Never give up hope or think it is too late for someone you love and care about to change in healing directions.
Let go of trying to change them, for certain, and you may need to make the tough choice to let go of the relationship rather than watch someone you love engage in harming behaviors — but always keep your hope alive.
To never give up means to remain consciously active in hoping:
- To see the best outcomes in another person’s life.
- To keep believing in their capacity to awaken to their own inner resources of wisdom, inspiration, and positive action.
- To remain committed to treating them (in your mind and outward actions) with unconditional regard and dignity regardless how much you may disagree with what they are doing (separating the value of person from their wrongful actions is key to your healing as well as theirs).
- Last but not least it also means: to let go of thinking that, without you to micromanage the loved ones’ feeling states or choices, etc., they’re hopelessly lost.
(Note on the last point: The “feel-good” that comes from “thinking” another person can’t live/survive/deal with their issues without your constant input, while tempting, is quite unhealthy for both. On the one hand, it keeps you needy or hooked on feeling superior, and on the other hand, it causes you to look down at the other and thus treat/relate to them with some level of scorn; both of these approaches, consciously or subconsciously, transmit emotional messages from you to the other that increasingly thicken the barriers or widen the distance between you. Truth be told, no human being likes being looked down upon, regardless of any outward behaviors or words they use to mask their true yearnings and fears. We each have shared hardwired inner drives that motivate us to take action to feel effective in living our lives, in making choices that lead to a sense of purpose and meaningful connection, etc., regardless of whether we are aware of these feelings, express them or stew on them silently inside — it comes with a high cost to our relationships.)
Let go of trying to change people in general, but keep hoping for the best outcomes in their lives.
Why? Several reasons …
1. Your hope communicates a message that can provide momentum for them to break free out of a current stuck place. It’s like wind under their (or your) wings.
The neuroscience of human relationships (attachments) has helped us understand that many of the ‘problem’ behaviors we observe in others, children and adults alike, are usually not “intentional” at least not in the way way we think. They are defensive (protective) behaviors, a natural biological reaction of the physiology of the body and brain reacting to a situation, more specifically, a learned strategy of how to lower stress and anxiety based on how we have learned to perceive a situation – often habitual responses, behaviors we’ve been practicing from early childhood. (By the way, keeping our hope alive is not the same as making excuses for others. It is a practice of separating the infinite capacity and worth of a human being from the wrongful, hurtful, addictive –and misguided — behaviors they have adopted to help them cope with pain, stress and fear.)
2. What you believe about them can become an obstacle to their growth (and thus also may block the healing outcomes you’d love see).
What you hope and believe sends commands to the neural circuitry of your brain and body, forming action-activating emotional energy in the direction of either tearing down or nurturing a strong, vibrant relationship between you and the other. When you change how you relate to another person (and situation), you literally make shifts in your body’s vibrations (emotions), which becomes the energy you transmit. You always have a choice to respond out of conscious love-based emotions or subconscious fear-based ones. By choosing how you think, feel and respond, you can shift away from habitual fear-based reactions to responses that are consciously optimal, thoughtful and compassion-based. One of the most powerful practices in being a participant in your own and anothers’ healing is to become aware and let go of certain mindsets (toxic thought patterns, rigid expectations, limiting beliefs) for how things ‘should’ or ‘have to’ be before you “can” feel “okay” (worthwhile) as a person.
This is also a reminder that a healthy relationship with another begins and ends with a healthy inner connection to your self. When you get triggered by something the other does, to where you lose your own connection to your self (heart), meaning to your compassion (understanding love, acceptance) for yourself as well as the other, you are literally refusing access to the most powerful ability to influence change and transformation. You need a developed capacity to remain connected to your heart in situations that trigger you, so your heart can reach the other’s heart. It’s wisdom, in action, an optimal use of your energy to create a happy, healthy life.
A life of happiness and peace of mind is an inside-out job. If your hearts are not talking, no one is listening, regardless how sound your ‘logic’ may be, it is akin to talking to a wall. And what’s the point of that?
3. Give them space to learn and to see themselves and their actions outside of feeling they have to “fight” your opinions, judgments, views and the like, to protect their own sense of self.
When a loved one feels judged, this often activates their body’s survival system, thus, they’re in defensive or protective mode, ever ready to resist you. When this is the case, keep in mind that: their goal is not to listen to your well crafted logic (as you had hoped), but rather to protect themselves from your perceived attack. The more you “fight” to get them to see the value of your arguments, the more you’re giving them ammunition to use against. you, so to speak. You lose when you argue back. We are hardwired to push away (fear) someone who is trying to change us or is judging us, etc., (even if the change would be healthy!). It activates our inner “you’re not the boss of me” button, which each and every human being, man, woman, child (after infancy) come equipped with.
All of us grow older, but this doesn’t always translate to maturing in wisdom. The blocking factor to our growth is always fear. So take heed whenever you take note that a loved one is in a protective stance, and adjust your approach. Stop focusing on honing your arguments (this is an illusion…). If you observe that your approach is perceived as threatening, adjust accordingly. Stop wasting energy trying to “change” how they “feel” with logic! That’s often what a loved one means when they say “give me space.”
4. Their “No!” to you reflects an unstoppable “Yes!” to themselves, and yearning to matter, and this can be a good thing!
Behaviors are actually the best and most precise indicators of a person’s deepest intentions, wants, as well as their deepest belief in what they think they must do or be to fulfill their deepest longings. In other words, behaviors tell us a lot about the inner communications that take place inside a loved one. They best communicate what their deepest intentions, wants, needs are. We can learn to objectively observe behavior as a way of listening what another cannot or does not want to say with words. We’re all hardwired with yearnings to matter, to meaningfully connect, to contribute. Problem behaviors are often learned protective strategies that were once helpful in helping us deal with a stressful situation. Although they are no longer effective, and rather a waste of energy, they are still a quick-fix way to lower our anxiety, and thus not easy to change.
Think in terms of love or fear. If we can begin to look at loved one’s behaviors with an open heart and an observational (non judging) mind, we can see the unique ways in which they, like us, are attempting to fulfill their universal needs for recognition, understanding, meaningful connection, contribution, personal expression, peace of mind, and so on. Their “No” to us may be painful, however, it may be that the Universe, through them, is teaching us something we need to learn that would make us wiser in the long run, and more effective in meaningfully connecting with our self and those we care about.
5. Survival strategies are linked to old beliefs (emotional command neural networks) that are totally under the control of one’s subconscious mind.
The part of the mind that is in charge of learning and the formation of habits is the subconscious, which can be described as our body’s operating system. As such, it is governed by specific “logic” that is based on emotion-activated (fear- and love-based) commands. It’s not easy to let go of our defenses and protective strategies, and it’s impossible to do so without engaging the cooperation of your subconscious mind. It’s first directive, for example, is to ensure your survival, and it takes that very seriously. It will block any changes that it thinks would escalate our core intimacy fears of inadequacy, rejection, abandonment, etc.
From infancy, our subconscious mind has known the most important ingredient we needed to survive was the love of our parents, and it has maintained an “intelligence” report of sorts that keeps a record of what triggers us and the strategies that have helped us “survive.” This record, or what I call early survival-love maps can also keep us stuck. Consciously or subconsciously, our perceptions act as commands to our body. And the survival strategies that helped us survive childhood, increasingly become problematic. They’re still telling our body that getting the love or connection or acceptance from people we love is a question of survival, when in truth, after infancy it’s no longer a question of survival and more a matter of thriving and reaching deeper levels of fulfillment such as what psychologist Abraham Maslow called self-actulalization.
Never give up hope on a loved one, especially a child. Let go of trying to change them, however, and see this as a gift. It is a way of loving them that sets them free to stop “fighting” you for their right to feel capable and worthwhile persons, capable of doing their own thinking, making their own choices, learning from their mistakes and so on.
Your approach factors in, and can either block change or facilitate it.
It’s never too late in life to change, from what we’ve learned about our brains from recent findings in neuroscience, changing in the direction of healing is possible, for everyone.
As our perceptions are learned, however, they can be unlearned. Your loved ones ability to change often depends on whether their perceptions free them to grow, change, transform. One thing is certain however.
If you’re using guilt-, shame- and fear-inducing tactics to get them to change, your efforts are not only wasted, they’re likely increasing the rigidity of your loved one’s stance and their resistance. The more you try to use anger and emotional manipulation, the greater their resistance.
Jacob M. Braude put it this way, “Consider how hard it is to change yourself and you’ll understand what little chance you have in trying to change others.”
The fastest way to promote change is to focus on positive change inside you. A vibrant relationship consists of two persons (if adults) willing to take 100% responsible for making optimal responses in the highest interest of one another’s growth and their relationship. It’s an inside job, and the person you especially must never, ever give up on and fully compassionately support is — you!