Would you voluntarily hop into a cage with an angry gorilla then wonder how you got stuck with the beast?
Dang gorilla is about to kill me! Why should I have to put up with this?
You don’t. You put yourself there by choice.
Maybe I can do something to calm this beast down so we can be friends.
Sorry. There may be a few gorilla trainers on this earth with enough skill to do that, but not you. And trained professionals wouldn’t put themselves in harm’s way like this.
Still, there must be something I can do.
Yes, get out before you get hurt and don’t ever do that again!
Get out? I can’t do that! The gorilla might get lonely. Besides, he shouldn’t be acting that way, so I insist that he change.
It’s so obvious, but is it really?
This is exactly what we do. We set ourselves up for rejection and pain, then insist that it should not be happening or that we can change the situation. Some people repeat this pattern for a lifetime. I’ve done my share of this.
Seeking the approval of negative people can be an emotional addiction. It approaches insanity in many cases. I know this addictive path intimately, as I walked it for decades with my older brother.
My brother and I are not close and never have been, even when we shared a room as children. As the younger brother, I sought his approval in a thousand ways, trying to emulate him so he would like me. It never happened.
As an adult, I soldiered on, but still never got the approval I was seeking. Yet, I insisted on trying. It felt like my duty.
But we are brothers! We should be friends.
This was my mantra, but that did not make a loving, brother-to-brother relationship any more likely.
It takes two to create a relationship and when one party has no interest, that’s all she wrote.
Only after many, many years of painful and fruitless effort did I realize that seeking the approval of anyone – even a brother – who is predisposed to disapproval is equal to seeking yet another rejection. This was my psychological attachment.
My mind would churn on this for days at a time. How can this be?
Then, I’d set myself up to get knocked down again.
The toll we pay for keeping negative relationships.
The toll is chronic rejection, worry and stress. When you engage people that consistently respond negatively, you produce negative thoughts and feelings within yourself that are embedded into every cell of your body. It is especially painful when the other party is an immediate relative: a parent, spouse, sibling or even your own child.
You can carry around the negativity in the form of painful emotions, disbelief, emotional shock and stress. It adversely affects your attitude, positive relationships, and your entire future.
It amazes me that – even so – we still insist that because something should be different, that it will be different.
What would happen if you let go?
Stop seeking approval. Stop worrying what the other person thinks. Stop trying to take care of this person who can take care of himself. Stop, and get on with your life.
There is a reason why we don’t stop and it boils down to grief.
Admitting that you are powerless to change the other person and make everything okay brings on the realization that you will never get what you’ve always wanted from this person: love, respect, reciprocity and companionship.
It hurts. Facing this loss, at long last, is very difficult. Giving up the powerful fantasy of how life should be is an acute loss of something you’ve wanted since perhaps the day you were born.
Still, the grief is necessary. And there is good news. Grieving leads to letting go, at last, and healing. Gone is the frustration of unmet expectations. Gone is the worry. Gone are all the endless manipulations to make things better.
Soon enough, you’ll accept things as they are and realize that this is a more peaceful and respectful way of being – respectful of yourself and to the other. You are no longer requiring something that the other is not interested in or capable of delivering. All the pressure is off both of you.
In many cases, expecting something different than you are getting is like showing up and demanding, “I’d like you to turn yourself into someone else.” It’s selfish to require this, when it comes down to it.
Getting to these realizations where it counts in your life is hard. It can feel like someone is ripping your heart out.
Yet, it is not nearly as hard as living for decades in a state of rejection, disappointment, resentment and stress.