Six months ago we had a series of eclipses that were particularly catalyzing for me, which led to many revelations. In these revelations gleaned through much inner struggle and deep processing, I believed I had successfully worked through what was being catalyzed, that I had truly learned the lesson. That episode of my life, though turbulent, was what led to my last Musing on unconditional love, and for those understandings I am most grateful. Interestingly, soon after publishing that post I went back to edit one sentence... it was a detail that had been nagging me at the back of my mind, a detail I felt was a necessary point to include... and yet I didn't understand at the time that it was actually a direct message from myself to myself that would echo louder and louder, until relentlessly demanding my attention with the recent February eclipses and onset of the current Venus Retrograde cycle.
The detail I had added to the last Musing about unconditional love is that unconditional love is NOT about accepting abuse, nor about door-matting oneself, nor should it hinder us from making constructive and necessary life changes that support our well-being. What with Venus Retrograde asking us to re-evaluate our relationships and what it is that we love and value, I find myself examining my relationships in a big way, taking an honest look at that fine line between loving unconditionally and where I’ve been silencing my needs and accepting things that are not aligned with my truth. More and more I’m starting to understand that we truly do teach people how to treat us - both by our own behaviour and by what we are willing to accept - and I am knee-deep at the moment exploring my own behaviour in my relationships and how that behaviour serves to contribute to my state of well-being and empowerment, or lack thereof.
That said, let’s take a closer look at the topic of this Musing: Personality Modification for Love and Acceptance. One of the things that tends to come up often in session is consciousness of separation and how, in certain situations, we modify our personality to gain love and acceptance from others and ultimately, to avoid what we interpret as punishment and rejection. Although in life we need to be able to adapt our behaviour to the circumstances around us and to act appropriately in the context of a given moment, when beliefs about separation underlie deep feelings of inadequacy, what happens is that we can never truly let down our guard and be ourselves. To keep the peace, to not make any waves, to ensure love, acceptance, control and success, we default to a shape-shifting strategy.
In that vein, I recently had a conversation with a dear friend about the ability to “be a chameleon”, where we briefly discussed the perceived advantages and the pitfalls of changing one’s colours, of modifying one’s personality to seamlessly fit a given situation. What is important to note however, is that unlike the natural ability of a real chameleon, when we engage in this type of behaviour, whether consciously or unconsciously, it is a learned behaviour tied in to what we perceive as dangerous. For those who battle feelings of inadequacy, who seek love and approval from others, and who seek control, this tendency to modify personality is literally a survival mechanism, a means to an end.
Survival mechanism or not, the bottom line is that if we can't be fully authentic, fully ourselves, whether with a significant other, with a friend, in the workplace, etc., it is a huge red flag that somewhere we are going against the truth of who we are - and whether we realize it or not, that suppression often has grave consequences, building inside of us and creating such pressure within that it takes the form of pain, chronic symptoms, illness and disease.
As I mentioned towards the beginning of this post, we teach people how to treat us and if we modify our personality to gain love and acceptance in such a way that allows us to be walked upon by another, we set a precedent. If we then come to terms with that precedent and recognize the detrimental effect it has had on us physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually, it can be a difficult wakeup call - and sometimes adjusting one’s approach or asserting one’s boundaries with that wakeup call feels scary and challenging because we are finally choosing ourselves, finally choosing to step out of character and potentially be someone the other may feel like they never knew at all.
Bringing this full spiral back to unconditional love, it is a very fine line to walk, allowing others to be who they are, exactly as they are without condition, and yet be committed to radical honesty, to authenticity, to dismantling the survival mechanism of being a chameleon and taking practical steps to honour oneself, which may mean examining one’s boundaries and making adjustments, or perhaps extricating oneself completely from a certain relationship, situation, or environment.
To understand that the consequences we fear in withholding our truth are actually what will set us free.
*Can you observe any relationships in your life where you modify your behaviour or personality to gain love and/or acceptance?
*Do you feel you can be fully yourself with your spouse, partner, family members, friends?
*Can you observe any relationships in your life where you behave a certain way or refrain from behaving a certain way to censor your true feelings?
*Do you change, hide your true feelings or walk on eggshells with someone out of fear of rejection, abandonment, or punishment?
*Can you observe any instances in your life where you modify your behaviour or personality in hopes to control a situation/get what you believe you want?
*If you answered yes to any of the above questions, is there a trend? Do you notice a pattern? Is this an isolated case or something you’ve experienced more than once with this particular type of relationship or situation over the course of your lifetime?
*Are you able to get in touch with the thoughts and emotions you have been suppressing as a result of not being fully yourself in a given relationship or situation?
*Do you turn to substances such as smoking, alcohol, or drugs to numb yourself from being truthful about your needs and wants in a given relationship or situation?
*Do you turn to food to numb yourself from being truthful about your needs and wants in a given relationship or situation?
*Do you use spirituality as a means to bypass/transcend thoughts and emotions you reject within yourself?
*If you are experiencing chronic symptoms, are ill, or have been diagnosed with a disease can you see a connection between your health and suppressed emotion?
*If you are able to make that connection, are you willing to acknowledge the emotions you’ve suppressed and take practical steps towards becoming honest and transparent about who you are, about your needs and boundaries in your various relationships?