Conditional Belonging

A great deal of us have been accused at one time or another in our lives of not caring for another’s feelings or circumstances, be it as a child or an adult. We’re taught early on to be mindful of another person’s feelings. Especially that of our loved ones. And yet, in some cases, this pattern of caring for those that matter to us can be the very thing that holds us back. Once a parent or a sibling knows that you empathically care, they can start to withhold affection or approval until they get what they want. And therein lies the trap of being emotionally manipulated. The idea of abandonment and rejection can be downright scary. Why is that? Maybe because it’s the opposite of belonging. To know and appreciate something, we have to sometimes go without it. When we’re thirsty on a hot summer day, or when we’re freezing in the cold dead winter, we suddenly know the value of ice-cold water, or of precious heat. When we’re made to feel rejected, then belonging becomes that which quenches our thirst. And depending on just how scary that feeling can be, we can fight with all our might to avoid having to experience it. Even if that means sacrificing our needs for the sake of that much-desired belonging.

But when our sibling or our family makes that belonging conditional, then it becomes less of a reassurance, and more of a weapon. All of a sudden, our family or sibling relationship become less safe, and we are forced to sacrifice much of ourselves for the sake of peace. What are we giving up? In some cases, our dreams, our professional ambitions, our sense of self-worth, to name a few. All of these can be shot down if discussed openly. Because we fear opening up, and invariably getting hurt, we shut down these parts of ourselves, which are inherent to our personality and the full expression of ourselves. When relationships become overly critical and tyrannical, then either our needs get swept under the rug, or we make our needs known and upset the system, which causes us to face the consequences. We can get the sense of being in a double bind. 

So what to do in such a case? First, recognize that as you age, you gain power. One such ability we gain is that of being able to displease. Once you step out of the pre-condition of experiencing belonging only with your sibling or family, then you start to define just what family is on your own terms, as opposed to your sibling or another.  And invariably, they start to lose power over you. When you decide to displease, it can mean to choose differently with what you do with your body. Do you sit there and take it? Do you leave? Do you give yourself the chance to reply, even if it means being disparaged and hurt. It’s what we don’t do that we regret more than  the choices that we make. So learning to get comfortable with displeasing is your first move at freeing yourself from the prison that is your family or your sibling relationship. Look to see just where you can start with this, on a smaller scale. Rome wasn’t built in a day. Keeping in mind that the greater good of empowering yourself will outweigh the smaller good of short-term peace. So dare to become Who You Are! 

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