What if your patterns of criticism, nagging, annoyance, etc. are well-intentioned? What if they are here for you?
Over the last few weeks I’ve shared about kindness (or lack thereof) in our most intimate relationships. I’ve talked about how critical I’ve been with my husband (and myself) and how I’m intentionally shifting those relationships.
Upon first look, the solution seems simple: Be kinder and less critical. That’s like telling someone who wants to lose weight: Just eat less and move more.
If letting go of our patterns were that easy none of us would suffer. This is why healing and self-intimacy isn’t for the faint of heart. It’s called inner work for a reason.
What I’ve discovered is that my critical, biting behavior is a coping mechanism. It shows up to help me—albeit in an immature way.
An area in my marriage that has been a source of strife has been my husband’s relationship with his health. He is someone who lives and loves big—and isn’t shy about his delight in the deliciousness of life, including food. This is all wonderful…until he almost died in 2017.
Since then, a part of me has tried to control his health choices—through demand, judgment, guilt, nagging and shame. This hasn’t been conscious. I didn’t wake up and think, “I’ll be mean to my husband today.”
No, this default program ran on its own—until I slowed way down to BE with what was running it.
My biggest fear is that I will end up alone. That I will live alone in my old age and die alone in my old age. This worry felt too big to meet. So, instead, my criticism showed up to manage it.
I was wanting Vince (someone outside of me) to calm/heal/squelch the inner anxiety going on inside of me.
We humans play this game all the time. We try to manage our feelings through acts of busyness, distraction, overwhelm, food, alcohol, work and more. We blame our partners, parents, children and bosses. We wait for something outside of us to shift in order for us to feel better.
What I’ve realized is that management is a defense—a protector trying to help. It’s innocent and wonderful in its own way. Yet, real help only comes when we go within and meet what’s going on inside of us.
As soon as I courageously turned toward my fear of ending up alone, my patterns shifted. Doing this wasn’t easy. I shed many tears alongside my coach, Robert Holden. With his help I’ve developed a practice where I meditate on “How to Never Feel Alone”. I’ve come up with some beautiful answers such as: spend time with the cast of characters inside of me, have more vulnerable conversations with my dear ones, write, be fully present, listen deeply to all beings, be curious and more.
Through living into these ideas, I see it’s impossible for me to be alone. I may feel that way from time to time—and when I do, these answers are the antidote.
The best part of all of this is that I get what feels like a new marriage! Not a bad payoff for the work required.
Where are you managing your fears and feelings? Maybe this article will inspire you to meet them instead.
With Fierce Loving,
ps: I’ll be sharing more of this in The Kindness Experiment—which is sold out. If you’d like to be aware of the next time I offer it, join my mailing list here. I share everything I create with my community first.
Photo by Joe Yates.