Dec 8, 2010

You've been... Shut Down!

Have you ever had anyone in your life ask "How are you?" or "What are you doing?" or "What's news?" but any response that is not to their approval, despite you answering their apparently sincere question, seems to trigger defensiveness in them? One way or another, over time, they make it clear they don't want to truly hear about what makes you... well, you. They only want to hear about the parts of you that reflect their life. You must keep to yourself any part that reflects who they are not, or more importantly - any part they also have but are repressing. You are cut down or tuned out, and after enough social cues you soon you find yourself walking on eggshells avoiding taboo conversation about your life as you try not to offend them with... your existence. Meanwhile, they have a friend in you that they can confide anything they want, share any news they have, without the fear of judgment or being shut down.

When this happens, even if subtly at first, we are able to sense the double-standard and we feel the tension of conscious self-censorship. A one-way distance forms as we chat all about them and relate with them in their world, and they increasingly know little about us as our life continues to move in directions they don't want to relate to. It's easy to get annoyed at this kind of person. But really, we're being hypocritical. How can we get annoyed at them for shutting us down, when no matter how politely or arrogantly they do it, it is us who tacitly agrees to hold ourselves back in these situations? Shouldn't we be annoyed at ourselves? Maybe there's a reason these people and situations have come our way. It could be to draw our attention to the negative feeling of being shut down when we are too blind or acclimatised to see the ways we might be doing this to ourselves.

When the oppression of self is is outside our comfortable control, it is through others that we feel how being shut down doesn't feel good and goes against our grain. Suddenly we are reminded of how it feels to have our life's activities come into critically fine focus and our dreams become something worth being fired up about. With our newly sharpened perception, we decide that we will never hold ourselves down for anyone or anything, including our own fears. The behaviour police will still be there, and yes, they will probably continue to get peeved and disapprove of what we live and how we live it. But if we decide to never let anyone shut us down again, they just become people with a right to their opinion and there's nothing they can do about us. Perhaps people who live their lives freely have been drawn into their lives in order for their own issues to be niggled and poked at - how do they shut themselves down and why? In the brief period they can handle being around someone who aims to live their personal truth, may we be reminded of what may still lurk within us and be grateful for the reflection they bring.

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