Polyamory and Control
In polyamory (and open relationships), we’re often admonished for being “out of control,” or told that we should feel ashamed of who and what we are. “Control” often shows up in polyamorous relationships in various other ways, too. For instance, people sometimes try to control their partner/s — or even more commonly, their partner’s partner/s) through inflexible rules. [Note: these are in contrast to Agreements, which require cooperation; read more here]. Poly people also often try to control their own feelings of jealousy or insecurity by suppressing or repressing them. As Rocky the Squirrel says, “that trick never works!”
Fortunately, there are actually ways to moderate, work through, and get through such difficult situations and feelings. Thanks go to Veronica Monet for this clear, step by step guide to Getting What You Want by Giving Up Control:
How to Get What You Want by Giving Up Control of Self and Other
1) Breathe and Connect to Your Feelings
2) Feel Empathy and Compassion for Yourself
3) Replace Negative Thoughts with Hopeful Scenarios
4) Extend Empathy to Others
5) Let Go of Control and Practice Acceptance
Simple, powerful steps, with powerful results. (The rest of the article is great, too, and I recommend it.)
I myself am receiving powerful messages right now to “let go” in my life. It’s not been something I’ve been traditionally good at. This is part of why I’m reaching out more for help of all sorts. I need some “hopeful scenarios” to replace the negative thoughts, you know?
In that article, Veronica also quotes Brené Brown, well known expert on shame and vulnerability:
“You cannot shame or belittle people into changing. This means we can’t use self-hate to lose weight, we can’t shame ourselves into becoming better parents and we can’t belittle ourselves or our families into becoming who we need them to be. . . Shame corrodes the very part of us that believes we are capable of change.” [Brene Brown's I Thought It Was Just Me (but it isn't): Making the Journey from "What Will People Think?" to "I Am Enough", page 197]
This speaks directly to what I was talking about a couple of weeks back (in Facebook) when I said I disagreed with the notion that we can hate ourselves into health. It’s also relevant to other situations in my life which are requiring letting go. It is HARD to ask for and accept help, especially when one has always been accustomed to being the one to offer it. It’s especially hard for men in our culture. But it can be hard for women (or people of any gender) as well, in part because it requires letting go of the popular USAian idea that we can be “rugged individuals” and should be able to do everything on our own. It also requires letting go of the shame, and the internal messages that to ask for help is to have failed, or that we’re unworthy, or will never be good enough. It also requires us to give up control over what other people think of us, and the fear that they’ll judge us negatively for who we are, or what we need.
One of the greatest gifts in polyamory (and sometimes in open relationships), in my view, is that of community. As we honestly open ourselves to others, and create bonds and ties and networks, we naturally create a community of not only lovers, but of loving people of all sorts; people who can be there for us in times of loss and hardship, as well as times of joy and celebration. It’s hard (for me, at least)to trust in this net, because of the strong messages of nuclear family, and individual responsibility. But as I allow myself to be more open and more vulnerable, I am finding more and more support — mentally, emotionally, and physically — is available to me.
Of course, this requires that I be open to receive that support, and that can be a challenge for a perfectionist like me. But by following those steps Veronica outlines above, I can breathe through the confusing feelings, and eventually learn to accept what IS. Not always easy, but usually possible.
I find that for me, part of the process is to continually remind myself to stay in a state of gratitude, which allows me to be open to receiving the gifts that may come my way, as well as allowing me to remain relaxed and able to respond appropriately. “Fear is the mindkiller,” after all, and when I’m in a state of contraction, resistance and fear, I often cannot move, quite literally.
So it is now that I end this post where I began my day, in gratitude for my community. I am grateful for so many of you, both those whom I know, and those whom I’ve never met, and may never meet. I am grateful for those who can help me with my physical and financial needs, and for those who can help me with my emotional, mental or spiritual needs. It is an article of faith for me, that in giving to each other, we always give back to ourselves. And I am especially grateful to my friend Adam, at the moment, who is providing an example that yes, it IS possible — through gratitude, acceptance, and letting go — to change for the better.
I hope by sharing these thoughts I can inspire you, as I have been inspired today by my friends and community. And may you always, always remember, that
PS: Are you interested in talking with me about polyamory, or about any of the topics in this blog? I’m happy to give back via a Free 30-minute session, or a 1/2 price 60-minute one. Past clients have reported increased happiness, decreased feelings of shame and jealousy, and have gained clarity and useful tools through working with me in a co-creative process. I’d love to help you understand and manifest your own best life and loves! Contact me and we’ll set up a time that works for you.
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[© 2014 Dawn M. Davidson]