Feb 03

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The miracle of the pendulum

Imagine a pendulum in motion – it moves from side to side with swings that are equal and opposite.  As it loses steam, the swings slowly become smaller as it comes toward its resting place at center.

In my experience, that’s often what learning a new way of being/acting/experiencing is like.  I have a habitual behavior at one end of the spectrum; something prompts me to decide that behavior is no longer working for me, so I switch to an equally extreme behavior on the other side of the spectrum.  After a little while of being fanatical about the new behavior, I slip and return to the old habits.  I catch myself and try on the new behavior again.  And through this back-and-forth cycle, at some point I come to a completely new place that is more balanced and more healthy than either of the two extremes.

For much of my life, I was a pushover – I allowed people to take advantage of me, to be mean to me, and to walk all over me because I thought it was the only way to get them to like me.  I was a classic people-pleaser.  In the process, I often felt used and abused…and  people didn’t really like me anyway.

Several years ago, I decided that behavior wasn’t the way I wanted to go through life anymore.  I decided that I would stand up for myself!  I would be strong!  I wouldn’t take crap from anybody!  And so began a push-pull pendulum ride between the two extremes — being a pushover or aggressively standing up for myself.  Some days I would lie down and let that 18th wheel back over me again; I would allow myself to act, feel, and think like a victim.  Other days I would be in take-no-prisoners mode and I would go out and try to conquer the world.  While the new behavior might have felt slightly more satisfying, it wasn’t any healthier.

Over the last few days, I have had three opportunities to choose how to respond to someone in a situation where this choice was triggered – would I roll over and play dead or would I go on the attack?  Interestingly, in each case, I chose a third completely new option.  I chose peace.  In each case, a snarky, bitchy, and generally unpleasant email would have felt really satisfying…for about two seconds.  And then I would have been watching my email inbox, totally stressed out by the possibly backlash.  The idea of writing a sweet, deferential email where I took responsibility for the other person not living up to their agreements filled me with bile.  In each case, I sat with it long enough to get to stillness and realize that perhaps my input wasn’t necessary.  Perhaps by giving my input – even if I had convinced myself that I was just giving innocuous clarification – I was actually throwing the system out of balance.

So I stayed quiet.  But not victim-y “I won’t speak because no one will listen” quiet.  And not aggressive “damned if I’ll help them out” quiet.  It was a “I can be still and let other people take care of what is theirs” quiet.

And in each case, things worked themselves out!  In one, I saw someone take a stand in a way that I’d never witnessed him do before. Perhaps I haven’t given him the space to take a stand before.  Perhaps by being aggressively pro-active, I had robbed him of the opportunity to create HIS own new behavior.  And now I don’t have to sit worriedly at my email box, stressed out about what might be coming my way.

All of this came to a head this morning as I read the Course In Miracles lesson for the day: “I could see peace instead of this.”  As I meditated on the lesson this morning, I realized that in these last few days I have unwittingly already been practicing the lesson.  I have chosen the path of peace over victimhood or aggression.  It feels good.

I’m pretty sure that I’m still on the pendulum ride.  This is a lesson that I’m still learning.  This week I got a little closer to the center.

About the author

Leah Carey

Leah Carey is the Chief Miracle Officer of The Miracle Journal, where she writes about the large and small miracles that happen in her life every day. She is a life coach, speaker, journalist, freelance writer, and lover of life. In all of those pursuits, she works with people to identify what’s already right in your life so you can build an even more joyful and fulfilling daily experience from that foundation. You can find her on Facebook, , Twitter, and YouTube.

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