Who Is Allowed to Live Rent Free In Your Head?
Sometimes it takes us a very long time to get the lesson the Universe is trying to present. When we constantly miss the lesson, the Universe gladly keeps sending it to us until we do get it. I have been reflecting on a specific set of lessons lately and the issue has come up again in the form of friends who are dealing with the same thing right now.
Wayne Dyer has said, “You get treated in life the way you teach people to treat you.” Maya Angelou took it a step further and said, “When someone shows you who they really are, believe them”. It’s taken me a very long time to learn this; it’s taken me most of my adult life, in fact. For some reason we think that if we are kind enough, patient enough, loving enough that we will get the love and respect that we all deserve. Even when someone is disrespectful and insulting, we still think that we can reach them and that they will start to change their mannerisms. The sad truth is that this is false. Although all of the above attributes are admirable, they don’t have any impact on many people and there are actually people who see it as an invitation to act out even more.
My very first lesson was one that lasted 18 years. You would have thought I learned something in this time span, but I didn’t (and I had to have a repeat a few more times). My (now X) husband treated me in a very specific way that was not good. I thought kindness and love would win and I would be treated right…..eventually. It didn’t win. I divorced him. The same scenarios continued to roll into my life. People who were not treating me well continued to show up and I continued to respond the same way. “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten.” ~Anthony Robbins. So true, so very, very true.
We could go on all day about the people who showed up who didn’t treat me well, but that is not the point of what I am writing about. I still wasn’t catching on and I would just lament about why I kept “attracting” those who did not respect me. I really did not understand. Well, the Universe decided to deliver a whammy to me a few years ago. There was a woman involved in my life who was the mother of my significant other. She decided to hate me. She was a really poor creature in that she pretty much hated everyone and her own life as well. I could see this so I chose to offer her love and understanding with the knowledge that she had lived a difficult life. I had compassion out the whazoo. I thought love would transform the relationship. Boy, was I wrong again. We like to say “love is the answer” and this is true but we must first love ourselves. This woman stayed in my space (because I allowed her there) and continued to harass and abuse me until I was extremely worn down, at which time my relationship with her son ended. What I observed about this woman was that she was mean and cruel to many people, including her sons, daughter and husband, so you can imagine what she dished out to people who were NOT related to her. I also observed the reactions people had to this woman. People would tip-toe around her and try very hard not to upset her. (No one wanted to be on the receiving end of her wrath.) I asked her husband and son why they allowed her to treat them the way she did. They replied, “It’s better to just placate her.” This was when it hit me: A person will continue to act in a very negative way as long as they can get away with it. When we confront a person and tell them their behavior is not acceptable and that they will not remain in our space, they have an opportunity to re-evaluate their actions. They will either choose to change their mannerisms or allow us to leave their space (and their life). If they choose to remain abusive and insulting and we leave their life, then there is no loss to us. We have to love ourselves enough to not allow the abuse in our lives, whatever form it takes.
You would think that would have been a major “A-HA!” moment for me but (sadly) it wasn’t. (My head can be very thick and I can be very stubborn.) I had to have two other lessons before I really, really got it. The next one came in the form of another relationship with someone who had major issues. This quickly became very apparent to me. I am the Queen of Justification and also the Queen of Denial (and , no, this is not a river in Egypt).
This person began treating me very badly. I justified and denied in my usual fashion. “If only you understood him like I do…. He had an abusive childhood, he’s still working through it…..When he feels the depth of my caring, he will change…..” and on and on and on. Nope, once again, it didn’t work. He didn’t change and, in fact, things only got worse until I had to end the relationship (with much relief). I think that maybe at this point, I did finally “get it”. I realized that what we are willing to accept and put up with in a person’s behavior is what we will get. Some people are like small children, they will act any way they choose and unless there is a consequence, they don’t change their actions.
The final test came to me when I was dating someone after this relationship. It lasted all of about 2-3 weeks. In that time span, I saw things that indicated deep disrespect. I think everyone is entitled to make a mistake so the first time (or two) I let it pass. I realized it could have been totally inadvertent. But by week number 3, I saw that it was not a mistake, it was not inadvertent, but this was, in fact, the way the person wanted to behave towards me. It was not acceptable and I discontinued dating him. Very simple. End of story. It didn’t take 18 years, 4 years or 1 year to see it. It took me opening my eyes to reality and stopping the party after 3 weeks. (And what a grand relief! Whoo-hooo!)
There is a moral to this story. If there is someone in your life who is treating you with disrespect of any form (insults to abuse), you are allowing it. You are teaching them what you find acceptable and what you do not find acceptable. If you do not like the treatment, then you have the responsibility to yourself to call them out on it. Some people wander through life and everyone is so afraid of them (for whatever reason) that they won’t call the elephant in the room, the elephant in the room. It’s a freakin’ elephant for goodness sake! By not calling them out on their behavior, you enable them to continue it. They observe the reactions of people and realize they can treat people like dirt, get away with it, and still have friends. So why change? Now imagine a person who goes through life treating everyone like a bug under their foot, and people step away and indicate that this just isn’t cool. People start leaving their life and abandoning the relationship. This would surely shake them up, unless their intent is to live life as a hermit.
For me personally, it took me almost my entire adult life to learn this lesson. I have finally reached a place where I don’t want people in my personal space who are going to pollute it with their negativity and mistreatment of me. I know that I deserve respect, as do we all. I like how Ekhart Tolle puts it, “If you find your here and now intolerable and it makes you unhappy, you have three options: remove yourself from the situation, change it, or accept it totally. If you want to take responsibility for your life, you must choose one of those three options, and you must choose now. Then accept the consequences. No excuses. No negativity. No psychic pollution. Keep your inner space clear.” Sometimes we have to choose who we allow to remain in our space. There are times we have to speak our mind and ask for respect. When we don’t get it, we then have the option to remain in a position of mistreatment or we can happily cut that person free from our lives and let them go their way. I no longer want my life contaminated by those who would insult, degrade or abuse me in any way. Even when personal interaction with people of this kind is infrequent, if it leaves you angry and unsettled, with their comments taking up the precious energy of your mind, then you have to evaluate if it’s worth it to remain in contact with them.
Teach people how to treat you, show them what you expect from them. They may treat you better, or they may not. That is ultimately their choice. But it is YOUR choice about how you are treated and how you spend your energy. You are not a victim. Allowing people to walk on you in the name of kindness, love, compassion, or simply not rocking the boat does favors for no one. You enable them to continue to act like a jerk while allowing yourself to get stepped on. It’s a lose –lose situation. Love yourself enough to know when to speak out and when to walk away. The Universe rewards this action by sending you people who love and respect you as much as you love and respect yourself. Namaste ~ Kathy Lee 10/22/2012