Being Free in Relationship
One of my core values, and a value I focus a fair amount on in my yoga philosophy courses, is that of ultimate responsibility. I say ultimate responsibility because it’s a radical idea that I stole from the Buddhists; the idea that we are responsible for everything in our lives; every shitty thing, every miraculous thing, heck, we’re even responsible for any wars we witness, as well as all the suffering or beauty we see in the world.
Yeah, and if that isn’t enough to turn you on to Buddhism I don’t know what will :-)
This is not the place to go into how it is that the Buddhists believe this, and actually understanding this at a very deep level can be incredibly useful on our path to mind blowing happiness (enlightenment) – you can sign up for my Online Philosophy course starting in July if you want in on that trip…. Details below…
But rather I want to share a few thoughts on where our responsibility starts and ends with OTHERS.
So here’s my dilemma.
My core value is to take responsibility for my own life and what happens in it. Fine.
I also know that we should cultivate a fairly high level of compassion for those around use and use that as the basis for how to treat, view, and deal with other people in our lives.
What I found somewhat lacking in ancient Eastern wisdom is a more complex psychology that is present in our culture that didn’t seem to be present then. For example:
If your relationships are even just a little bit co-dependent, and most of our relationships are somewhere on the spectrum (some estimates suggest that over 90 % of the American population demonstrates codependent behaviour) , then you’re going to struggle with this whole compassion thing, with potentially hazardous results.
What I mean is, if you feel too responsible for the feelings, reactions and behaviours of others, in the name of compassion, you run the risk of taking on stuff that isn’t yours, which in turn leads to a pretty constricted existence. (The opposite of free and happy)
So basically, using compassion as the basis for managing relationships, wasn’t enough for me and certainly isn’t enough for those I teach. In defence of the dear Buddhists, I am pretty sure the Buddha was talking about an extremely high level of Bodhicitta
(Extreme Compassion), but for the rest of us just starting on the path, I feel we need to borrow a little from more culturally relevant and modern information.
I believe that real love and true emotional intimacy exist when two people are free and safe to be completely real with each other. It means, we let others be responsible for their own reactions and feelings, even if it’s painful. And then it comes down to super brilliant communication skills so that everyone feels seen and heard and all that. If you’re trying to censor yourself too much, hide yourself too much, or trying to manage (let’s just go ahead and call it what it is, controlling) other people to much, then you may be falling victim to misguided compassion.
So, yes to compassion. Yes to taking responsibility for what happens to you. But let’s redefine where our responsibility starts and ends when it comes to others feelings, reactions and behaviours.
This is the paradox I live in the tension of . I am responsible for everything; I am not responsible for everything and everyone.
Tricky but important stuff.
Good luck :-)