Communication is a delicate dance between understanding ourselves and meeting another. When the ability to express ourself is blocked it can create havoc in our minds and lives. We may become anxious and obsessively think about what we could’ve / would’ve / should’ve said or done differently. Or we might go blank and become numb to any sense of human connection. Sometimes we become so tangled in another’s perception that we lose ourselves completely. Our voice may literally shut down as our throat closes up. In these places of confusion, anxiety, & overwhelm the only place to begin is to look inward at our self.
Back in my twenties I was enamoured with a guy I’ll call Ryan. When we were together time stopped. Connection with him was unlike anything I had ever known and he seemed to feel the same. But after a brief time together, maybe a few weeks, he would stop reaching out, stop answering texts, and disappear. This happened again and again for several years.
At the time I thought I was being understanding by allowing him to engage with me as he liked. After all, he shared that he loved me but felt unable to commit to a relationship, so why shouldn’t I do everything in my power to make him feel safe and loved?
I did my best to be kind, thoughtful, & compassionate.
But the truth is… I FELT CRAZY.
I would go over every moment, every conversation, every word in my mind and imagine what he was thinking, feeling, or needing. What could I have done differently? How could I make him feel more safe, more loved?
This on again off again (mostly off again) relationship went on for years.
My friends kept telling me to ‘let him go’ that he wasn’t worth it. Logically, I agreed. I tried to act like I didn’t care, that it was no big deal. But, it didn’t work. We’d inevitably cross paths and again I would get lost in him - doing my best not to say or do anything that might ‘rock the boat’ and secretly hoping this time would be different.
I was STUCK.
It was only when I finally admitted what I felt, needed, and wanted that I could start to move on. By giving myself the permission to be in that raw and vulnerable place I found my words, my boundaries, and my voice.
Admission & Permission
Emotional intelligence is developed by understanding our emotions and needs. From here we can meet another with empathy while maintaining our autonomy. When we bypass this intelligence we may fall victim to one of two traps; believing another is responsible for our feelings/needs or believing that we are responsible for theirs. The first situation often leads to blame & entitlement whereas the second leads to martyrdom & codependency.
Begin with You.
To acknowledge our self we need to take all external influences out of the equation. This can be tricky. It means looking at our feelings, needs, and wants without worrying about how we ‘should’ be or allowing ourselves to be influenced by what someone else might think.
No longer swayed by external forces we gain valuable insight into our situation.
~ What do I feel?
~ What do I need?
~ What do I want?
~ If I was willing to admit it to myself what else do I feel? want? need?
Admission is a Gateway.
Once I took Ryan out of the equation I settled into a raw and tender place. Instead of pretending I didn’t care, I acknowledged the pain I felt - the sadness, the anger and the love that was still prevalent.
Here I began to recognize that what I really wanted was a companion, a loving relationship based on communication and mutual respect.
Permission is the vehicle.
Before this revelation I would bypass these emotions. Sure I noticed the pain and hurt but instead of trying to understand it I would leap to the next step - to being ‘cool’ with everything or pretending I didn’t care.
This time I gave myself permission.
Permission to grieve.
Permission to be angry.
Permission to love him and
Permission to need something different.
Connect with Understanding
Once we come to terms with our emotions, needs, and desires we can engage the situation with autonomy and humility. Here, stripped of agenda, or the urge to manipulate the situation, we are more equipped to engage, listen, and empathize with each other.
As self recognition grew I began to see Ryan differently. Yes, I loved him, and yes he probably cared for me but we were in different places. His actions told me he needed space and I now respected that I needed a committed partner. Neither of us was wrong in what we needed nor were we responsible for the other.
When our paths crossed again it was different. I clearly expressed what I needed, set boundaries, and ultimately chose to walk away out of respect for us both.
Realistically there may be times when coming to terms with feelings, attachments, and needs can be overwhelming or too complex to do on our own. Admitting this to ourself is an act of bravery and self respect.
A skilled coach can help you gain clarity on where you are and build the skills for expressing yourself.
An experienced psychologist can help you move through traumatic and complex situations in a safe and methodical way.
Even a good friend or mentor may provide a new perspective.
Freedom in Expression
Often we get stuck in our communication because we are unclear about our needs and emotions. By admitting what we feel and need we detangle ourselves from what others might think, do, or say and land solely in our own experience. By giving ourselves the permission to feel and acknowledge our self we become better equipped to listen, understand, and speak from a place of autonomy. This emotional intelligence gives us the freedom to express ourselves and meet others as they are.
* Music is Medicine
Music, prayer, & mantra can help us articulate our emotions without having to understand them. The act of sining calms our physiology and can elicit greater wisdom & awareness.
In the Vedic tradition we often sing to Ganesh the ‘Remover of Obstacles’. He is also the one who puts the exact obstacle in your path that will enable you to grow. When we recite the mantra of Ganesh we do so with the intention of inviting wisdom and grace to guide us through our challenges.
“Om Gam Ganapatayea Namaha”
To listen and learn more about this mantra here from Music in Medicine.