Think you need words or actions from somebody else to feel at peace within yourself? Think again.
"If only he would just call me and tell me he's sorry, I'd feel better about it."
"I just wish she would admit to me that she's wrong so I can leave this behind."
"I can't move on until I tell him what's on my mind, but he doesn't want to talk to me."
"My self-esteem would be better if my manager would see that I'm intelligent and respect me for it."
Sound familiar? We're all familiar with the uncomfortable emotional states that make us crave some kind of words or action from somebody else. The thoughts go round in circles and you think, "If I could just get 'x' from them, this suffering would be over.
This is a natural situation to find yourself in, but it doesn't feel good. Even if you're right--even if you deserve an apology, or forgiveness, or whatever, it feels powerless and neurotic to crave it so much. And it is--when you insist that a specific set of circumstances that are out of your control are the only thing that will make you feel better, you have chosen to give away your power to somebody else. Why would anyone do that? Of course, no one means to give away their power. But often, false power, which requires subjugation of others, is mistaken for true power, which is entirely different and misleads us to this state of needing external validation. More on that later.
Hoping for external resolution, which is similar to responding to sadness with distraction (food alcohol, etc.) or responding to anger with violence (common mistake, more on this another day). You're hoping the universe will arrange itself in just the way that will please you. It's nice when that happens, but it's not something anyone can depend on, and it does not come with the gifts of self-empowerment and self-awareness the way internal resolution does.
Internal resolution is coming to terms, or making peace with your situation without the participation of the person/people involved in your distress. This does not mean you disregard their role in the situation or their opinions. It means that you acknowledge the control and lack of control you have in the situation, and take the actions you can to lay the matter to rest. It's ending the cycles of anxiety about the matter in favor of freeing yourself for constructive action and compassionate presence once again.
The key difference between the state of distress and craving external resolution and the state of peace reached through internal resolution is the difference between attachment and connection. When craving external resolution, you are not seeing things for what they are and as a result you are attached to what somebody else thinks of you and you are attached to the illusion that your power has been taken away by them. You are attached to the idea that your inner state depends on anybody else. It feels unfair, like they have power over your emotional state. It's a feeling of being trapped, but it is you that has built a cage around yourself. (Please note this is not a series of judgments--this is a description of a common human affliction with the purpose of illuminating pathways for change.)
Pushing for/requiring external resolution by trying to command another person's words and actions does not support and enhance the connection between two people. You may enjoy a moment of satisfaction, but this will inevitably dissolve, as it is just a wisp, an effigy of true resolution.
Internal resolution arises when you release your attachments to make space to connect with yourself. What does this mean? How do you make it really count? What does that look like? Read Part 2 to find out.
Want to bring emotional intelligence to your life on a deeper level? Check out the 14-day online meditation program, Body Connect.
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