Tuesday, October 22, 2013

New Lesson in Self-Awareness from Dr. Schur

Dr. Jeanne Schur, Ph.D., L.P

It is truly the first cool, fall, rainy day here in Minnesota. The leaves are drifting off the trees with the wind picking them up and blowing them topsy-turvy. Amidst the swirl of leaves in the air and on the ground, I spy a Pileated woodpecker.  The cartoon character Woody Woodpecker was emulated from it. About 12 to 18 inches in length with a bright red tuft, they are quite striking. Striking is key because that is exactly what they do in their drill-like search for insects.  It actually sounds like somebody hitting a hammer listening to their reverberations, whether it is pecking at the sideboards on my house or the bark on a nearby tree.  It echoes through the preserve as I go to the windows to see what is causing the raucous.  There he is on a nearby dead willow tree propelling his beak into the bark.  He doesn’t even flinch when I open the patio door so intent is he on his mission to ferret out the insects. His determination is amazing.

I have a text stalker.  Someone I met briefly who got my number from a mutual friend.  We only met twice but he won’t let go and continuously texts me when I’ve asked him not to.  Ignoring his attempts doesn’t help – he only escalates in an attempt to make me respond. Since like attracts like, what is my lesson in self-awareness?

I am guilty of trying to resolve impasses with friends and relatives. Like the woodpecker, I assumed when I attempted sporadic contact it was just bad timing so I would try again later.  I am finally getting that for whatever the reason, my former friends have closed that door. No more contact on my end, but I feel emotionally like that woodpecker, just wanting to drill the door open and make them understand my side of the story. The dispute had two sides to it, as all disputes do, but the other person wasn’t willing to reconsider their part in the problem.  Taking responsibility for your actions is paramount to me and I assumed it was to them.  I have since found that is not necessarily true.

How do you set boundaries and get someone to understand the word “No” without being mean? I set very clear boundaries and when someone doesn’t respect them, it freaks me out.  I am a direct person in general, but it doesn’t mean I don’t understand the impact I have on others. The stalker had a very brief entrance to an open door but I closed it and he keeps knocking – rather trying - to barge in.  I believe the people we attract into our lives for better or worse reflect our own personality traits.  I definitely have a tenacious side. I don’t tend to give up easily and I am embarrassed to say, I also hate it when a door closes in my face.

I rely heavily on my intuitiveness to guide me in these situations.  It is my favorite personality trait as I can sense things in people that they sometimes don’t understand about themselves.  However, timing is everything.  I have found that people generally don’t like it when you know  or figure out something about them that they aren’t ready to share with you.  It doesn’t mean I have to tell them what I perceive, but when they sense that you get them, their defenses go up.  There is a fine line between trying to help somebody and letting them figure it out for themselves.

When I was in graduate school one of my professors told me I had the character structure of a bulldog.  I don’t give up easily.  I persevere until I understand something thoroughly.  Although I can be fierce in maintaining important relationships, it is not always easy to understand things from another’s perspective when they quit talking to you. I have come to realize that it is not about being right or wrong but it is about respecting another’s decision, even when I don’t like it. 

As a child I felt ignored a lot and if I didn’t make myself heard, I felt invisible. My mother would call me a pest if I repeatedly asked for what I wanted or needed.  I think I made a decision early on to figure out how to get what I needed all by myself so I wouldn’t ever have to feel like a pest again. I hated that feeling. I prided myself on my self-sufficiency but it makes it difficult to be vulnerable and ask for help as an adult.

Men seem to go through this more than women, but exposing that vulnerable side of yourself is scary if you don’t trust it is safe to do so.  Therefore, sticking with what you know is easier than opening up to a new experience and a new type of interaction.  I am finally getting that you don’t have to make somebody see you.  It is okay to let go even if you are not ready. My intention was never to convince somebody that I am worth it.  I am no one’s consolation prize but I sure tried hard as a child to feel worthy and to feel like I belonged. It is a fine line between respecting somebody saying, “No” and perseverance. 

Maybe that is the lesson to learn from my stalker. Nobody likes it when a door closes without an explanation.  However, the stalker taught me that when somebody knocks away at a closed door, it is annoying and feels very uncomfortable. It is important to recognize when that ship has sailed.  My default mode of perseverance no longer feels right to me.  Instead of acting like the woodpecker drilling away at a dead tree hoping to arouse a few crummy insects, I need to set my sites on a more nurturing and plentiful source.

As much as I admire the woodpecker’s perseverance, the woodpecker totem also stands for hope.  Hope for a different type of relationship with someone who enjoys my perspective on life and doesn’t care that I’d rather cruise around a book store than a bar. I can learn to do things differently and I am willing to do so.  I just need a good mentor, and if it’s not too much to ask, preferably one with technology skills who also likes to read.

It is not about my stalker, it is about me. I have come to believe that our internal energy emanates from us, albeit invisible, to attract others with similar energy patterns into our experience.  The purpose is to increase our self-awareness. You can’t heal anything if it stays hidden.  It’s amazing, but once you get the lesson, the problem starts to evaporate. My stalker is a reflection of my own difficulty with letting go of someone, long after they have let go of me.  No one would know it by my overt actions, but inside, there was a lot of emotional turmoil stemming from the rejection, regardless of who was right or wrong.   I get the current lesson, so if my energy theory is correct, the stalker will disappear. I am open to a new type of relationship where I don’t have to work so hard at feeling seen. “Woody Woodpeckers” need not apply.

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