We are in the middle of a multi-part series of posts. Each post is dependent on the points made in previous posts. If you have not been reading this series, please click the link to go back to the first post which looked at functional families. This should give you a better understanding of today’s post.
Another strategy for simplifying family relationships
Yesterday we looked at a strategy that could be used when our relationship with a family member is so painful that we need to remove ourself from the relationship. Today we will look at a strategy that can be used when we have a painful relationship but feel that we need to maintain the relationship. I call this strategy “accept but cauterize”.
The accepting part
The first step in the “accept but cauterize” strategy is to learn to accept every part of the relationship. Among the things that we need to accept are:
- We must learn to accept the relationship the way it is. We can hope that the relationship will become better – but we cannot assume that it will. We must accept that this relationship is as good as it will ever become.
- Recognize the level of pain that you experience in the relationship. Accept that level of pain and understand that it may always be there. We hope that by maintaining the relationship we will lessen our pain, but we must accept that this may never happen.
- Realize that the other person may never change. Many times we maintain a relationship in the hope that the other person may change. Accept that they may never change and ask yourself “Can I live with that?”
- Understand why you are choosing to maintain the relationship. Ask yourself why you want this relationship. Then accept the answer. By the way “because I should”, “because I have to”, and “because I feel sorry for them” are not appropriate answers to this question.
These are not the only things that need to be accepted when we choose to maintain a painful relationship. However, it is a good start. As we learn to accept these things we will learn what else needs to be accepted.
Understanding the acceptance
Let’s take a few minutes to look a bit closer at the aspects of the relationship that we are learning to accept. By realizing and truly accepting that the relationship may not get better we are adopting a realistic approach to the relationship. When our hopes are dashed and we realize that there is no way that this relationship will improve we will remember that we choose to accept this outcome. Hopefully that will cushion the blow of the realization.
By accepting the pain of the relationship from the beginning we start to immunize ourselves from that pain. When we experience the pain we can remind ourselves that we have chosen the pain in order to maintain our relationship.
We also remind ourself that we cannot have it both ways. We knowingly chose the pain. When pain rears its ugly head we take responsibility and remind ourself that we did it to ourself. It is not the fault of the other person. We chose the pain in order to maintain the relationship. Period, full stop, the end. Accept the pain and get on with it.
As we discussed previously, wanting someone to change so that we will feel better is an illusion. When we indulge our self with this behavior we are only setting up a painful situation. When we accept that the other person may not change we are happy when they do change. But when they don’t change we are not disillusioned. We have already prepared ourself for that.
Finally, I think the most important thing to accept and understand is why we want this relationship in the first place. We know it is painful, we know it may never change; we know the other person may never change. There has to be a compelling reason for us to choose the pain of maintaining the relationship.
When we find that reason we make sure we commit it to memory. We have to incorporate this reason so deeply into our understanding of the relationship that we never lose sight of it.
We need to know this reason so well because we will be repeating it to ourself whenever the pain becomes intense. And it will. We already know this is a painful relationship. We know there is pain and that pain will return.
When the pain returns we will ask ourself “why am I doing this?” At that point if we do not have a good reason we will get lost in our pain. If we have a good reason then we can move onto the second part of this strategy – cauterization.
The cauterization part
Knowing the reason why we have chosen the painful relationship becomes our method of cauterizing the painful wound the relationship creates. When the pain rears its head we say “I know why you are there.”
At first the pain will not go away immediately. The relationship has been painful for many years. The wound is still fresh and sensitive. Over time and with constant repetition we learn the cauterization method. Believe it or not, we can eventually learn to put the pain in a separate, compartmentalized part of our brain. We can learn to keep this pain from affecting the rest of our life.
In truth, we need to learn to put painful relationships in their place. To live a happy life and have positive relationships with other people we need to keep the painful ones from leaking into those positive relationships.
It does not happen immediately. However, with some effort and some time we can learn to do so. This allows us to have painful relationships that do not adversely affect our entire life.
Choose your strategy
These two strategies – “separation” and “accept and cauterize” are not the only strategies. They will not work for everyone. However, there are many people who will benefit from these strategies.
My experience tells me that eventually all of our painful family relationships fall in one of the two categories that these strategies address. The relationship is either so painful that we must separate, or we choose to maintain the relationship and must learn to accept the pain.
For the sake of your own happiness I implore you to find the strategy that works for you. Our relationships, especially with family members, are supposed to bring us happiness. Please find your happiness sooner than I found mine. Start right now to choose for happy relationships.
That is all for today. Tomorrow we will look at creating a new family by choosing who will be in that family. It is our family so why shouldn’t it be only the ones that we want as members?
Until tomorrow –
Es kava turen hai
We work towards an identical goal.
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