Who do I think I am? Time to challenge!

I realised something not very long ago. It wasn’t a comfortable realisation, but the kind of observation that can only come from being very mindful of and paying close attention to your own actions, reactions and motivations. Which is something that, over time and with varying degrees of success (and otherwise), I have tried ever more to be.

It stems, I realised, from the fact that I meet life with the the expectation that people won’t care very much about my happiness. Until very recently, this has been an unquestioned assumption, and upon reflection it couldn’t really be more wrong.

But with some investigation, it isn’t terribly hard to understand. It comes from decades of experience and conditioning from those most closely related to me. Which, in itself, is not a blame statement. We are all the result of our upbringing, however we experienced it. And I am only too aware that even siblings can experience their home life, their families, parents, schools, wildly differently. Nonetheless, what we are left to work with is the result of our own experience. We cannot work from anyone else’s. Nor is there any point in becoming distressed by someone else’s reality. It is their journey, just as much as yours is your own. Parents react to different children differently, just as different children react to the same parents differently. It is part of our remit, our hard-wiring, our Path.

The way I understand it is this: our conditioning, from childhood, ‘trains’ us to interact in certain ways, in response to the circumstances, functional or otherwise, in which we find ourselves learning about the world. And again, I’ll stress, different children will be trained in different ways by a similar set of circumstances, because so much also depends on the way we are made individually. If you have a high threshold for pain, or for pleasure, you will tolerate more of either than someone with a lower threshold. The same, of course, goes for integrity. Or dishonesty. Anything, really.

We carry those methods of interaction that we have learned into the wider world, and, unchallenged, they dictate our relationships with those we meet and with whom we surround ourselves. If we have grown up in a safe and secure environment, trusting those around us, we will be naturally more trusting of those we meet outside that circle. We also, as a natural consequence of that conditioning, tend to gravitate towards people with similar methods of relating to those with whom we grew up. This, if our upbringing was healthy, will generally provide us with a healthy mode of interaction as adults. If, on the other hand, our upbringing was less functional, we are likely to collide with folk who challenge us to either fix it, or become ever more dysfunctionally entrenched. And adversity, as I have mentioned before, will throw those possibilities to their furthest extremes. It will teach you who you are.

On a lighter note, though, I began this piece with an uncomfortable realisation. Like so many people, my expectations of the world dictate my interaction with it. And my interaction is, I have begun to understand, an attempt to control or manipulate it to exceed my expectations. Put more simply, because I don’t expect the world to care much about my happiness, I struggle to allow my happiness to show. Because if I am happy, then the world can stop trying to make me happy. Do you see?

“Are you all right, darling?”

“I’m fine.”

Fine…? Only two minutes earlier, I had been gazing out of the window at the reddening evening sky, sun setting over the cobbled-together fence and ploughed field that form the picturesque view from the kitchen. And I took the deepest breath of contentment and smiled to myself. I even registered my own gentle happiness with delight.

And then: “Are you all right, darling?”

“I’m fine.”

Each day is a lesson, eh?

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8 responses to “Who do I think I am? Time to challenge!

  • morvah

    goodness – that’s made me think.. you know, I don’t think it’s ever occurred to me that anyone would even know… surely only as far as it directly affects anyone else would it be important I would think. I don’t mean that I don’t notice or enjoy when others appear to be happy but it’s only a fleeting ephemeral thing, happiness, isn’t it? and so many different levels of it..

  • morvah

    I think I must have misunderstood – can you explain ‘if I am happy, then the world can stop trying to make me happy…’? forgive me Alice, I’m just being dense I expect..

    • RightMotherhood

      From the child’s perspective: if you are happy, then those closest to you don’t need to try to make you happy. From the other side of the coin, if you are unhappy, then perhaps those around you will notice and try harder to make you happy. Born out of a fear that you are not loved enough for people to care if you are happy or not. Carried into adulthood, a rather manipulative method of interaction results. You end up ensuring that people keep trying to make you happy by sowing a seed of doubt that you are. Of course, if you are unhappy, then this entire hypothesis is irrelevant… 🙂
      A rather uncomfortable realisation. “Why, when I am perfectly happy, is my instinct not to let it show?” An instinct that has been ever so… x

      • RightMotherhood

        PS You said it in your first comment “Only in so far as it would affect anyone else” – the fear (as a child) is that it doesn’t, so you try to manipulate the situation so that it does. Thus making your happiness dependent on the external world, I suppose… Which as an adult, you (hopefully) learn is not the key. But the methods of interaction live on, until they become uncomfortable enough to be noticed and challenged.
        I don’t know if I’ve explained that very well! x

  • morvah

    rather concerned that you’re thinking about this at 3.00am instead of sleeping like a good mummy…but yes, I think I’m getting there..certainly reading and pondering it lots. I wonder if this is a moon sign thing – do you think it may be a Capricorn Moon reluctance to show emotion..or a sense that ‘happiness’ (in the sense of contentment/satisfaction) needs to be approved or earned in some way? My Sag Moon is mostly childishly happy when I’m alone and mostly oblivious of whether anyone else is aware of my level of happiness or not and is surprised if they are… I have on occasion, become rather ‘freaked out’ by someone saying they want to ‘make me happy’..arrgh..’does not compute’.!!! No, I think for me it’s in the moment – if you can share a joke, a sunset, a moment of harmony with anyone
    then you’re blessed with happiness.. to me, love is a bit the same, it’s something you hope to be lucky enough to feel for people – it’s their joy or sorrow what they choose to feel themselves.. .Having said all that waffle, I sincerely wish you a happy day with a lot of love in it M xxx

    • RightMotherhood

      It’s more being mindful of my own ingrained reactions and pondering where they stem from in order to fix them that provoked it all. I think the Cap Moon makes a lot of sense (particularly if you think about the Mother aspect of it, which is rather what I was getting at: “Are you *still* in front of that television, Alice?!” having turned it on a mere 5 mins earlier etc) So, yes. A good call, I think. 🙂
      Up at 3 because of a restless small one, and a stomach ache. A chamomile tea sorted it out. But being awoken again by a “Yeeha!” before the alarm went off was… well… interesting 😉
      A little tired today! x

      • RightMotherhood

        So, actually, thinking about it, the angle isn’t about being ‘made happy’, but about being perceived to be happy and having someone attempt to spoil it.
        So don’t let it show!
        Hmmmmm.
        Enlightening.
        On this, my own personal journey, anyway! x

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