A Space for Myself is a Space for you
Recently, in my work, I noticed what keeps coming up is the idea of the space that we give to ourselves.
Not only do we rush into judgment, but we are also uptight and afraid of being judged. Since we don’t give ourselves enough space, we end up not giving others’ enough space.
I had a Skype session with a client during my travels in Venice Italy. It took me some extra time to get everything ready as connecting to the Internet didn’t go smoothly. I was six minutes late for the online appointment.
But finally I was on. I was glad. And my client seemed to be relieved too. So I said sorry, I didn’t mean to be late. I was about to tell her about the hard time that I had sorting out the wi-fi connection in Italian.
“Oh no, it’s okay. No problem. It was completely okay!” My client was very kind and quick in showing her understanding. I didn’t finish the sentence.
I took a deep breath. Okay then. Let’s start.
My client knew that I was in Venice and asked how my travels were going. I answered her. When I was talking about my difficulties understanding Italian, I used the Internet connection as an example and said “… which was why I was a few minutes…”
“Oh no, no problem. Really. It’s okay.” My client jumped in before I finished.
I said to her, “I’m not apologizing now. I was just describing my experience to you in answering the question you asked me.”
“I just don’t want you to feel bad.” My client explained.
“If I felt bad, it would be my choice. You know?” I said softly to her.
We are too tight sometimes. Not wanting the other to feel bad has grown too large in many people’s lives. She was assuming that I felt bad about being late, but I wasn’t. I was okay with being a few minutes late. It happened and there was nothing else to be done about it. Apologizing as a courtesy didn’t mean that I was feeling bad.
If the client had been looser and easier, we might have had a good laugh about something as exotic as Italian at the beginning of our session.
* * *
Another day I was hosting a group Past Life Regression session in the West End Community Centre. When I start a class, I introduce myself, and open the floor for people to introduce themselves. I said to class, “Just your name, how much experience you have with hypnosis, self-hypnosis, and past life regression, and what you are looking to get out of today’s session.”
Each person would normally take about 2 or 3 minutes.
However, there is almost always one individual in each class who would carry on and speak a little too much.
That Saturday, when one of them started to go on and on, I was looking for opportunities to stop her and move on since she was losing the audience. For example, the woman sitting beside her drifted into her own thoughts and was looking out of the window.
Before I needed to do anything however, she said, “Oh I should stop now. I’ve taken too much time.” Maybe she had noticed my facial expression, or maybe she had simply realized how long she had spoken.
But then the woman sitting beside her turned around from her window-gazing activity and said to her “Oh no, no, no, don’t worry. I was just thinking…”.
The whole class was taken aback, because they knew the speaker had wanted to stop talking and had not noticed what the other woman was doing.
* * *
We are taught to live a life making others feel good, to step out of others’ way, to be quiet, unseen and unheard.
We are taught that others’ happiness is our responsibility.
* * *
Clients who were in a relationship were breaking up. Both were sad. The wife had an innermost desire to be with her husband again someday. When he was moving out, she kept asking him if he was still angry.
The husband initially ignored the question. When asked enough times, he said, “Yes.”
“Do you blame me for it?”
“Well, kind of.”
It then became a big deal for the wife. She came to therapy alone saying that she didn’t understand why her husband didn’t take any accountability himself.
“How does he not hold himself accountable?” I asked.
“He is still angry with me.”
“He can take accountability himself and still be angry. The two don’t have to exclude each other.”
“Why does he still blame me then?”
“He was not blaming you. He was simply moving out. And you have also agreed it is the best solution for both of you right now. “
“But he said ‘kind of’.”
“He said ‘kind of’ as the answer to your question. He was not blaming you. He was answering your question.”
“But I still don’t like that answer.”
“Then you didn’t have to ask that question.”
It’s as if we are trained to bother. For the wife, she obsessively needed to know if her moving-out husband was okay or not, in the privacy of his own mind.
We care more about how others view us than how we actually are.
If we leave the world alone, the world will probably just be fine, and probably more supportive to what we want. The flow of life carries on if we don’t break it, with our over-caring.
Everything existing in the world needs to exist now, in order to move on.
When we are okay with ourselves, okay with what’s happening, okay with what is, in the moment, such as our spouse being angry, such as a therapist saying sorry I’m late, such as a class participant saying I’m taking too much time for the group session and I’m stopping now – actually as soon as we are okay with what is happening, what is happening will change.
The only reason what is happening keeps happening is that we won’t let it change by not being okay with what is.
People pleasing, over compensating, all these behaviours are our attempt to take responsibility for other people’s happiness.
Many people talk about setting boundaries these days. The first step to setting a boundary is to not take responsibility for others’ emotions.
Now let us take a deep breath for ourselves. And leave the world alone.