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Recently a friend and I were talking about a struggle she was having with the siblings in her family. For years she was the dependable, organized, ‘you can always count on me’ sibling. For years she had gotten taken advantage of in doing that. Over the years she had been doing her own personal work around this issue. She had started drawing firmer, harder boundaries when it came to her family members. She felt really good about her changes and personal growth and was celebrating the freedom she was experiencing.
When it came time for a family gathering, she held her boundaries and didn’t pick up the slack as usual. Suddenly her siblings had all kinds of hostile reactions. They were writing angry emails and sending hostile voicemails. Her siblings weren’t able to articulate what they were upset about so they put up all kids of smokescreens getting angry about everything, bringing up past hurts, naming old grievances and just being generally mean. My friend was hurt and confused, she knew they would be upset but not like this.
In essence, she changed the rules. She changed the family dynamics. Similarly to dominoes when one domino changes its position it effects the rest of the dominos. Her family didn’t know what exactly was happening they just recognized the rule change and they didn’t like it so they reacted negatively. They blamed her, tried to make her feel guilty and generally beat up on her. My friend was confused. She had worked so hard to make positive changes only to be greeted with hostility.
As individuals we work so hard to make changes in ourselves, we don’t realize how those changes (either small or large) effect those around us. When we set new boundaries, have different reactions or change a pattern we are in essence changing the rules of the system. This rule changing requires adjustments for those around us. They have to learn how to move around the new boundary, pick up the slack, or change their reaction as well.
Sometimes those adjustments can be made easily without much effort and sometimes those adjustments are met with great hostility and anger. We as human beings don’t like change–especially when we aren’t controlling the change. So when you change the system, an unwelcome (and rarely thought of) side effect is that people might be upset. And THAT IS OK. Just because they are upset doesn’t mean you are doing it wrong, it just means the system needs time to shift. So be patient with those around you and hold your new ground.
As you are on this Live Happier journey and you begin to change your reaction style and set healthier boundaries, remember not everyone will be thrilled with this new rule change. Allow them time to vent, get angry, adjust and catch up. It is a spiritual law that I have found to be true–as you change people will either rise to meet your new path or fall off your path. That choice will occur naturally. Your job is to be patient and stay steady on your new path. My friend’s family did come around…it just took them awhile.