13 May The Middle Ground
In my last blog, I spoke about how you might try doing one thing different in a disagreement as a way of breaking patterns. One of the changes that I suggested was “if you usually don’t say anything but just take it, figure out how to kindly but firmly stand up for yourself” and I also mentioned that this is a tough one to change. According to the Lerner book I referenced, people (women in particular according to her) tend to fall on one end or the other of a continuum. She says they tend to either be nurturers who put their own needs last and just kind of take the pressure and verbal put-downs or they revert to the other end and behave in a manner in which they are not so proud. She uses a term in the book I won’t use here but the person on this other end is tough, is cruel, is punitive if deemed necessary, and essentially lowers her/him self to the level of those that have hurt and controlled them.
The trick is to find the middle ground. First you have to believe there IS a middle ground and that is ground worth gaining. I can only tell you that I believe very deeply that this is true. I admit that being there and staying there is harder work than defaulting to one or the other extremes but it is, in my opinion, worth the effort. It is a position of power but not dominance. It is a place from which you speak your truths but also allow others to have theirs. It is, as I described previously, a place from which you can “figure how to kindly but firmly stand up for yourself.” Notice, if you will, the two qualifiers – kind and firm.
As I said, it’s a difficult and challenging place to achieve and also to maintain. Probably the biggest barriers to this sort of change are those around you. They too have been operating within the rules of the old dance and no one likes change especially when that change is kind of brought on by someone else. They want you to remain the “good ol’ keep your mouth shut, take care of our needs, and keep putting yourself last” self that they have known and grown accustomed to all these years. Even if they understand that this kind of change is for the better, they will initially resist as a natural reaction. That is when you will have to persevere in lovingly but firmly letting them know some things. Let them know that you are not going anywhere. Let them know that they still matter deeply to you. But also let them know that you matter to you. Let them know that your needs are worth acknowledging and affirming and that you will no longer live with the old status quo. They can learn. They’ll get used to it. And who knows, maybe they’ll learn how to take care of themselves a little better in the meantime!