But it was only recently that I realized why this was happening. I had always been a voracious reader. I loved reading realistic open-ended mythological stories/epics. That’s when the most important aspects of my challenge started falling in place in my heart and mind – slowly. The rest, of course, I had to figure out for myself.
What works for me may not necessarily work for you. The path does not matter. It is the inclination and the journey to find peace that matters the most. Here’s the essence of what I learned:
Love is symbiotic: Love means an abundance of ‘give and take’. Yes. Give. But take as well. Love means complete transparency– with our thoughts and feelings too. There is trust. There is faith. There is room for dialogue and discussion here. When there is an abundance of love – read give and take – (which includes a fair share of conflict too by the way) there is NO room for fear or insecurity.
Love also means unfulfilled expectations: Unmatched expectations are a part and parcel of every relationship. We all have to deal with it. That’s why there is so much conflict in our relationships. Yet, if there is enough trust, transparency and open communication (this involves sulking, silence and arguments every once in a while) the issues get resolved too. We keep learning – repeatedly – that our loved ones will NOT do what we expect of them ALL the time. So we learn to redefine our boundaries with our loved ones because that is a part of the deal called love too.
Why do unmatched expectations scare us? Perhaps the actual internal monologue is, “I am not so sure if you love me anymore. This scares me. I want proof that you love me.” This leads to a series of never-ending expectations because a scared person is vulnerable and seeks constant validation from us. We have to show them we love them – all the time. Now, that’s a huge burden on the other person. It’s next to impossible to fulfil all the expectations of our loved ones all the time. It would drain us emotionally in no time.
Fear makes love conditional: But their fears have gained gigantic proportions in their minds and hearts over time. And sadly, their fears manifest themselves in the form of conditional love. It’s like saying, “I expect this, this, this and this too from you. Period. How you go about doing it – is not something that I am interested in. I deserve this. You owe me this. If you love me – do what I say.” There is no room for dialogue. No discussions take place.
Not so beautiful – is it? But here’s the best part. We can protect and liberate ourselves from such toxic experiences too. It begins by understanding all this:
Park the problem on the right shoulders: Who has a problem? You or the other person? I realized that the person who was making my life hell was struggling with his/her own set of fears and insecurities. The problem was not with me. I was finally relieved from that huge burden of guilt that had plagued me for decades.
Love or Fear? We always have a choice: If we operate from a space of love/trust/transparency, we will keep adapting. The boundaries of our relationships will keep shifting with time but the bond of love will become stronger too.
But if we operate from a space of fear/insecurity, we may unknowingly seek control. We want our expectations to be matched all the time. We demand proof of love. And when we don’t get any or all of it – we may create a toxic environment for others with our splendid displays of unleashed fury.
Do we take our loved ones for granted? Love fizzles out when a relationship is no longer symbiotic. If there is no ‘give’ – we can’t ‘take’- can we? So very often, we take our loved ones for granted. We keep taking without making any kind of investment to nurture the relationship. The investment can be physical, emotional, mental, moral/spiritual or financial. But if there is zero investment we cannot expect 100% returns. Love seeps out slowly and is replaced with disappointment and hurt even as fear starts seeping in. Over time fear multiplies itself leading to a deep feeling of insecurity.
The sad solo journey: My fears are very real to me just as that person’s fears were very real to him/her. But fear is a clear indicator that something is amiss in our relationships. And we have to shoulder the responsibility of dealing with and outgrowing our fears at our own pace. I cannot make that journey for that person who made my life hell. Neither can that person help me outgrow my fears. I have to fight my own battles and he/she has to do so for himself/herself. So at best, we can…..
Empathize and let go…..with the hope that – that person too will eventually be able to operate from a space of love – if not with me – then with others – with whom he/she shares a symbiotic loving relationship.
Believe me when I say this: Just knowing all this was a truly liberating experience. The pain has not vanished. Neither has the problem disappeared. But I feel safe now because I could make that transition from hating myself to loving myself. And that is protection enough for me. I know I can live through a toxic experience with peace in my heart because I am finally at peace with myself.