As a guilty party in this very thought process/behavior, it certainly resonated with me while I was mentally preparing to write this post. I know it stung a little more because I could recognize those moments in my past where I misconstrued someone else’s boundaries and internalized them as rejection due to my own insecurities or fears. As with many things in our lives, we have to face our choices, and those moments are SO frequent that we might not even recognize them. Our own intrusive thoughts and engrained behaviors run so deep that it often feels like we have no control, and are just going to feel a certain way, regardless of if we want to or not.
I’m so sorry to put it this way – but it IS a choice. It sucks. It really does, and I am just as annoyed that the choice to feel is mine, and mine alone. Yes, I might feel physical pain because someone else hit me with a stick, but the emotional hurt, anger, confusion, frustration, etc are all my decisions. I can choose to keep those feelings in me, or I can choose to feel them, then let them go. The same goes for mis-interpretation of other’s people’s needs or boundaries. If we come to these moments from a view point of “they mean me no harm”, then the context of the situation/dialogue changes, but it all starts in our own heads and hearts.
In a scenario where my partner expresses a need for space/time to decompress, I COULD internalize that as rejection and think something like “well they must not love me if they want space from me”, or “I must have done something wrong. I need to roll back through every interaction of the past day/week and find MY misstep”. While I completely recognize the thoughts/understand them – they are probably SO far from the truth. My partner could have just had a real shit day, not because of me, but because sometimes life just gives us a shitty day. Maybe they are having their own personal, introspective moment and need time to process their feelings.
To put the shoe on the other foot, sometimes we put out our own boundaries to people and well recognize that the other party isn’t going to understand, and will feel slighted/rejected. When I recognize that is the case, I try even harder to find a way to express the need/boundary with tact, respectfulness and gentle language. Paying attention to your “audience” is equally as important as the message you are trying to convey. As one who can jump straight to hurtful, insecure and untrue thoughts/scenarios in my own mind, I do my best to allow others the transparency to not have to feel the same.
The process of recognizing where I am injecting my own tone or dialogue into someone else’s request/boundary, stopping that destructive thought and re-aligning myself to accept it as simply what it is, nothing more, is so hard. This is also VERY worthwhile (to me) and I have found a vast improvement in my relationships, from work to friendship, from family to romance, and beyond by practicing this.