With or For?

It’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to…

We have celebrations all the time. Birthdays, special events, parenthood. But when do we learn to distinguish between celebrating with someone and celebrating for someone?

To illustrate with an example at an early age, let’s take a birthday party. The poster child celebratory event! If all the children in attendance bring gifts, they are celebrating for the child. If all the children split a birthday cake, they are celebrating with the child. And when they take home a loot bag they are again celebrating a special event with the youngster.

From these seemingly innocuous early occasions, we teach children the sensation of being happy for someone and showing your joy by bestowing a thoughtful gift on them…hopefully without the expectation of something in return although it is well known that birthday parties are expected to provide attendees with compensation in the form of fun and goodies.

And so from that early age we teach our children that they are entitled to a measure of someone else’s joy. That they can expect a share of someone else’s bounty. We teach them not to celebrate FOR someone, we train them to expect to celebrate WITH others.

Expand that to participation ribbons and various other ways to ensure children ‘don’t feel left out.’ The thought is noble, but the message is that we don’t celebrate the successes of others if it hurts our feelings to do so. We train our children instead to expect the winners to tone down or divide their glory because the non-winners are unable to celebrate FOR their win thus must be given the rewards too, celebrating WITH the winner.

Take this into adulthood and you have envy and entitlement. Children who attended birthday parties for the loot and the entertainment rather than the excitement of watching a friend open the gift they carefully selected turn into adults who manipulate others in order to gain a share of the target’s time, energy, resources, or material goods. Children who got participation ribbons watch in petulant resentment as the first place ribbon of a promotion goes to the winner but there is no distribution of the pay raise amongst the other participating applicants.

Sharing our joys is a natural part of our programming and celebrating with others gives us a sense of connection and validation.

But how much of the meaning in celebrating for someone gets lost in the emphasis of putting on a real show for the guests compared to reinforcing the connections between those guests and the celebrant?

We could claim that we are showing compassion toward the non-celebrants when we give them loot bags and pony rides and bouncy castles. But in reality, we miss the chance for them to feel compassion for the birthday child! That sense of connection, or sharing emotions, goes both ways; compassion isn’t just about understanding when someone is struggling and passively giving them space in your psyche to ease their suffering. Compassion is also about sharing the exquisite pleasures of joyful success and admiration.

When someone wins a race, a graceful loser doesn’t need a participation ribbon, they need to have compassionate connection with the winner to feel respect for a good game. This concept gets often lip service in sports and disservice in the other aspects of our lives, where losing isn’t learning, it’s burning. The winning team ideally celebrates with each other while the losing team celebrates for the winners.

Celebrating for someone allows them to own their special occasion and feel the elation of being celebrated. Celebrating with someone divides those feelings amongst all participants and knowing which is appropriate is a matter of maturity and discernment. Yet, subconsciously the birthday child often feels the unfairness of how their party winds up being about the guests, not about them.

Trojan Horses and Gordian Knots

No strings attached?

Look that gift horse in the mouth and examine every strand of hair in its mane and tail looking for threads which may inextricably bind you before accepting unsolicited gifts. Or unsolicited acts of service, for that matter.

Generosity is an aspect of sincere compassion but like all behaviours can be used for control. Extricating yourself from negative billing on an uninvited gift or service can be incredibly tricky. Have you ever sat on the phone navigating the layers of red tape required to cancel that free trial you signed up for on a whim…and you knew what you were getting into there!

Providing unexpected gifts or services is a common behaviour in those struggling to reach emotional stability. It is a way to secure connection without a risk of personal rejection – our society tells us it is churlish to turn away someone bearing gifts or who does nice things for us…until the moment where the words ” After all I’ve done for you…” come to haunt you.

There is no shame or dysfunction in choosing to involve yourself with someone who engages in dysfunctional behaviour if you do so with conscious compassion and joyful intent. Just like accepting an offer of a free trial book of the month club gives you a chance to see if you like what you get, if it meets your needs.

A gift horse does have value even if long in the tooth. A Trojan army can only overrun your boundaries if you are unprepared or weakened. Every interaction, unsolicited or not, with another human being is a bid for contact, an attempt to get a need met, an effort to find stability. Greeted with receptive curiosity, these threads of connection can weave beautiful patterns not possible without the tension created by the variance in personalities.

Understanding yourself and your needs and motivations will allow you to examine the details of Trojan horses to determine if acceptance is worth the cost. Awareness of your strengths and defenses will provide you with certainty as you decide to allow entry or reject the offering presented to you.

Knowledge of the patterns and personality of the gift giver will inform your decision; don’t trust anyone but love them anyway by having hopeful assumptions. Trust Synergy to keep you satisfied and in balance as you endeavor to meet your needs while being of service to others.

Even if they seem to be trying to pay you in advance.

That behaviour, being generous, is sincere, as is the motive, getting needs met. What makes the interaction insincere and thus unsatisfying is the lack of clear expectations. Perhaps because of a history of rejection and manipulation, they feel they must use passive means to meet their needs. Maybe they’ve experienced helplessness or hopelessness and are attempting to cultivate relationships in advance so when they need support they already have a line of credit with you.

With all unsolicited bids for contact, especially those involving gifts or acts of service, you are able to make an intentional and deliberate choice to accept the gift and its possible knot of hidden obligations, or choose to block access to your energy by turning the gift away at the door. Feel no shame or guilt in saying no because your boundaries still apply even in the face of apparent acts of generosity. Since Synergy gifts us with what we need each day, we are programmed to receive and resistance goes against our very nature!

You will feel the Moment a truly compassionate gift or act is bestowed upon you, and anything less than that sensation will have some degree of transaction involved, some measure of score keeping. When in the Presence of sincere compassion, the taste of satisfaction and gratitude will be unmistakable and you will feel compelled to accept out of sheer joy.

Contempt, Compassion, and Empathy

Empathy really is a buzz word nowadays. It’s held up by many as the standard of excellence in emotional functioning and the antidote to contempt. Empathy is seen as a higher level of awareness and the solution to social ills. But there is a problem with this ideal.

Empathy is feeling someone else’s emotions as if they are your own. Although on the surface this would seem a noble and compassionate thing, especially when held up in contrast of contempt which is judgement of someone else’s emotions, to feel someone’s emotions is…well…immature, selfish and in fact a form of contempt!

This is not to say understanding someone’s feelings is inappropriate, not in the least. That is the root of compassion, which is a healthy respect for and awareness of the emotions of others.

But in its truest form, empathy is an example of someone with poor boundaries who is unable to distinguish between themselves and others thus feels a strong need to fix the problems for others in order to find peace themselves. Many empaths talk of being overwhelmed and taken advantage of, which is a way of blaming others for their failure to protect themselves by establishing healthy boundaries. To act to change someone else’s circumstances can often be a form of contempt because the message is you know better then they, the victims, do.

Contempt and callous disregard for the feelings of others is an easy target to disparage and the narcissist easy to blame for society’s ills. The person exhibiting contempt is demonstrating rigid boundaries with complete distinction between themselves and others, which is viewed as toxic and dysfunctional. True, there is an imbalance present in this way of coping and to reach authenticity and enlightenment a shift needs to happen away from a focus on the judgemental coping mechanisms into wise and compassionate processes. Yet empathy is not the answer either.

The empath is also often toxic and dysfunctional yet in a way deemed acceptable to society because the appearance of helpfulness and caring, yet the drive is just as internally motivated as the actions of the narcissist. There is an imbalance present here, too, and a shift away from the emotional coping mechanisms into wise and compassionate processes needs to happen.

Compassion does not mean your are suffering with the people you feel compassionate towards. They are not you and you are not them, their emotions are not yours to feel. But compassion does elicit discomfort when imbalance, injustice, or negativity is witnessed. Compassion involves the desire to see balance restored, in whatever form the victim might feel it needs to take. As soon as you decide what form restitution or balance must take, you are no longer being compassionate, you are being contemptuous. To demand anything on anyone’s behalf except your very own, is to show contempt of that person’s or groups’ ability to determine their own needs. And unless they asked for your help, you disempower them by taking up their cause unless you yourself are directly affected by the imbalance.

Don’t mistake activism for compassion and empathy for support. Those without voices do need to be heard, but unless you are one of the voiceless, your sounds will drown out the meaning of their silence. Speaking from a place of experience is the only way to drive change, and listening from a place of compassion if you are not the victim, is the only way to support change.

The Brighter the Light, the Darker the Shadows Cast by it

The more positive, joyful and playful you get, it seems the more resistance, opposition and negativity you encounter.

This makes sense.

Shadows only exist due to light and the more intense the glow, the more defined the shadows become. A glimmer does not cause sharp edges in the dark.

But shadows are always behind the illuminated surface so often out of sight of the one casting the shadow. People are often unaware that their response to enlightenment is one of fear and resistance. The questions they have make sense to their judgemental brain and sensory mind, because they are so immersed in the matrix of the material world they can’t imagine an Eternal realm. Your surrender to childlike wonder simply seems childlike.

There is no right or wrong, good or evil. There is surrender or resistance. Joy or pain. When shadows form, it is resistance. Acceptance lights a candle within that banishes the shadow. The glow covers 360 degrees and although it might flicker and dim at times due to the external environment, that flame is Eternal. Like a trick candle, the substance it’s made of has the ability to reignite from within.

The sun doesn’t choose who to shine on. Even when the Earth’s surface is obscured by clouds and storms, the sun continues to spread warmth and energy. Even where there is no apparent target, the sun still shines…and that light reaches the darkest corners of the universe eventually. Not one bit of its glow is wasted.

Shine.

Always.

Even if shadows form, even if clouds block the faces of those around you, even if no one and nothing seems to receive your glow. Your warm energy reaches someone somewhere at some time, whether you are aware of it or not.

And sometimes an unexpected message in a bottle will tell you just how far your glimmer made it.

Emotional Epilepsy

Epilepsy is a diagnosable condition with measurable symptoms, predictable triggers, and consistent patterns of behaviour. The condition arises from a systemic imbalance. Someone experiencing seizures loses control of themselves and can be dangerous to themselves and others. Treatments are available for many symptoms but the afflicted individual must choose to seek diagnostics, medical intervention, and support.

Emotional dysfunctions are diagnosable conditions with measurable symptoms, predictable triggers, and consistent patterns of behaviour. The condition arises from a systemic imbalance. Someone experiencing an emotional dysfunctional episode, an emotional seizure, loses control of themselves and can be dangerous to themselves and others. Treatments are available for many symptoms but the afflicted must choose to seek diagnostics, medical intervention, and support.

During a seizure, the person with epilepsy may involuntarily strike out at their surroundings, may become blind to dangers, may not be able to consciously safeguard themselves or others. If they were to injure a loved one during an uncontrolled seizure they would likely feel intense guilt and shame at the damage they did. Their loved one would not blame them for the behaviours whilst out of control of their body, yet would hold them accountable for seeking treatment, for creating effective coping strategies, for learning how to manage their outbursts in order to make the relationship safer for both of them. No expectations, only boundaries. If epilepsy goes unmanaged, the support person would be in constant risk.

During an emotional seizure, the person with emotional dysregulation may involuntarily strike out at their surroundings, may become blind to dangers, may not be able to consciously safeguard themselves or others. If they were to injure a loved one during an uncontrolled episode they would likely feel intense guilt and shame at the damage they did.

But that’s where the similarity tends to end, which is why mental illness so often grows, and passes on to another generation, accumulating shame, blame, and guilt with each new seizure.

Mental illness is painful for all who endure it as sufferers, victims, and witnesses. Just like epilepsy. But unlike epilepsy, it gets mistaken for a choice, judged as a lifestyle, and dismissed as unworthy of compassion or empathy. Yet like epilepsy, compassion, empathy and support constitute part of the treatment and are central to managing symptoms.

To support someone through epileptic seizures, you cannot pick and choose which symptoms are epileptic and which are not. You accept the whole and forgive what happens during a seizure, if you choose to interact with the person who is potentially unsafe for you because of their illness. To do otherwise is to judge and that puts imbalance between you. Better to keep boundaries between, not scales, and accept completely or let it be. Only you know if the relationship is worth the risk to your safety. No outsider can tell you that although they may try.

To support someone through emotional seizures, you cannot pick and choose which symptoms are choices and which are illness. You accept the whole and forgive what happens during a seizure, if you choose to interact with the person who is potentially unsafe for you because of their illness. To do otherwise is to judge and that puts imbalance between you. Better to keep boundaries between you, not scales, and accept completely or let it be. Only you will know if the relationship is worth the risk to your safety. No outsider can tell you although they might try.

Understanding epilepsy does not mean excusing the dangers of it or absolving people of the responsibility to manage it. But an informed perspective allows preparation for making a choice when a Moment of decision – stay or go – presents itself. Understanding is the foundation for compassion. Knowledge dispels fear and eases trauma. The wise mind guides decisions once the emotional and judgemental brains quiet down.

Understanding emotional dysfunctions does not mean excusing the dangers or absolving people of the responsibility to manage it. But an informed perspective allows preparation for making a choice when a Moment of decision- stay or go – presents itself. Understanding is the foundation for compassion. Knowledge dispels fear and eases trauma. The wise mind guides decisions once the emotional and judgemental brains quiet down.

Emotional abuse is not ok. But it is understandable. It has patterns, predictable triggers, and treatable behaviours. Hope for stability is what keeps people in abusive situations and hope is a precious, powerful force. To judge either party for having hope is to create greater imbalance while acceptance adds more hope and a sense of a safety net.

Mixed Messages

The exhausting thing about compassion is the ongoing need to dispel confusion arising from people’s misinterpretation of compassion, acceptance and living with only boundaries, not expectations.

Receivers of unconditional compassion can easily mistake it for passion if the sexual alignment fits their orientation. In our society authentic acceptance and profound connection are often only found with romantic partners thus the sensation of acceptance feels like the sensation of romantic love. The incredible joy and gratitude of a Moment’s interaction is confused with the delight and excitement of infatuation.

This is why some people seek romantic love on a regular schedule. Because it truly does feel, in its first blush, the same as enlightenment and stability and satisfaction and joy and hope and gratitude. But with romance, those sensations are derived from an external source and driven by expectations and fantasies. Compassion is a necessary part of true romance but romance is not a necessary part of compassion.

Those individuals with poor understanding of boundaries mistake the openness of acceptance as a merging of souls when in fact souls are not meant to merge, only to bond while retaining independence. When they feel the visceral validation of being seen as enough, as wonderful and complete even in their imbalance and dissatisfaction, they construe it as something they have obtained meanwhile compassion is a generous gift given, not taken, and can only be provided from the safety of boundaries. To accept someone is the ultimate in compassion.

This is why some seek caregiving support on a regular schedule, getting a dose of validation and acceptance which feels, at first blush, like enlightenment but again the sensation is derived from an external source. Compassion is a necessary part of caregiving but caregiving is not necessarily a part of compassion.

Compassion is the ability to offer someone support in their distress in a way that elevates them without cost to them and without gain to the benefactor. Because we are so used to paying a price or receiving payment, it is very uncomfortable for some to receive compassion, as they seek the hidden price tag. Yet others accept compassion expecting strings that they like to pull.

Compassion is an expression of unconditional love but we are conditioned to have bows and ribbons attached to love. Or at least, sexy lingerie. Clearing out the mixed messages so love is not confused with romance or transactions will create a culture of compassion.

The Paralysis of Hopelessness

It’s ok to wallow.

To sit within the vacuum of hopelessness looking out with dull eyes at whatever surrounds you.

Hopelessness is a feeling. Feelings are not right or wrong, they are a sensory response to the present social environment. Hopelessness arises from a lack, an imbalance, from dissatisfaction.

No matter how plush and inviting or harsh and grating the environment, hopelessness is a valid response to an absence of something essential to your purpose, your survival.

Don’t judge the feeling with thoughts of how things could be worse. Don’t shame the feeling with thoughts of how others would appreciate where you are so you have no right to feel down. Don’t invalidate the feeling with thoughts that you should be happy.

In that Moment, hopelessness is your feeling. Simple as that.

Greet it with compassion and curiosity. Embrace it. Hello Hopelessness, what can I do for you in this moment? What brings you here today? What have you got to say for yourself?

And in the vacuum of silence and stillness which accompanies hopelessness, listen very carefully.

Trust the silence. Sometimes it will whisper, other times roar. But it will never lie to you.

Hopeful Assumptions

We are constantly forced to make assumptions. We are in frequent interactions with others but don’t always receive all the information we need to understand their behaviour by which to choose an appropriate and effective response.

Every single one of us makes judgements, has a running commentary in the back of our minds, forming opinions about those influencing our lives at the moment. This is completely natural and necessary as a safety mechanism to prep us to respond to the moment. To cue us for action based on the circumstances since obviously our behaviour amongst hostile individuals will be drastically different than when surrounded by unknowns or by family.

And there’s where problems can arise.

No expectations, only boundaries. Don’t trust anyone so accept that they have the potential to hurt you. But hope for the best and love them anyway.

We assume familiar people are safe, unfamiliar people may not be, and hostile people are dangerous.

When it comes to emotional wounds, those closest to us have the greatest power to hurt us and our assumption of safety puts both sides in a position of expected behaviour which can set them up for failure. Especially if there is emotional dysfunction present making even common courtesy fly out the window in moments of distress.

No adult is responsible for another adult’s well being; as much as we’d all like to assume others will not intentionally hurt us we must accept that they will, given the right set of circumstances. Even the best of us has a breaking point. And no matter how well you think you know someone, no matter how close you think you are to them, you will likely never see how close they are to shattering.

We must have no expectations that anyone will be able to protect us from their sharp edges and broken pieces. But to be a part of society or an organization or a family, we must love them anyway and make ourselves safely vulnerable to them with our boundaries in place. Our trust in them gives them hope that they are trustworthy, a priceless gift which Synergy gives to us every day. Our boundaries give us hope and responsibility for our own safety.

Trust means having no expectations, only boundaries. A boundary is an escape plan if things go wrong. It is not an expectation of behaviour, it is a planned, intentional response to misbehaviour. ‘If she yells at me one more time, I am walking out the door.’ A boundary does not need to be announced, approved, or accepted by others, but advising the perpetrator of their violation and the consequence can be a part of a boundary before acting on the escape plan.

Forwarning is not recommended for emotional abusers because boundaries feel like control to them – boundaries are not control of an abuser, they are control of the victim and since abuse is frequently about control, to assert a boundary shifts control from abuser to abused thus does truly represent a loss of control, control they never should have taken. To notify them they are losing control can trigger worse behaviour.

Assume the worst in any situation, prepare your mind for the worst, accept that the worst might happen, and figure out exactly how trusting this person might harm you. No risk? Great. High risk? Then what are you willing to gamble? Every action you take, if purposeful and deliberate, will have minimal risk with maximum satisfaction, if you surrender to the reality that you alone – with Synergy’s support and guidance – are obligated to take care of yourself. You cannot trust anyone to have your back, but you can hope they do. Cover your back as much as you can, before you give them the gift of exposing it to them. Vulnerability is a treasure that, when shared, increases immeasurably.

Hopeful assumptions mean you respond to the best scenario by allowing situations to play out naturally, only acting if you must. Love them anyway, unless they actually DO trigger the boundary but since you prepared yourself for that you were not surprised.

And if the outcome IS the best, then you get to be pleasantly surprised that your trust and hope were rewarded. Either way, the outcome was meant to be.

Martyr or Manipulator?

We are designed to serve. Serve ourselves, each other, a greater good. The urge to give of ourselves arises from this instinct and underwrites so many great selfless acts of compassion and hope. The synergy between people can be felt when hearing stories of incredible generosity and altruistic sacrifice.

But the flip side to this coin is the manipulator disguised as the martyr. The apparent selfless act without expectation of recompense but upon completion an emotional invoice is issued and hefty interest charged on that balance with no rules about the collection or even the value of the service rendered.

When someone does something for you which you did not request, it often is not kind and generous. It may be a statement of contempt. It frequently is an expression of the idea they know better than you, and are attempting to control your behaviour through passive aggression under the guise of benevolence. Only your patterns and history with that person can tell you how sincere the act is but if your gut screams that there’s a price, make no mistake you will receive an invoice.

An offering of service is only sincere if the terms and conditions are clear. There is absolutely nothing wrong with exchanging service! Part of our journey is learning how to cooperate with others to get our needs met while not interfering with the needs of others and fair trade is a wonderfully satisfying way to interact.

Where problems arise is within the ambiguity of an offer hiding a cost. A sale masquerading as a gift. Our instinct is to take at face value what seems to be generously offered because Synergy designed us to accept her gifts to us and surrender to her guidance. Thus a gift from someone is a gift from Synergy, but sometimes it is to teach us a lesson in discernment.

It is painful, disappointing and uncomfortable to accept a gift and discover you unwittingly committed to a transaction. To surrender to the inherent lesson is the only way to escape the pain of that trauma, the pain of resisting the truth. The truth is, everyone is capable of hurting you and disappointing you so you must always be prepared to discover a price on all interactions. True connection requires true vulnerability. Do not condemn the giver for a gift they needed to collect a fee on. They do not know any better and need your acceptance rather than your resistance.

A gift received is not an obligation created, not without your cooperation.

And beware your own hidden price tags! Do you look for thanks? Appreciation? Acknowledgment? Do you feel the urge to punish for good deeds gone unseen? These have value, are emotional coin. If you are sincere, then your offer of service is the satisfaction. Again, it is just fine to look for approval and accolades but be honest with yourself and others that you are seeking coin.

It is ok to protect your most sacred self from harm using boundaries, of course. Boundaries involve removing yourself from exposure to risk of these transactions, but do not involve controlling the behaviour of others. You cannot control others, you cannot stop their offerings. Expectations are attempts at control.

Don’t trust anyone. But love them anyway.

No expectations. Only boundaries.

Compassion – A Different Kind of Pain

Aggression says ‘get up from there’ while standing on top of you.

Passive aggression says ‘let me help you get up from there’ while standing on top of you.

Sympathy says ‘it looks awful down there’ while standing beside you.

Empathy says ‘it sucks down here’ while laying beside you.

Compassion says ‘get out of here’ while taking your place.

Compassion is the deepest form of love and shows no regard for sex, age, race, or religion. It offers no resistance to abuse or trauma or dysfunction because it knows those who are in the greatest pain cause the most pain.

Living in the moment fills you with intense compassion because if you are not holding on to the past nor grasping at the future, you are able to treat the present moment with love, curiosity, hope and joy no matter how badly you’ve been wounded by those spending that moment with you.

Both living in the moment and living with compassion take incredible strength, courage, and endurance. The drain of allowing yourself to be vulnerable to exploitation is at times overwhelming and isolating. Keeping faith that all will be well and perseverance rewarded by peace and joy can be so excruciatingly wearisome.

But the reward always comes. You cannot ask or expect a certain form of reward – that’s a transaction, not compassion- but the pieces needed for fulfillment in your life will follow acts of brave compassion like rainbows follow rainstorms.