All things are subject to interpretation whichever interpretation prevails at a given time is a function of power and not truth ~ Friedrich Nietzsche
Recently, I have been taking stock of my life and diving deep into how I think, how I interpret situations, my assessment of the actions of others, and really trying to take ownership of my life. I’ve been reading and re-reading the Four Agreements. Unfortunately this has meant that my relationships have changed, and some relationships have ended, if only because they did not serve the greater good of either person involved.
This is something that I have done more frequently since returning home, turning 40, and reshaping and reframing my perspectives. It also comes with finally understanding what a boundary is, how to develop them, and how to enforce them. It comes with deciding, choosing, what I will and won’t accept in my life. All of which is no easy task and not undertaken lightly or with any great ease or anticipation. Speaking up for myself has always induced great anxiety and doubt, and has only ever occurred at my breaking point. Generally with too much passion, emphasis and fervour, leaving me feeling shame and embarrassment.
Relationships have always held utmost importance for me. Often regardless of if they were healthy or of a benefit to me. I would hold on tight and viewed any loss of any relationship as a failure. Recently, I read an amazing quote about how not everyone who enters our lives are meant to stay there, even if the loss is painful and grief-filled. I also read the following quote, which prompted another of my “lightbulb” moments, and causing me great discomfort once this really settled in:
It is not a person or situation that affects your life; it is the meaning you give to that person or situation, which influences your emotions and actions. Your choice is to change the meaning you gave it or to change your response, in order to create the outcome you want ~ Shannon L. Alder
Noun: the action of explaining the meaning of something; an explanation or way of explaining.
Noun: what is meant by a word, text, concept, or action.
Adjective: intended to communicate something that is not directly expressed.
It’s another chicken or the egg scenario, do I become attached to people or situations and then assign meaning based on my attachment? Or do I base my level of attachment on the prescribed meaning I believe someone or something to hold? Either way, meaning I assign becomes the way I view and interpret the relationship and subsequent actions. The way I attach meaning is based solely on my perceptions and interpretations of situations and relationships. This is shaped by my past experiences and beliefs surrounding relationships of various sorts. And either way, it’s all up to me and my interpretation. No one else.
A long standing belief of mine was that relationships and friendships were lifelong and should be fought for, with no consideration of whether that was in my, the other or the overall relationship’s, best interest. It didn’t matter. All relationships and friendships were invaluable, to my detriment. Any loss of a relationship, regardless of the circumstances, I interpreted as failure, or that I was not a good partner in the specific sense of the word that was relevant to the context of the relationship. I experienced such loss, grief, guilt and shame. I would conduct a relationship post-mortem and always assign myself blame.
That’s the thing. Blame and shame and emotion are all a product of my own interpretation and of the meaning I assigned in the first place. Which means that I can change the meaning and change my interpretation. Or change my reaction. This involves taking responsibility for my own words, actions, and thoughts used to form those interpretations. Any loss of connection is difficult and despite reframing and a change of interpretation, grief really can’t be avoided.
For me, reflecting on an ending, or change, or particular interpretation, is important for determining why I assigned that particular meaning in the first place. There are hundreds of instances in my daily life that situations occur and I react in various ways. These situations, and those involved, have varying degrees of affect on me, my emotional state and therefore, my response. Uncovering why I have attached a certain meaning to some situations and not others will lend itself to uncovering my core values, and needs, both met and unmet. And hopefully, can lead to changes in my responses or changes in my assignment of meaning.
Unfortunately, as humans and social beings, the loss of connection, regardless of the reasons, still brings a sense of loss and grief. That humanity is unique. Remaining curious as to why I assign the meaning that I do, and how, are questions I seek to uncover, but not at the risk of avoiding loss, avoiding grief, or becoming unattached. But rather in a quest for connection and appreciating the quality and high value relationships I am fortunate to have in my life, and those that are still to come.