Allowing everyone to be exactly as they are. Just the words can create a flurry of activity in the mind. The principle makes sense to us and it is also something we mightily resist! The intensity of our response is rooted in our primitive brain. We actually are not okay with “anything goes”.
This is easier to understand from the viewpoint of a child. A parent whose main priority is their career may provide food and shelter but spend little time with their children. There are many reasons and financial pressures that contribute to this, possibly including our parents’ core deficiency beliefs. The resulting emotional neglect is felt as a survival threat to a child. We internalize the experience of feeling unloved with the belief we are unworthy of being attended to. We feel disconnected from our family and this leads to anxiety and fear.
Our strategies often involve wanting someone else to be different. Most parents love their children. Many parents don’t have the capacity to sustain a nurturing environment for their children. Dr Gabor Maté defines safety as a lack of threat AND a feeling of connection. “Good enough” parenting means two things: we are not hurting our children and we are doing our best to protect them from abuse and harm; AND they know they are not alone.
How do we know we are not alone? That someone has our back? It is our felt sense, our direct experience over days and years. Some of this has to do with time spent and in particular, with positive attention. Attention is multi-directional: it has to be both given and received. Based on our own lived experience, we may not be receptive to positive regard. Our core deficiency beliefs of unworthiness can even make it difficult to stand at a mirror, look ourselves in the eye, and say “I love you”.
Children and many adults are overly focused on themselves, making it difficult to see the effects on others of our wanting something to be different. We want people we love to be happy and can see they are not. It is relatively easy to see what will help and we may give our advice freely. And often. They experience our anxiety and well-intentioned advice as judgment and wish we’d stay in our own swim lane. Allowing someone else to be as they are is to acknowledge and nurture their strengths and capacity AND to accept and see them as a human being independent of our need for them to be a certain way. It is not my job to “do” someone else’s life for them nor is it possible.
A common example is judgment around food and eating. Shaming makes it worse. We all know we should eat nutritious food and exercise. The reason we don’t is often related to giving up short term psychological comfort for long term health benefits. Especially for people with trauma, our primitive brain may be driving behavior that is not in our best interest. As we heal our trauma, we naturally have more strength and capacity to include our physical health as a higher priority.
Kindness and compassion for ourselves first is a foundation of a healthy mind and nervous system. It takes practice to see and understand resistance. Strategies that were our only option in childhood are less necessary now. As adults, we have more power to change our environment, distance ourselves from people who are harming us, and to develop deep, nurturing relationships. We need to have patience with our anxiety AND reach out to break our social isolation. We need to protect ourselves AND speak up and be authentic so we don’t betray ourselves.
Life is a complicated business!
“Allow everyone to be exactly as they are. Allow yourself to be exactly as you are. This is freedom.” Adyashanti