On a wet and miserable evening this past Fall, I sat behind the wheel of my car, desperate for warmth and rest after a very long day. I peered irritably through the watery glare of my windshield at the car I’d been forced to follow for the last few blocks. I sighed with impatience.
“Just get out of my way already!”
As I slowed to a stop at the red light, I saw this:
The license plate had my name on it and it was screaming in all caps:
THE PERSON HOLDING YOU BACK IS YOU.
I quickly grabbed my phone and took a picture of this random piece of Universe wizardry.
Last week, months after this picture was taken, I was brought back to the truth of that moment. I spent four days in a workshop about reconciliation where we were taught that before we can reconcile with others, we must learn to reconcile with ourselves.
Reconcile: An act of reconciling, as when former enemies agree to an amicable truce. (dictionary.com)
Going into the workshop, I wondered if I would be able to reconcile with lupus, this mysterious, invisible invader that I’ve personified into an ever-present, formidable foe. I was quickly reminded that the factual events of our lives (like getting lupus) cannot be changed, but we can change how we react to those events.
At the workshop, they talked about the reactions that we have “practiced” throughout our lives. These reactions have become so instinctual that they start to define who we are, when in fact, they hold us back from being who we truly are. They broke it down into 13 reactions:
- “What About Me” Syndrome
- Dread, Worry, and Fear
- Critical: Fault Finder
- Blaming and Nurturing Resentment
- Anger, Rage, Aggression
- Intolerance and Impatience
- Addiction to Being Right
- Have to be in Control – “My Way or the Highway”
- Poor Me, Martyr, Victim
- Isolate and Withdraw
- Excuses for Everything – “I can’t do it”
(Credit: Returning to Spirit)
For me, #3 and #11 are my top two recurring reactions, although I can say I’ve done every single one at some point in my life. I also know that my top two reactions have been at the root of all the major flares I’ve had in the last 15 years.
“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.” – Victor Frankl
To be clear, I’m not advocating for a pollyanna view of our lupus troubles, only that trying to be self aware of our reactive behaviour is a way to decrease emotional and mental stress, which is a major lupus trigger.
So, in the end, the car turned off and I was able to complete my speedy mission towards warmth and rest. And really, I think that’s what we all want:
A clear path towards something good.
The last person that should be standing in your way is you.
NOTE: The broader scope of the workshop was about reconciliation with Canada’s Indigenous People. If you are interested, here is a CBC radio segment that addresses self-reconciliation and how it fits into this important issue.