Bread Crumbs and The Self-Inflicted Wound – Part 3.

Or “Leave the Crumbs on the Table and Turn Over a New Leaf,
er Loaf”

When we get what we consider to be “bread crumbs” in our relationships it is our expectations that we will get something more, better or different that creates our suffering.  We considered how we might work with our side of the equation first, drop our expectations and appreciate what we are getting.  Next we focused on the reasons our friends, children, partners and parents might not be able to meet our needs.  We identified four possible culprits – capacity, ignorance, fear, and manipulation.

If you’re still reading this third installment, you might be wondering when it’s time to leave the crumbs on the counter, walk away and turn over a new loaf!  You have very real needs.  And you do deserve to have them met.  My friend Virginia articulates these “objective relationship needs”:  the need for appreciation, the need to make physical contact, the need for connection, the need to be heard, among others.  She wisely suggests that we honor or acknowledge our needs.  So, identify what you need.  And allow yourself to have that.  No judgment.

It seems to me the next step we can take is to attempt to skillfully articulate or express what it is we need and from whom.  How directly and clearly can you express what you need from others?  I remember being profoundly impacted by the book, Let Your Life Speak by Parker Palmer.  In it he describes his battle with debilitating depression.  He tells of the many ways his friends tried to help him.  But what he really needed, and what at least one friend was able to discern, was for someone to just sit with him.  Hold the space.  He didn’t need soup, a pep talk or to “get out of the house”.  He needed another’s pure presence.   (Perhaps that’s why our pets are so very important to us! They willingly provide pure presence.)

We’ve all found ourselves in one-sided relationships where we do all the giving and they do all the taking.  I have very little tolerance for those these days.  Ok, no tolerance.  I’ve learned to stand up for myself and I’ve learned that “No” can be a complete sentence!  Explanation not necessary.  It doesn’t all have to be 50-50.  Relationships shouldn’t subscribe to the popular “Balanced Scorecard” model.  But there needs to be mutuality, equanimity, two way support. And if you find that your needs consistently go unmet, despite your expression, and you don’t feel it would be healthy for you to just accept that, then perhaps it’s time to move on.  And who knows, you might just find the sweet smell of fresh baked bread around the next corner!

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