August 15, 2013: "step eight, all about learning to live with others. Learning how to come out of isolation, learning what we need to relate and be a part of life." Everyone has their comfort zone when it comes to personal relationships; some have a very high need to be involved with a large number of people. Some have a high need for close personal relationships. Whatever our own personal balance may be, we find out what makes us tick with other people in recovery.
I know that for a very large part of my life, I was able to put on a mask to hide behind. And many people prefer to keep their mask well in place most of the time. It doesn't matter where you fit with regard to your personal balance in relationships as long as you can find the truth of who you are developing on a daily basis. And although some may wish to know you more fully, your preferences might well be to keep them at arm’s length. It is not about trust or integrity; we all have different preferences and needs to relate. The beauty of the twelve steps and coming out of isolation is we can be free in our choices in how we wish to relate to the world. And in this matter of relationships, it is not about confidence or fear; it is about your personal preferences.
Part of my education was learning about the different personality types described by a number of famous psychologists. The science of personality types is not about what somebody thinks is the right personality type, it is about understanding that different strokes work for different folks. And if you have been involved in education and in work, you might get labelled as a particular type of person. If the label fits with you and you like it, all well and good. If somebody's trying to box you into being a certain way so that they feel able to relate to you, best avoid them at all costs, they are manipulative and controlling.
When we find ourselves in agreeable company, we begin to open up to whatever degree is comfortable. We do not need to be an open book to everyone, as long as the book of your life is known to you and you understand it one day at a time, progress is reassuring. When we find ourselves in disagreeable company, normally something is being triggered within ourselves; we do not trust the situation and do not have confidence. A very good indicator that it might be a good idea to jump on your horse and ride off into the distance as quickly as possible. Very often we linger too long with the wrong people in the wrong environment for the wrong reasons: romance and finance can be of particular problems, the wrong people, the wrong places and doing the wrong things will not improve just because we keep on hacking away at the unacceptable truth.
I recollect a promotion at one company led me into being with the wrong people in the wrong place for all the wrong reasons. It was a financial success and nearly ruined me as a human being. We can often negotiate with ourselves about whether we are in the right place with the right people for the right reasons. And just because it is lucrative, or romantically attractive, it can be the very devil because we have chosen the wrong credentials and the wrong values and definitely thought our way into a very bad situation. Our gut feeling, and in this case I realised on my second day, I was definitely in the wrong place. And I stayed for the wrong reasons and it broke me.
The good news in recovery, we have a new set of values hopefully, although I have noticed that the values that are adopted by some are very similar to the way they were before. Part of step eight is beginning to realise that if we embark on some endeavour and find we are definitely battling and trying to change other people places and things without consent, better to find a new endeavour as quickly as possible. Forgiving ourselves is absolutely critical. If we can forgive ourselves for making mistakes, we can surely forgive others for their mistakes without being too judgemental and without trying to change them into something we might find acceptable. They won't change, we can.
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