In his book The Four Agreements, Don Miguel Ruiz outlines four principles he’s found to be essential for building and maintaining a successful life.
The second and third agreements, Don’t Take Anything Personally and Don’t Make Assumptions, are the two I wish to discuss in this post, as I believe these build directly on top of the understanding I’ve been hinting at when I say;
Our need for control is always based on fear, not love
To explain what I mean and tie it back, let’s start with a list of a few key phrases that we may say, or hear from others, at times of stress when we find ourselves in these fear-based (“love”) relationships;
- “How dare you”
- “I can’t believe you would say/think that“
- “Do you know who I am?”
- “Why would you say such a thing? or “Why would you ask me that?”
- “I’ve told you not to do/say/be that when you’re around me”
- “If you love me, you’ll never/always [insert desired action]”
- “Say you’ll always/never” or “Tell me you’ll always/never do [insert desired action]”
When we begin to see the pretend version of love that fear sets up more clearly, we notice some of the impossible (mind reading-like) requirements we place on those we care about that make up our “expectations” for happiness.
The issue with this is that this is how most of us manifests the invisible bars, we cling to for dear life, of the prison we build around us to “keep us safe”.
Did that season of The Walking Dead where they [possible SPOILER metaphor]…
…found sanctuary in the prison seem eerily familiar? (sorry for the weird format that’s the only option to “hide” text that’s available under the “personal” WordPress options, hopefully I can remove all these tags after I blow up…)
The reason this ties into both the second and third agreements is because these agreements strike at the core of how we attempt to control the people in our lives.
When we don’t love ourselves completely it forces us to look outside for the attributes we believe we’re incapable of supporting on our own.
Side note: I know firsthand how hard it is to start to look at and accept these aspects of yourself. I’ve screamed things like “I’ll never be good enough” or cried “why do I do any of it if the world isn’t willing to …” on countless occasions and into the arms of more than one pillow-person throughout the years.
When we look outside for key support structures we say to ourselves …
- “My whole life I felt incomplete in so many ways, until you came along”
- “Then I saw you were incomplete in so many ways that I’m not … and it felt like “home”.”
- “Now, we can be incomplete in these ways together and support each other forever and ever and ever…”
This sets us up for failure because this comes with the underlying understanding of three impossible standards.
You and your significant other are…
- Never allowed to change;
- “The way you find me, and the way I find you, lacking today must remain in place for either of us to feel like the world isn’t falling apart”
- Now, you might be thinking “that’s the beauty of marriage”; unfortunately this is the major fallacy of marriage (see bullet 3)
- Never allowed to die;
- “We made a pact; you said you’d carry me in these ways, now you’re gone…how dare you go dying on me?!”
- Able to read the other person’s mind (because you’re one person now, right?)
- This sounds crazy but think about it;
- Did you want to really look at your shortcomings before this person came along?
- Did you provide a list of these “agreed upon” items somehow without looking at your shortcomings beforehand?
- Lastly, do you have a plan for something that doesn’t include mind reading? Perhaps something like… once a year the two of us will sit down and review our individual “how I fail as a person on my own” lists, making sure we’re both still okay with carrying “our share of the load”, and then amend the contract to include the newly updated “expectations” addendum?
- This sounds crazy but think about it;
Unfortunately, none of us can read minds (that I’m aware of) and this leaves us with speech as the only option we have for attempting to understand the thoughts of others or share our own.
When we wall ourselves into an imaginary place where we know exactly who and what we believe ourselves and others, to be fully (now and forever), we construct static images of a character these people must always “play” for us to feel safe.
When the people we love step outside of these boundaries in our lives we instantly experience emotions like anger and jealousy causing us to lash out.
Next time you feel emotions like these maybe ask yourself, “Is this the end of the world? If not, why am I acting like it is?”.
It’s not easy to look at the things we, culturally and personally, have been trying to avoid for thousands of years but at least you can stand tall and know that when we do, we heal not only the hearts and minds within us, we undo generations of pain that have been unknowingly passed down to us.
When we fully love ourselves we so love the world.
Thank you in advance for doing your best and joining me on this noble quest to bring light, love, and joy into the world in ways only you can.