It is said that no one else is responsible for how we interpret a situation and the feelings this raises in us. One type of response in these situations may be “This is your stuff”, or, if I’m owning it, I may say: ‘This is my stuff’. In other words, this is a projection, or this is not a projection.
These two phrases tend to create a boundary of responsibility between what is ours and another’s. While this can be very fruitful for self-discovery, both instances give rise to the danger of power games, especially if there is an undercurrent, or culture, of blame. In which case, the process of self-awareness may be interrupted.
PASS THE PARCEL?
Energetically speaking the phrase “This is your stuff” can become the proverbial parcel being passed back and forth.
However, in of itself this parcel has two sides to it:
- On the one hand it ensures boundaries by not taking on board what is not ours.
- On the other hand, it flirts closely with the edge of what may be termed, ‘passing the buck’. “Nothing to do with me! How you react to what I say, is your stuff!”
As seen in the blame-game, this Ping-Pong of accusations can become an ironic pantomime. Equally, if one is prone to absorbing all responsibility and blame, then the parcel stops with that person, though, as discussed before, this often results in resentment.
So, to what extent is drawing a line between what is and isn’t ours, helpful?
THE BEAUTY AND PITFALLS OF BOUNDARIES:
Boundaries keep us vital and safe and provide us with a sense of self and an ability to choose what we determine to be constructive for us. We may draw the line at how another speaks to us, the tone with which they communicate and if we feel they are projecting their feelings onto us. For example: “You are . . . because of what you said/did to me!”
In this instance, a boundary can be both useful and potentially limiting:
- It is useful in differentiating between the impact and intention of our actions on another.
- It is limiting if in order to ‘defend’ ourselves, we deny any contribution and adhere to the exclusive duality of ‘true’ or ‘false’ – rather than considering the ‘And-principle’ in which all possibilities are mutually inclusive.
Contribution is all about self-responsibility and honesty. It is forward-looking; it seeks understanding and develops empathy and compassion.
I consider empathy to be the key for the resolution of all conflicts, from the international to the inter-personal levels. Empathy unites the human in us all. Recalling our own feelings of hurt, betrayal, sadness, anger and so on, can help us see the commonalities between people and enables us to change perspective with more fluidity.
Empathy closes down when blame is afoot and/or when our self-esteem is low and perceives an attack – by low, I include self-deprecation as well as self-inflation.
COMPASSION: TODAY IT’S YOUR TURN, TOMORROW IT’S MINE
We all have ‘good’ and ‘bad’ days. We are all human beings in the process of understanding ourselves through emotional experiences. And this process is not always comfortable, easy, tidy or ‘pretty’! The beauty, or the drag, is that none of us can escape this reality! So while we may not have intended to hurt one another, we can listen with an open and empathic mind to what was experienced. Perhaps in doing so, we both learn the need to adjust or become more mindful of how our behaviour impacts on another.
Mindfulness suggests awareness and a state of presence and calm that enables us to take in our self as well as all the nuances of our environment. It is the slow walk of one gentle foot in front of the other. It is the pause; the outbreath after a heated argument as it de-escalates. Mindfulness is grace.
In the case of inter-personal relations, mindfulness takes us by the hand and walks us through empathy and compassion. It shows us the areas of convergence that can bring us healing and understanding; its dictum is: ‘me and you’.
I regard the walk of mindfulness as an attentive tightrope walk between the two edges of:
- Too little responsibility and rigidity on one hand and
- Too much responsibility and over-absorption on the other.
As such mindfulness, for me at least, suggests that it is ‘all our stuff.’ Any unintentional action on my part, will have contributed to another’s feelings and in so doing I accept my responsibility and I’m mindful of their vulnerability as a human being.
Boundaries enable us to individuate and examine our fifty percent of a situation, without taking on the whole. And, at the same time being aware of our rigidity towards recognizing our contribution.
When our self-esteem is high, it is at an authentic point of deep self worth, which can allow us to empathise with another without feeling at fault. A strong sense of self-worth also enables us, if necessary, to set a clear boundary of what we require by way of communication.
Empathy, compassion and mindfulness are the glue that keeps us aware of the convergence between ‘me’ and ‘you’ as opposed to me vs. you.