Saturday, January 14, 2017

Choice and Control

 Choice and control is a popular phrase in the modern animal training world. It is the forefront of training and is currently leading the way in progressive thinking and training techniques. It is also as true a statement for humans as positive reinforcement is. Human 'training' is no different from animal training, except we tend to call it relationships with our friends and family. Every interaction is teaching a response based upon a consequence or action. History is built, and to change patterns, people need to feel secure in their environment to yield the best successes.

For example, sometimes opening up to someone is easier when you can write down your words and send them. It feels safer...some people say it is the chicken way out. That you should have those conversations in person. It's true that most communication is in body language...but in this day and age, sometimes "hiding" behind our words and screens may be more than just hiding. It could be offering choice and control to the other person. If you know that they are shy, or could become nervous and uncomfortable, isn't it respectful to give them the option to read something, and then have an escape from it? And truly respecting someone enough to give them that space and never ask for anything...some times we can't help our feelings. And some people can hide from themselves and ignore what they feel, and live with the inevitable agony that comes from hiding part of yourself. I have found that instead of pretending feelings don't exist, that if you can accept them, and sure, sometimes that involves telling the object of your affection and being rejected (I can speak from experience that it's not the end of the world and it's not that bad to tell someone you love them and then to not hear the words back.), through this process you can grow and it's not torturous.

A good friend of mine confided in me a few years ago about an instance of this where someone confided via email to her that they loved her, had for years, and expected nothing from her, they just needed to tell her. Then, just a few days later, a follow up email was sent when there was no reply. It remarked how obviously she was uncomfortable and had made her choice, and that they would leave her alone. For the next few months, about once every few weeks, she would receive a text from this guy, saying that they missed her and hoped they could talk again soon and have things go back to how they used to be. She never replied.

He was her uncle by marriage. Understandably Amber was put off by this exchange, the age difference was about a decade (not remarkable in itself) but she had grown up with him as family and at times he was more of a father figure to her than anyone else. In an instance like this, I have a hard time saying that perhaps he should have suffered in silence, it is better to be open and honest about it, but in my opinion his approach was not from a place of "true love". There were requests, in a way there were 'demands', when she didn't reply he got upset. She told me that she had never realized what being betrayed by love felt like, she had been betrayed by men before, and by friends, but never by love. But that's how it felt.

Obviously she gave me permission to reference this emotional part of her past, she knew I was thinking of writing this book and thought that the lessons she learned through it could be helpful through my writing for someone else one day. It's hard to put yourself out there, even harder when you know you are risking a relationship with someone important to you. What do you do when you feel that connection drawing you in close to someone, and you know you'll wind up hurt? Because as confident as you are in your self worth, you know that they will never love you the way that you love them. You tell yourself you don't have a crush on them. When they pop into your thoughts, you imagine something else to replace the thoughts of them, maybe a large boulder rolling down a hill, maybe an eagle taking flight and soaring. Months later and that hasn't changed the way you feel, so you admit to yourself that you have a crush but you won't allow yourself to day dream about them. You'll allow a thought of them but you just let it drift into the wind when it comes into your brain. That fails, so you admit that you might love them.

Then you get to know them better than before, each day you talk you learn more about them as a person and you fall more in love. You take some time apart from them, knowing that they are in a different place, and they let you have the space, they don't even know what you're going through. It feels like it's worked until you see them one day, and you catch each other's eyes and the intensity of their gaze knocks the breath out of your lungs and you realize then and there that you will always choose them. You will always love them. Do you tell them? Do you continue to love them in silence? After a few years, the hope that exists in the deep crevices of our soul continue to pester us to say something...just put it out there. And once you do, it feels like a weight has been lifted. Even if they can never reciprocate, and will never feel the same.

But the second that you take offense to their silence, or ask for a reply, you take away their control. That's not love...that is selfishness. Insecurities are natural in all of us, and selfishness to an extent. But love, true love, is putting aside all of our faults and weaknesses and being there for them. Allowing them the ability to say nothing, or to walk away without feeling like they are being rude, these are options that they have through the power of a text. No awkward pauses in conversation, no sideways glances at the door looking for an exit, no uncomfortable squirming in their chair because they don't know what to say...perhaps emotions thorough a screen aren't the cowards way out...maybe they are the kindest thing we can do for another person.

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