‘Changing Times’ Column 2006 – 2007
I received a text message from a friend who asked me to describe her in one word, then forward it on to see what my friends really think about me. Naturally, I saw the opportunity to score Brownie points with a compliment, for her to marvel at my insightful nature.
Much as I hate these ‘chain letters’ and the put-upon social dilemma they create, this one seduced me into action in the name of self-awareness! Eager replies stroked my ego with wholehearted, brave, trustworthy, etc. All very nice, but actually, not very helpful.
My girlfriend’s was the least complimentary and most helpful with ‘changing’. To be in a loving relationship with someone who truly supports my changing is a dream come true. Her courage and depth of love to let me go supports me to be whoever I grow into. I. Me. Not necessarily us.
Personal change is generally disallowed in relationships, though in the wake of trauma, travel or a birth, slack can be cut by friends and family. Change is the greatest threat to our status within a relationship. It indicated that previously shared ways of being together are no longer good enough. Personal rejection. Better the illusion of control, with the same drama, just different players? Luckily I went travelling for a few years and claimed my ‘don’t limit me to my previous patterns’ badge.
Our Inner Child workshop (girlfriend’s idea!) taught me that ‘a child who is unaware of his or her needs can not have them met and is likely to grow into a depressed adult’. Needs? I had no needs! I was a nice Goan Catholic refugee boy causing no strain or drain on my traumatised poverty-stricken parents, in need of acceptance and respect from our new all white community, as we demonstrated goodness and harmlessness.
A child raised with little, may ask for nothing, avoiding the pain, humiliation and guilt of a “No”. I died, in the cold, behind my wholehearted, brave smile in my smallness and appropriateness.
Our Non-Violent Communication workshop (girlfriend’s idea again!) instilled yet another change in the way I communicate, teaching me the four principles of non-evaluative Observation, Feelings, Needs, Requests: “When I hear you talking to me continuously after a hard day’s work, I feel overwhelmed and helpless, because I need space to get my head together. Would you be willing to hold-up for half an hour while I have a shower?” It worked!