Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Getting It

The topic of this blog- why some people in our lives do not “get” what we tell them about ourselves and our lives- has come up frequently in the last two weeks with both friends and clients. Several have been struggling with family members who do not seem to “get” that there are things they will not or cannot do. The latter comes up mostly with folks who are dealing with chronic illness, but struggling with others’ expectations is not confined to those with illnesses.

Our lives are interwoven in mutual endeavors, so sometimes having what we can't or won't do understood can be important. But, when we say we can’t or won’t do something, and then go ahead and do it anyway (even irritably, or at a cost to ourselves) people, understandably, are likely to believe our actions instead of our words. If this happens regularly, others will start ignoring what we say, and expect us to act as we have in the past.

Generally, what others don’t “get” about us, is what we do not fully grasp and/or accept about ourselves.

And therein lies our frustration: We want someone to “get” something about us that we are having trouble seeing and accepting (as legitimate or true) about ourselves. And when they don’t, we become angry. But the truth is, if we don’t get it, they’re not likely to. After all- we are the primary source of information about who and what we are. 

Often what we are hoping for is someone to champion aspects of self that we find unacceptable.

And it won’t work. If I don’t accept that I can’t go out in the evening (because of health challenges,) or cannot talk to a friend or family member for hours whenever they call (because of other commitments or needs and health challenges) or do not want to go to large gatherings that I find exhausting (even though I think an event may have merit but because I really don’t enjoy large gatherings) then how will my friends and family ever understand or accept these truths about me?

And it doesn’t stop there. If I express my desire to have meaningful substantive conversations and let others know I find endless small talk exhausting, but continue to engage in endless small talk (that others enjoy) I can hardly blame others for not offering me what I want and need.

But here’s the good news: watching where we become frustrated or resentful of others not getting us- we find a clue about what we are not seeing fully or accepting about ourselves. And that can be useful information, a pointer for inquiry, a way to see where we abandon ourselves, a motivation to begin to cultivate some tenderness for both the aspect that is being short-changed and our fear of a wider, deeper self-acceptance.

Because if we really got this thing we want the other to get– well, it wouldn’t matter so much if they did or not. Of course, there are times when I extend myself beyond preferences or limitations out of love, service and concern for others. But if this is the rule and not the exception, if it is not adequately counter-balanced by that which feeds my body-soul-mind-heart-self, it is simply not a sustainable way of living.

There are no guarantees: if we accept and live by some basic truths about who we are and our current limitations, others may be unhappy with us. But being true to what we know is good, enriching, and soul-serving for us ensures we are likely to be less resentful and angry and more accepting of what others need (particularly if we are not always the ones providing.)

If others don’t seem to “get” something about us, generally it’s because we are not fully seeing and accepting this truth about ourselves. They cannot do it for us or without us. We are the ones who need to “get” who and what we are.  

Oriah (c) 2012


  1. Brilliant insight Oriah! I have always felt like ppl just don't get me and I'm different. And it certainly has been frustrating. But I can see how there are parts of me I am not fully owning. Now I know where my work lies. Thank you for your wisdom.

  2. It's become a matter of letting folks in on my secret. I may look healthy, but I am not. I have good days and bad days. Sometimes it's simply a rainy day that can prevent my participation, but my friends are aware. They understand my situation and love me anyway. And yes, there are days I overdo and there will probably be more, but they won't change the fact that I still have limits and that it's OK. Revealing my secret was one of the hardest things I ever did, but I'm so glad I did. Your blog gave me the courage to speak up. Thank you.

    1. Yes, there's an upside and a downside to having a limiting illness without looking sick. The upside is you get to choose when and where to reveal the secret. The downside is you have to choose where to reveal the secret. So glad you have friends that understand- that helps a lot. :-)

  3. "Because if we really got this thing we want the other to get– well, it wouldn’t matter so much if they did or not." Yes! That's it exactly. It is certainly the hardest thing, this "getting" ourselves. I hate that it's true, but it IS true. I can think of so many times I've had to be right when really, if I just GOT it being right wouldn't matter. I know that sounds convoluted maybe but I really get what you mean. Thanks for that stroke of insight that I can apply immediately to a situation in my life with which I struggle. Blessings.

    1. Doesn't sound convoluted to me at all Carol. Being "right" is about having someone else acknowledge that we are right- ie- having them "get" us and the truth is when we really "get" ourselves it doesn't matter if the other sees us as right or not. :-)You "got" it!

  4. This is so true, Oriah. When I accept and respect who I am and what works and does not work for me, I find the courage to walk in that truth.
    When I change my dance steps out of love and compassion for Self, others may be angry and not "get" me at first because I've changed the steps. But I have to honor myself.

    I recently went through this with my children. I saw how, at 70, I was still playing my family role of scapegoat, and made a conscious choice to stop playing that part. As a result I found myself changing the way I had always done life.

    My children were angry and couldn't understand why I was no longer dancing the same dance. They felt I'd abandoned them. I knew I had not walked away from them. What I had done was close the door to my being blamed for what didn't work in others lives.

    Their anger and lack of acceptance towards me hurt but I knew I could not go back to the way it had been. All I could do was let them know with much love and compassion that I was always there for them but I would no longer continue to play the role I'd always played.
    Perhaps the day will come when they will have a clearer vision and will be ready to accept the changes I had to make. Either way, I must be true to myself.

    1. Wow Brenda, what a courageous act- self-loving (and ultimately teaching your children about the self-love you hope they will have for themselves.) I send prayers that you may all find your way back to a new shared dance that respects each individuals choices and needs. Very inspiring as I know how difficult this must have been.

    2. Thank you Oriah. I do pray that each member of my family will experience healing and that the family unit will be healed also. One thing I learned in this that is big for me, is that I can't fix anyone and I can't change anyone. Big stuff.

    3. Big indeed Brenda. It's one thing to know it and quite another to walk the talk as you are doing. Deep bow to your courage.

  5. Thank you, Oriah, for reassuring me that I'm on the right way. Just some days ago, I had so draw a line between my needs and those of a sick member of my family. She never was really nice to me but expected me now to take care of her. In fact, she has been quite mean to me over many years, and I felt so bad when trying to be nice. As she will never change, I realized that it will be an intolerable burden for me to get involved too much with her. I had to be clear, and it was easier after I had passed on my feeling of responsibility to the powers that be. Now I know that she will be cared for in the best way, far better that I could have ever done that, and I have been true to myself.

  6. I find myself doing this all the time - allowing my boundaries to be walked over. Every time it happens I am torn between what is ok for me and how accommodating I want to be to the other person. I find it incredibly difficult to say no without ending up feeling guilty about it ot that I have been mean in some way.

    Yet all around me, I experience people only being willing to do what works for them and saying no to everything else. Sometimes it leaves me baffled. An example of this is two situations with the same friend. Firstly she asked if I could look after her dogs for the weekend. I said yes. Then she asked if I could also look after her two sons. I said no. And then ensued several emotionally charged messages around how if I didn't look after her sons she wouldn't be able to go away for the weekend with her husband. This in itself brought up its own challenges for me because as a single parent I just don't get to go away like that. In the end she heard my No, but I felt that I had been pushed and pushed and was upset by the whole experience. The second incident was when I needed a lift back from the railway station to home (7 miles) around 11pm at night, when there were no buses and I asked my friend if she or her husband could give me a lift. They said No because it would be too late. At one level this is fine because they were clear, and at another level I find that even when I ask for the smallest assistance, it is refused - this then ends up with me not asking for any assistance because too often the answer has been No and I don't want to experience the pain of that rejection yet again.

    Fundamentally, this comes down to self worth issues and that is how my own boundaries come to be overridden too often (mainly with my daughter).

    Thank you, Oriah.

    1. Ruby, yes indeed- this is the challenge. I think the key to being able to do this is in your comment (and I thank you for this- has prompted my mulling.) You wrote: "this then ends up with me not asking for any assistance because too often the answer has been No and I don't want to experience the pain of that rejection yet again."

      Setting a boundary, being clear about what we can or cannot do is not about rejecting the other, but about knowing our own limits, knowing what really does not work for us.

      If we feel that another's boundaries are a rejection, we will assume our "no" is a rejection of, or feels like a rejection to the other. There can be lots of reasons for this- if, as children, being loved and accepted and seen was linked to being given what we needed, the two will feel the same. But they really are not.

      So, practice :-) Practice saying "no" without withdrawing at all from the other- assuring the other they are loved and cared for but this is something we simply cannot do. Practice asking for help, and where you hear "no," being with the feeling of rejection that arises with tenderness and mercy (reminding yourself that your friend's boundaries are not rejection.) As you do this you may unearth how the roots of rejection and healthy boundaries became tangled- and one day you may feel only a tiny twinge of rejection when someone says "no," knowing this is just an echo of something from long ago that you know does not apply here.

      Thank you for this- I have some rejection/boundary cross-overs myself (am sure many do) and untangling them can lead to greater freedom for us all.

  7. Dear Oriah,

    This has been a source of great learning for me. Understanding and "getting" that when there are judgments bestowed upon me by others it is their perception and not necessarily true.

    When I bestow the judgment it is always an opportunity to look within and notice the lessons I need to learn for myself.

    My husband of 18 years is an Engineer (very left brain), I am very right brain, so constantly we come up against not "getting" each other in our different views of the world. We had a deep and insightful conversation about this last night. Since recovering from attempted suicide in 2004, he has always said "Lee, you've changed. You're not the same person I married." Last night he talked about how much he fears change and making good or bad choices. Lovingly I brought him back to his judgment of me changing. We also took note that our eight year old daughter fears change.

    My wise and wonderful husband admitted, "now I see why I get so frustrated with her, she is a reflection of me."

    I am going to share this beautiful piece of writing with him.

    Thanks Oriah.
    Love Lee xox

    1. Lee, the fact that you and your husband can talk to each other about these things (and you have clearly been through a lot) in a way that allows you to each see yourselves (and your daughter) more clearly is truly wonderful- and a testament to the love you share. Thanks for sharing this here- give me hope :-)