Crossing Thresholds of Awareness
A colleague and I were talking last week about a visit that she made to see her sister, who has regularly made it a point to talk down to my colleague and lecture her on various topics.
Alternately, her sister defends herself and her actions before anyone can make a remark about them. It has always been a challenge to spend time with her but my colleague loves her sister, so the dance has continued for a number of years. In the past it has taken her several days to recover from her sister’s barrage of words and judgments.
This visit, however, turned out differently. My colleague has done a lot of inner growth and a sense of her own authority is solid within herself now. Yet she was confused because she left her sister’s home with her heart churning, and wondered what had happened. She was puzzled by the internal processing going on as she departed.
As we discussed it further, she realized she had not done her habitual pattern of shrinking and questioning herself. So what was going on? As we talked, she realized that she had been able to see her sister in a new light. She had empathy for where her sister is caught, and though my colleague offered some suggestions, her sister was not open to them. She was able to see her sister’s vulnerability and the emotional fortress she lives within.
My colleague was able to see for the first time that it is not personal. However, because she cares for her sister, it is uncomfortable to spend time in her presence. Her sister says one thing and clearly feels something entirely different, perhaps completely out of her conscious awareness.
When this occurs it always causes a felt sense of incongruence in the conversation. Like when someone says they are fine, but their voice is tight and pained. Or when someone has a lot of bravado but you can almost taste the vulnerability in their words and actions.
My colleague had spent a whole weekend with this constant input from her sister. Is it a wonder that she drove away feeling heavy hearted? Not at all. It was not because my colleague felt put down. She just felt the normal response to spending time with someone who cannot be authentic. When she realized this, her heart lightened. She had crossed a threshold of awareness- she has no need to shrink in her sister’s presence in order to fit in with the family patterns. She is free. Ah…..and enjoying it!