I didn’t realize how much my perspective was affected by my own pain. Have you ever considered that for yourself? When you look at your life and everything that’s happening around you, what do you see? Do you see pain? Do you just believe that things are the way you perceive them to be? Do you ever question whether your perception is telling you the truth or not? Do you ever question your judgment of the situation?
I unknowingly started on a path of questioning my perception of my past. That was how my journey began. I was looking for truth and I was questioning why things were the way they were. I was questioning how I’d ended up where I was at the time. I was questioning all the pain that I felt. I was questioning my perspective without realizing what I was doing.
The pain helped to untie me from my perception and opened me up to the idea that maybe there was a different way to see it that didn’t hurt so much. It’s interesting to me now to think that I was in enough pain that I was willing to question my own perception of my life. I wanted all of it to make sense and it didn’t. Because it didn’t make sense, I was willing to consider that maybe I was seeing it wrong, that maybe there was something available there that I was missing. Maybe it was my perception that was screwy and maybe life was just doing what I was asking it to do.
The fun part is that I didn’t consciously think those things. I was just asking a lot of questions not really realizing what I was asking for or what I was actually doing. It wasn’t until much later as I started talking about focus publicly, that I realized what I had been taught and that’s what offered me the next step in my own process, which was to then shift my behavior.
I had been given a process of self-mastery: mind (thoughts), body (behavior), and spirit (emotions and intuition). Those three things combined gave me a process for healing that didn’t look like anything else that I had found along the way. It wasn’t shadow work. It wasn’t emotional deep healing. It wasn’t unrealistic spiritual ideals that were impossible to meet without dying first. It was just understanding how focus and perspective shape how you feel and what you think and the profound impact that can have on your life.
I believe in the spiritual ideals, I just don’t think they are realistic for a human being that is intent on continuing to live in a world full of duality, judgment, and ego. It works fine if you want to go live in a cave, keep the same 5 people around you all the time and have them do all your errands and things for you so that you can meditate all day. Again, there is nothing wrong with that path, it’s just not the path that the vast majority of people are going to take. We need a way to be in the world with our egos, with judgment, and with duality. I don’t believe in transcending anything. I believe that we simply need to learn how to work with those things. It’s about co-existence. Let’s learn how to be in the life we’re in, in the body we’re in, with the ego we have and the judgments we’ve made. When we do that and we remove the pain from the experience, life opens up. Now you’re free to go on the journey we call life fully unencumbered by all the things that used to hold you back.
This is the practical application of those spiritual ideals. Yes, we’re meant to remove judgment. But how does that look for a human being that makes snap judgments all the time? It looks like recognizing the judgment, deciding consciously what to do with it, not using that judgment to create pain for yourself or others, and becoming aware of how those judgments affect you and everybody around you. For me that means taking responsibility for those judgments when I have them. I’m conscious of what I project out into the world. I’m conscious of what I do with my opinion. I’m conscious of how those things can affect me and the people around me. I’ve tried to create enough self-awareness that I can manage the judgments when they happen.
The same is true for the ego. The ego is anything that requires you to defend yourself. The ego is part of the story that you make up about what happened. That story usually includes some sort of self defense. Self-defense includes stories of blame, shame, guilt, and victimization. It’s easy to pick out the ego in other people because it’s all the stuff that makes them defensive and mad. It might be particularly easy for me because I used to be one of the most defensive people around. I understand what that looks like and why it happens.
The egos job is to defend us. That’s its whole mission in life. It just has some strategies that aren’t all that helpful. Our job is to teach it better ways of managing the experiences it has. What that means is that we become conscious of the stories the ego wants to tell and then we work to stop telling those stories. I’m not transcending the ego, I’m taking control over it and not allowing to tell stories that cause me to defend myself. I’m teaching it how to work with me in a way that allows me to take my guard down. No, I didn’t say be a doormat, I said take the guard down. What’s the difference?
Taking your guard down means seeing what other people are doing without the filter of pain. When that person throws an insult and you go to defend yourself, that’s ego. The other person is just throwing pain around. Why get offended by their pain? You tell me that you shouldn’t have to tolerate that treatment. There’s the ego again. You tell me you don’t stay in relationships with people that don’t respect you. More ego. These are all stories that make you defend yourself. So ask yourself this question, do you want the relationship? Do you want to maintain that relationship with that person?
Then you say, not if they treat me that way. So the relationship is conditional based on how it makes your ego feel. That’s all ego. It’s all pain. None of it is true. It all creates problems for you that you can’t solve because you don’t have control over the other person. So when I ask you if you want to stay in the relationship, it’s not a conditional question. Do you genuinely want the relationship? The short is that you probably do because if you didn’t you wouldn’t have created the story, you would have simply walked away from the relationship already and there would be no need for the conversation.
By making the relationship conditional based on how the other person projects their pain, it puts you in a trap. The only way out of that trap is for you to control the other person because you won’t let yourself leave the relationship and you won’t accept their pain. You’re stuck. Do you see that?
To stay in the relationship you either have to accept their behavior (regardless of your judgment of it) or try to change it. Can you change it? Nope, probably not. They are going to do what they are going to do. That means you have to figure out how to manage it within yourself.
To manage it within yourself you have to recognize what’s happening. You have to see the pain. You have to recognize the pain. You have to allow the pain to be there, regardless of how crappy it makes their behavior. If you defend yourself from their pain you will be miserable in the relationship. That’s when your ego gets in the way and starts telling you about how awfully they are treating you. Are they treating you awfully or are they simply projecting pain in a bad way? Is it personal? Are they really attacking you as a human being or are they just projecting pain all over the place, looking for somebody to blame for how they feel, and you’re convenient?
What is your reaction to what they do? Remember, if you respond back with ego and pain yourself, you offer them a snowball fight and that’s exactly what they want. They want you to play in the pain with them. If you get in there with your ego you’re giving them an excuse to keep throwing their pain around. What do you think will happen if you simply stop playing? Stop defending yourself. Stop trying to offer advice they don’t want to hear. Stop trying to control their behavior. Stop making it about you. Put the sword down, let it go, breathe, and walk away. You don’t need to do anything.
If you want the relationship the best thing you can do is nothing at all. At first the other person might actually get a little worse. Why? Because they want you to play and you’re refusing, so they are going to try to drag you into it. But then as long as you keep resisting and keep your ego out of it, eventually they have to make a choice themselves. Do they want the relationship? Now they have to ask themselves the same question you asked yourself. They aren’t getting out of it what they want - pain. You’re not throwing snowballs around anymore and that’s boring. So now they have to figure out what they want. They’ll either walk away from the relationship because you stopped playing or they’ll figure out how to contain the pain enough to maintain a relationship with you. Either way the problem is blocked.
Notice what I wrote. I didn’t say the problem was solved because we didn’t fix their pain at all. We did nothing for them. We did something for ourselves though. You blocked the pain by no longer responding to it. The pain no longer got a reaction from you and it made them choose what they wanted from the relationship. Regardless of which choice they made, they are no longer coming at you and that’s what you wanted. You got it without engaging in the argument at all. You didn’t defend yourself. You didn’t change them. You didn’t argue. You just controlled your own response and they made a choice by themselves.
You can control any situation you have with another person in this same way. Effectively you’re asking people whether they want the relationship with you or not. If they do, then they will figure out how to manage themselves a little better to stay there. If they don’t then they simply leave. But you don’t have to make that choice. You don’t have to ask them to leave. You don’t have to set a boundary. You don’t have to defend anything. You just simply stick to a way of reacting to the person that they find boring and because they aren’t getting the same energy back from you that they thought they wanted they will leave or change themselves.
Your reaction or response to everything can have this same effect. You don’t even realize how much your reactions and responses to external circumstances affects what happens next. You’re so busy trying to control everything that you just don’t see the power that your reaction or non-reaction has over a situation.
It takes time. This isn’t an instant shift. People have to get to here. They have to catch up to you. That means that you don’t react a handful of times, the other person eventually figures it out and then makes a choice. It takes 6 months for it to change, but eventually it changes and you feel better because of it.
Then you say it takes too long. So you’d rather fight for 6 months instead? You trying to fight for control over something you don’t have control over doesn’t get you there faster. It just keeps you in pain longer. Trying to control things is not a shortcut. It doesn’t work like that, especially with people that are grown adults and have independent control over their own lives. We don’t get to make each other do things.
The way you manage other people is by managing yourself. Indirectly it forces them to respond differently to you because you’ve changed how you respond to them. They have to make a choice about what they want from the relationship. Yes, people that are just there for the dysfunction will leave if you stop offering the dysfunction.
This is where attachments and problems show up for most people because they don’t want to lose those relationships. Just slow down and think about it for a second. We just had a whole conversation about the dysfunction in the relationship and that you wanted to change it because you didn’t like it. Now that I’ve shown you how to manage it without engaging in an argument or making anybody do anything you tell me that if there’s a risk they will leave you’re not interested, but you still don’t want the dysfunction.
You’re stubborn about how you think it should look. You refuse to allow other options and then wonder why you’re in pain. You’re in pain because you’re focused on trying to keep a relationship that causes you pain and you’re scared of what happens if you try to shift it. The truth is you’d rather the other person just heal so you didn’t have to do anything at all. Here’s the reality - you can continue the relationship as it is. You don’t have to change anything. You don’t even have to change your response to them. But then you have to get okay with the idea that the dysfunction will continue. If you can find a way to make the dysfunction okay for yourself, then you can keep things just as they are. Those are the choices you get to make for yourself.
You don’t have to do anything except figure out what you’re willing to do or put up with. That’s it. In pretty much every situation we find ourselves in, we get the choice to put up with it or not. Most situations give us the option to simply walk away if we choose to. Think of how many times you actually do that though. How often do you allow that to be the option you use? Unless you’re a particularly triggered human being, you probably don’t use this option very much. It’s probably not your first choice most of the time. We’re more likely to figure out how to make things work if we can. What we don’t get taught is how to do that in a way that doesn’t require us to take some control over things outside of ourselves. If it requires you to control people, places, or things it’s probably not going to work for you in the long term.
The process of untying yourself from your reality is understanding where your power is in any situation. It’s a good question to ask - where is my power in this situation? If the answer is anywhere but within you and your actions, thoughts, words, and feelings then you’re focused on the wrong thing. If it requires you to control anything outside of yourself, you’re asking for pain.
We get so stubborn about how we think it should look that often we do get caught trying to control external things. When that happens we have to go back and sit with ourselves and reflect on why we are so attached to that particular scenario.
Usually this comes back to some kind of fear. It’s fear of what happens if. The mind doesn’t like an unknown. It will stay attached to bad situations and dysfunctional relationships because it knows that situation. It doesn’t matter that you’re unhappy in it, it’s still familiar to you so the mind gets okay with it in a backhanded way. We don’t know what life would be like without the other person and there is that sense of attachment to the person that tries to keep you in the relationship. What you have to recognize right away is that the attachment is unhealthy because the relationship is unhealthy. Trying to keep that person too close to you is only going to cause you more pain.
Sometimes I like to think of the distance between people in relationships as a bungee cord. Why? Because it stretches out and bounces back. It’s elastic in nature. The idea of the relationship as a bungee cord means you can have a lot of distance between two people and not completely lose the relationship. The distance doesn’t create a sense of finality. It creates a sense of temporary separation. The bungee cord just acts as a really long leash that allows people to come and go from your life without ever fully losing them. This can be really helpful when we’re talking about family relationships. Unhealthy relationships are exactly that whether we’re talking about family or not. The idea of putting space there can be more complicated because we’re attached to the idea that it’s a family member. What we need to remember is that regardless of how that person is connected to you, no relationship should make you miserable.
You have options for how to handle those relationships. You can figure out how to handle your own responses and reactions so that you can be okay in the relationship as it is or you can put space there. Whichever one you do is okay, but you have to make it okay for yourself first. That’s the hard part because we want to tell the story about how the other person is forcing us to change things, but that’s not completely true. They aren’t forcing anything, they are simply doing what they are doing. You’re the one that feels the need to change.
When I suggested earlier that you could shift your behavior and it would indirectly make the people around you shift, you were probably somewhat okay with that because I framed it in a more positive light. Are you arguing with this now because I framed it as a response to something bad? When your mind framed it as a positive change, it was okay to you. Because you see this as a negative change, now you’re not okay with it anymore. It’s actually the same thing seen from the other direction.
Your focus matters. How you see it matters. I showed you the same problem from both directions. You were okay with one and you didn’t like the other. That’s why your focus matters because these little traps get us into a lot of trouble all the time. Regardless of which way I frame this, what you’re doing is the same. Both require you to shift your behavior because that’s the only thing you have control over. Whether you see it as positive or negative matters because one you’ll do and one you won’t, even though it’s the same thing.
Can you turn the story around in your own head so that you can make it okay for yourself? This becomes the core of what we’re trying to do when we talk about focus. Make that goal okay for yourself. Make the dream okay for yourself. Make the problem less of an obstacle. Make the process easier. Find ways to make things okay, not by lying about them or making up stories that aren’t true, but by looking for alternative perspectives that allow you to keep going.
The same problem can be seen in multiple ways. The question is only whether you’re willing to shift how you see it. When you see the relationship in a negative light you blame the other person. The story of blame is what makes you object. The story of blame isn’t true. That’s where you get caught. The story of blame is what keeps you stuck because you don’t want to take responsibility for anything because you say it’s not yours. But your reaction is yours and that is the thing you have to take responsibility for. Then you blame them for their behavior because they aren’t taking responsibility for it yet. This sounds a lot like a child saying “but they aren’t doing it…”. That’s not where you’re trying to go but that’s what gets implied. So because they aren’t taking responsibility for their behavior you’re not taking responsibility for yours. That’s how it works?
You blame them for making you take responsibility for your own behavior, which is something you should be doing anyway. They are doing you a favor by making you accountable for yourself. You don’t like that and it’s easier to blame them for it, but that’s the truth in what’s happening.
I’m showing you how we spin things to make them fit our narrative that we’re a victim of our reality. But we’re not victims of our realities. Once we take responsibility for our own thoughts, feelings, actions, and words, nobody can make us feel, do, say, or think anything. You get full control over yourself. Abandoning stories of blame is a good place to start.
This is the process of untying yourself from own perspective. We don’t shift what happens outside of us, we just shift how we see it. When I tell people to remove the stories of blame, this is what I mean. That story of blame makes you mad and then you dig in your heels and you don’t take responsibility for yourself. You blame the other person because you need to do something differently. Why is that such a problem? Can you see how it’s actually a good thing? Can you see the benefit in it? Yes, this moves you toward gratitude for the pain that other people offer you.
You have a choice. You always have a choice. You can walk away from the relationship, but you don’t want that. You want to stay and then you’re mad because it doesn’t look the way you think it should. You can’t have it both ways. If you want to maintain the relationship that’s going to require you to adapt in some way so that you can handle what the other person is throwing at you.
Untying yourself from the stories you want to tell is hard. The ego gets in here and wants to defend the problem. It’s easy to get stuck (yes, I could keep going around in circles). I see how this works. I get it because I used to do this same stuff myself. These days if I even offer a whiff of this kind of behavior my cards scream at me in all major arcana about how I’m just busy being wounded and need to get over myself.
It took work to get past stories like these. I had to understand where my power was in any situation. That’s really the thing that unties you from the mess at the end of the day. Your power is not out there in the world. When you stop defending the problem, when you stop arguing with the way you think it should be, when you stop trying to make other people do things, when you stop being so offended by other people and their pain, then it gets easier. Then you can separate yourself from these stories and recognize that the ego, while it is trying to protect you, is actually just creating more pain. Simple acceptance gets you everywhere. The idea that you need to keep defending yourself is what keeps you in pain.
You don’t need to defend yourself from the other person’s pain. You need to figure out how to manage it within yourself. You don’t want to do that because the argument is that you’re allowing people to treat you badly. But is that really what’s happening? You’re willingly staying in the relationship knowing that they are projecting their pain. By choosing to stay in the relationship you are also choosing to allow that treatment to continue. If you don’t want to be treated like that then you put distance in the relationship and you walk away. The other person isn’t making you stick around to be treated like that. You made that choice on your own. It’s not the other person’s fault. The choice is on you. Making it about them is a story that defends the problem and it’s not true.
When you can learn to back out of these scenarios you find yourself tied up in, you can learn to see where the ego is, where the pain is, where you’re defending the problem, and you can see what’s actually happening versus what you want to tell yourself is happening, now you can make better choices. Without the blame you’re in control of your choice to stay or go. It has absolutely nothing to do with the other person or how they treat you. The only reason you make it about the other person is because your ego keeps trying to defend you from their pain. If you play along with your ego, you’re going to find you create more pain instead of less. Your awareness of what your ego is up to helps you to manage this. You don’t have to get stuck here, but you have to be aware of yourself to be able to see these loops when you find yourself in them.
How do you spot this stuff? Get good at putting space between you and your life experience. Make some room there. We’re not going for dissociation. We just want some breathing room. Once you understand what the ego does, you should be able to spot it from a mile away. It’s kind of obvious when the ego gets in there and starts defending itself. Blame is also pretty easy to pick up on because you’re just projecting fault at other people. Once you spot those things shut down the stories and then question what’s left. What you’ll find is that the story sounds a lot like the other person is in pain, it’s making the relationship difficult to be in but you want to keep it, and so it’s your job to figure out how to be okay in the relationship. Everything else is a story.
How can I be okay in the relationship when I can’t control what the other person does? I don’t have to like how they treat me, but I also don’t have to offer pain back. How can I shift my responses to this person in such a way that I make throwing pain around rather dull? How can I take responsibility for my behavior in such a way that I’m no longer willing to accept the dysfunction? We don’t want to ask the other person to change. We’re simply not playing the game anymore and that should be really obvious to the other person.
When you get out of the stories you can begin to figure out how to adapt your behavior in such a way that it offers the other person a choice. This is what I did in my own relationship. I changed my behavior and stopped offering all the dysfunction. I told that person what I was doing and what was going to happen. I didn’t ask for their permission and I didn’t ask them to change anything. They got to do what they wanted. While they were doing what they wanted, I did what I said I was going to do. I stopped responding to the dysfunction, I stopped engaging in the arguments, I stopped taking on things that weren’t mine, and I stopped interfering in things that didn’t belong to me.
Guess what happened? It took 6 months or so but now it’s shifted completely. It’s an entirely different relationship. At no point did I tell the other person to change. I changed my behavior and told them what I was going to do and then I stood my ground, no matter how much they tried to drag me back into the old way of being, I simply stopped playing.
At the same time as I was doing all of that I had to be willing to own my behavior, past and present. Creating change by changing myself forced me to be accountable for myself. The change meant walking my talk. I couldn’t expect the other person to change if I wasn’t going to do it too. I say all the time that I’m still human and I still have my moments. When I screw up though, unlike in the past, I actually own that now. It’s something the people around me are still getting used to and it’s weird to them when I do it, but the point is that I do it.
I did two things at the same time. I made a choice to change and I told the people around me about it. I also made the choice to be accountable to myself and that meant owning it when I screwed up. By following through on both those fronts over about a 6 month period, change happened.
You can do this too. You have to be aware of yourself. You have to understand what you’re changing, why you’re changing it, and what the big goal is that you have. For me it was to understand my own power and my freedom to make my own choices. That meant learning to stand my ground with being defensive and arguing. It just meant making a choice and staying there.
Is that easy? Heck no! I’ve spent years letting people do whatever they wanted. Learning to have a backbone took years of work to be able to do. But now that I know I can do it, I’m learning how to walk away more, not get involved, but I’ve also figured out how to be supportive from the sidelines without taking over everything all the time. There is a fine line between being supportive and being a control freak. I was a control freak because of my fear of what would happen if I didn’t. To be supportive I had to let go of the fear. I had to learn that I could allow people to make their own choices and not worry about those choices. It was my fear of making choices for myself that I was projecting onto other people. Not only was I scared to make my own choices, I was also scared of the choices others would make.
When I backed off and stopped questioning everybody all the time, things got better quickly because I wasn’t making anybody tiptoe around me anymore. They didn’t have to worry about how I was going to react to their choices. That freed them to do their own thing, it allowed the relationships to balance better and things got easier.
Relationships are a choice. All relationships are a choice, even the ones we think we’re stuck with are a choice. We have this idea in society that says that we have to be loyal to people because of how they are connected to us. When those relationships are dysfunctional that loyalty not only becomes very challenging it also causes a lot of pain.
As adults, we have the ability to make all relationships a choice. As a child, we don’t have that option. We need somebody to take care of us. But there comes a point in time where that’s no longer the case. I think it’s a very valuable process to look around at all the people in your life to figure out which relationships you truly want and which ones you’re keeping because you think you should. It can also be helpful to figure out which relationships are healthy and which ones aren’t so much. What you may find is that the relationships you want to keep aren’t necessarily the healthy ones. The thing is that it’s okay if that’s the case. You just have to understand how to navigate that in such a way that you can maintain your own balance. To do that successfully you have to stay out of blame and victimization. That means you stop defending yourself.
The reason why we want to be able to recognize pain when it’s being thrown at us is so that we can stop defending ourselves from it. We can make the conscious choice to get our ego out of the way and just realize what people are doing. We don’t have to be a victim to other people and unless they are physically coming at you, 99% of the time you aren’t a victim of them at all. It’s your perception that causes you trouble because you want to defend yourself. That makes you victimize yourself and move into blaming the other person for causing you pain.
A clear perspective gives us the ability to see all of this, control our responses to other people, and navigate relationships more easily. Relationships don’t have to be painful. More often than not we make them that way because of how we interpret what other people are doing. It makes you do things you don’t want to do and then you’re not happy. I promise you that it doesn’t need to be the way you think it does. You have far more control than you give yourself credit for if you’d simply recognize how your own reactions and responses to other people affect what they do and don’t do. Defending yourself will make it worse consistently. If you simply stop doing it, you’ll see that the relationships will change.
Untying your perspective means letting go of some of those things we’ve been taught to do like defend ourselves and be wounded by everyone all the time. They aren’t true and they simply cause pain for no reason. Recognize the pain in other people’s behavior and stop defending yourself from it because it’s not about you, and then learn to be okay within yourself. Life gets much easier when you can untie your perspective from the 3D reality you’ve been taught to live within. It gets even easier when you stop tying yourself to other people and how they are behaving. Stop taking on everybody’s everything. It’s not yours. Learn to manage yourself and let other’s manage themselves. That’s how this is meant to work. We just aren’t taught to do that. I wish we were, because it would make life a lot easier for everybody.