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The bravest thing we can ever do is look at ourselves with pure honesty.
The bravest thing we can ever do is look at ourselves with pure honesty.

The bravest thing we can ever do is look at ourselves with pure honesty, examine our underlying motives and stop our ego from striving as soon as we notice it. But that's the challenge. Unless we understand the nature of ego, it's job and why it does what it does, we will not find the root cause. Most don't know how to call off the unmet needs of a hurt ego. Instead, we do damage, blame others and plod forward until it happens again. Eventually, after many years of the same, we collide with the long trajectory of losses and have to face the truth.
 
The biggest clue is extreme striving.

It can be striving to be right. Striving for control. Striving to be needed. Striving to be loved. Striving to be superior. Striving to defend. Striving to be understood. Even striving to be nice. While all of these outcomes have legitimate value, it's the striving that is annoying and actually thwarts our efforts to have what we desire. And that creates the self-fulfilling prophecy that ensues we won't get that what we want most of all.
 
When striving too much, we are pushing our views onto others and aggressing, even if we want to deny it and believe that we have good intentions. When we push too hard or persuade too much,  it implies we believe we are right and thus not open to learning. ("Me thinks thou dost profess too much!") What is really going on, is we are trying to convince ourselves and we are enjoying having an audience that we hope to persuade into agreeing with us. While this may relieve our anxiety temporarily, it will serve to perpetuate the underlying angst that is actually an unanswered question inside us. An existential one. Am I enough?, Am I likable?, Am I accepted?, am I special, am I right, am I smart, am I worthy, am I powerful? Whatever your identity feels is not so, it will seek to prove and it may do so relentlessly until you can learn to sit still with it and feel the emotions you've suppressed. For the suppression is what powers the striving and our deepest fears rise up demanding to be noticed until we reckon with them. We all have them. And each of us has one or two that drive our outward motives more than we realize.
 
The way this feels to the other person is a shutdown, put down, energy-draining no-win scenario. There is no room for mutual dialogue when this striving energy is present, so others are forced to freeze, fight, rebel or withdraw. Striving can be obvious but it can also be subtle. Unspoken rules of order can arise in the form of unspoken punishment that comes after another person does what we don't want them to do (mostly, stimulate our fears). In this way, real communication stops dead in its tracks. The relationship is doomed. Mutual growth and progress stops. It's turned into a battle for survival. And giving up on the relationship is the only way to do so. Unless everyone involved is open to learning something.
 
Openness to learning returns the balance and creative flow.

Being open to learning continuously is essential to healthy relationships. We have the right to assert our position, but to aggress through striving is to use power to shut down others views. If we stay open to other views while we assert our own, then mutual communication and learning ensues. It is a both/and, not an either/or interaction and it feels completely healthy and emotionally safe on both sides. Neither pushes too hard but remains curious to what they don't yet know. They stay open to new experiences and move through the angst that is temporary and find creative growth on the other side.
 
This is a subtle business, this business of self-awareness.  Most of us don’t know when we've stopped being open to learning and are certain we are right. In fact, we can be shutting others downright while we are asserting that we believe we are always open to learning. Our body language, our posture, our dominating or distracting energy, our facial expressions, our averting eyes, our talking too much and not listening. All of these powerful modes of communication are ways we keep others at bay so we don't have to face the emotions that lurk underneath. Even while we profess that we are open to them, they know without a doubt that we are not. Then we wonder why things don't go well. And why they stopped listening at some point. Our striving wore them down. Our professing felt incongruent. And they are the ones who are right to listen to the nonverbal cues that tell them we are not open to learning something important about ourselves.
 
The truth and the reality is that sometimes we are open and sometimes we are not. And that is OK. Sometimes we are ready to learn. Sometimes we need to stay defended because we are not ready for the particular reality that is trying to arise and awaken within us. Sometimes we are not ready to learn what we keep attracting into our lives.
 
 The key to effective, healthy, two-way interaction is congruence. Does what we are saying sync with what our body, our face, our eyes, our energy, and our posture indicate much more subtly, but also loudly?  Ask someone you trust. Maybe they will answer honestly. But only if their character is strong enough to see past everything else you are saying with the other parts of yourself.  If they are brave enough to tell you what they see, the greatest gift you can give them is to sit with the truth, own it, and let the emotions rise within you. Be with them. Nurture them. Understand them. Process the sadness or anger or discomfort. Breath through it. Let it go. Because on the other side of fear, is freedom. 
 
"Who you are speaks so loudly I can't hear what you're saying." --Ralph Waldo Emerson