It’s never easy when you come up against your ego.
Or to be more specific, when your shadow behavior is pointed out to you by someone you love and trust.
Recently I had a conversation with my husband in which he shared that over the past year I’d demonstrated more controlling behavior.
He gave a few specific examples, some I agreed with and others I wanted to immediately reject.
My insides squirmed listening to him.
I just wanted him to stop, to go away and leave me alone.
Didn’t he understand anything?
It wasn’t that I was being more controlling it was that I was finally coming in to my own, doing what I wanted as opposed to what other people were telling me to do.
I felt hurt and rejected. Because that’s the only way an ego can feel.
My husband was infinitely kind, loving and soft when he spoke to me but what I heard was, “You’re a controllingbit** and I don’t want to be with you.”
My ego had been bruised. I felt raw, almost like a frightened little child.
After our conversation, I slowly began to unpack it, trying to make meaning of his words and my reactions.
I realized that my initial response to the conversation was defense. “No. You’re wrong. This is really all about you. You don’t want me to take my power because then you’ll feel threatened.”
Perhaps some of that was true.
In relationships, we always have to be sensitive to power issues between partners.
However, being in a loving relationship, I knew his intention wasn’t to hurt me.
As I began to work through his words and, more importantly, my response to his words, I began to entertain the notion that he could (maybe) be correct. So I asked myself: “What if he’s right? What could your behavior be showing you?”
I realized that I was acting more uptight and clinging to control as a response to moving in a new direction.
In other words, because there was more uncertainty in one aspect of my life (career) it was triggering my anxiety. And I was compensating by trying to control other areas of my life, ones I could actually be in control of (my home life).
When I got to this level of understanding, I was ready to talk about it again.
I shared my new insight with my husband. And he heard me – listening quietly - and responded with love and compassion.
Within that context, my behavior made sense.
It wasn’t really that I wanted (or want) to control him or anyone, it’s just an automatic default setting my ego falls into when I come up against anxiety.
Then my husband went one step further. Thinking out loud, he wondered if what was really being triggered by this uncertainty was my core issue: abandonment.
Lots of us struggle with abandonment issues.
My mom left my sister and me when I was four years old. Although we saw her frequently and went to live with her six years later, that time was filled with upheaval. We moved so often that I went to five different schools. In my young mind, I became convinced that somehow it was all my fault and that I was not lovable.
I initially turned to food and ate to fill that void, the emptiness of undeserving.
After I released that, I filled it with people, activities, and by never letting really anyone in because then they could hurt me. I spent years yearning for love but being too afraid to actually open up to it.
In a way, it’s actually a loss of faith.
It’s my forgetting that I am safe and that the Universe loves and supports me. Instead, I fall into a fear reaction that drives me to do everything because no one can be trusted.
Over time my behaviors have changed and by deepening my spiritual practice, I now trust in God, in other people and in the Universe. And I know that I am loveable and loved.
This internal relaxing has allowed me to open up to new possibilities, to stretch myself emotionally and let love in even more.
Yet those of us on this spiritual path know that we move in a spiral direction.
We keep coming back around to the same issues over and over again. Only each time they get more subtle.
So I shouldn’t really be surprised that I'm facing my abandonment once again.
The old feeling that conjures up a scared little 4-year old girl.
In this turn in my road, I’m working on loving both the feeling as well as the frightened child.
Reminding her that she is safe and loved, that those old stories are just that, old and not real anymore.
As I embrace these aspects of myself and let love in, I know I am being healed.
Instead of rejecting my anxiety or my abandonment, my job right now is to love them and embrace them- these dark emotions that I don’t want to feel or acknowledge.
I bring them into my heart and relax.
Light and love come streaming in and I don’t have this frenzied or uptight need to control. It’s a relief in a way to be able to relax.
For me trust is the opposite of abandonment.
As I dissolve my old ties of abandonment, and let them go, I replace them with faith and trust. I breathe into my heart and know that I am loved, and that I am never alone, ever.
Curiously I came back to love through looking at my shadow behavior – my need to staunch my anxiety with control.
I’m grateful to have people in my life who love me enough to show me even what I don’t want to see. Because despite the pain of hearing the truth in that moment, the lesson it has taught me has been well worth it.
And I am the better for it.
What's your take? How do you respond to uncertainty?
Let's start a dialog. Leave your ideas below.