My husband, Simon, and I can get very tense with each other when we’re on the road together. I’ve lost two friends prematurely to the road toll so I don’t enjoy driving on busy freeways when everyone is jumping lanes and speeding, I feel very nervous that we’re going to get side swiped.
Simon, on the other hand, says he’s been driving for 40 years without an accident and so I don’t have to worry. As you can see, he works on the assumption that everything is going to be fine whereas I tend to anticipate what can go wrong on the road and it drives him mad.
He feels responsible for making me happy so he can get frustrated when I’m anxious or upset, especially when he’s genuinely doing all he can to make life good for me.
And Simon’s not on his own. Life is full of highs, lows and everything in between and it’s natural to want to protect those we love from painful experiences. But happiness is an inside job – no-one else can give it to us, no matter how hard they try.
If we’ve done our own personal work, then we’re better able to maintain our boundaries and support our loved ones until they come through it. But how do we know when we have our own growth work to do?
Typically it’s when we notice we’re having trouble tolerating someone’s distress. It can be really confronting to bear witness to someone’s anger or pain because it pushes the buttons of our own unresolved emotion – their anxiety can mirror our own deeply buried anxiety, their rage can mirror our own unexpressed rage.
If this is the case, then it’s helpful to sit quietly and breathe deeply, with intention, into the feelings we are experiencing, without giving the attending thoughts any attention. It may take days, weeks or even months of doing this practice but by acknowledging and breathing into our feelings – without following our thoughts – we’re allowing healing to take place.
The hardest thing is to watch those we love suffer but we all have a choice in how we respond to our thoughts and feelings. By taking responsibility for ourselves and our own healing work, we can hold the space for those we love while they do the same.
See www.startbeinghappy.com.au for more and have a great day! Jx