you will really be okay is to accept the truth which is that you and only you can take care of your precious inner child.
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What nurtures you? Do you feel nurtured by being out in nature? By doing something creative? By sitting quietly and listening to music or reading or watching a movie? By being with caring friends? By being physically active - hiking, playing a sport, or gardening? By meditating, journaling, practicing Inner Bonding? By playing fun games? By playing a musical instrument? Today, be sure to create balance in your life by nurturing yourself.
By Dr. Margaret Paul