Follow Your Bliss

By: Ashley Dane

Follow Your Bliss is the blog of Ashley Webb Dane, a mother of two teenagers who has been in recovery for five years. She is committed to carrying the message of the spiritual aspect of recovery and the empowerment of women in recovery. She is a certified hypnotherapist, and is currently Director of Communications at ONE80CENTER, a drug and alcohol treatment facility in Beverly Hills.

Holding Them in Contempt

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Jun 30, 2012

Recently I had a dream about someone I know. In my dream, I was in a store and I was suddenly aware of someone next to me that I could tell, without looking, was a homeless person. I immediately felt compassion for this person standing beside me, who smelled like desperation and having gone too long without creature comforts, such as a bed and a shower.

I looked up to give him a warm smile when I saw it was not a nameless person but a significant person in my life who I have had a great deal of difficulty with — I’d even go out on a limb and say he has been THE single most disruptive person in the span of my life. Suddenly, the smile I was about to offer was gone, and so was the compassion that fueled it. I watched him go score three bags of heroin, and my loathing grew. My usual state of caring for addicts did not apply to him, simply because he is who he is. Holding them in contempt never works.

When I woke up, I realized something critical. I had not been offering the same to him, in my mind and heart, as I do for complete strangers. This is someone with whom I have a lot of history, significant family connections and who I will always be connected to as a result of family, and yet I haven’t been able to see through our turbulent history to the human being that he is. Mind you, I thought I had been holding him in that place, but really it was only intellectually; the shift had not taken place in my heart, where true perception lives.

So, I made the shift. It did not require a lot of work, fanfare, talking or soul searching. It was as simple as calling a spade a spade (me, I’m the spade, I’m owning my part). What happened was this — he started to show up differently in his actions. He went from hostility and aggression to calm interactions. He started doing things differently in regards to our mutual family members, when previously I had held him in contempt and incapable of showing up for said family. And his wife, with whom I have also had many unpleasant interactions, has also shown up in a different way. We, who have not spoken in over two years, are now communicating daily about important matters that need to be discussed. my first couple of years of sobriety, it was important for me to not expect people to be other than what they are. If their behavior is consistently hurtful, then to expect anything different would be silly and cause more pain for me. I can’t tell you how many times I would continue to try different angles or to people-please to try to appease negative people, or limp away, again, because they reacted the way they usually do and for some reason I was surprised.

It’s like the story of the frog and the scorpion. A scorpion needed a ride across a river. He asked a frog if he could go across on his back. The frog said, “What? No way, you’re a scorpion. You’ll sting me to death.” The scorpion assured him he wouldn’t, pointing out that if he did, he would die too. So the frog consented and halfway across, the scorpion stings him. As he starts to drown, the frog cries, “Why? Why?” And the scorpion, also drowning, replies, “What did you expect? I’m a scorpion. It’s my nature.”

This story helped me understand, people just are as they are. We get in trouble if we don’t recognize this and accept them for it and act accordingly. I was able to accept this person in my life for being who and what he was; I stopped being surprised by his behavior. I stopped expecting anything different and I stopped taking it all personally. That was a big step, and it helped immensely. It was a thorough acceptance of him as who he is, but I hadn’t gotten to the deeper work of understanding what my part in it truly is.

Now, coming up on my fifth sober birthday, the new lesson is going beyond mere acceptance to a heart shift into a pure place. In this space, the person goes from being held in contempt by me — in the place where I held this particular individual, he would never do the right thing and if there was a terrible thing to say or do, he would say it or do it. In my perception I held him captive there, and he complied with this view of him.

Once I had this dream, and experienced a shift, he was no longer held into place by my negative view of him, by the labels I placed on him as a tormentor and controller. That view also kept me in my place, which is on the receiving end of it all. By releasing him, I released myself and the playing field is cleared of all the debris that made it impossible for any smooth or civil interaction. This was one of the most significant lessons in my life, and it was so subtle it just unfolded right into my lap and I was thankfully aware and awake enough to see the opportunity present itself.

This is a great thing to be mindful of any time. All of us have those family members in our lives that we hold in contempt, in spite of all our well meaning amends. We may clean up the slate with them, but it doesn’t mean we have eliminated the toxic shape we force them to fit into in our minds.

If you notice this happening, stop and notice how you participate in the subtle aspects of the relationship. This is your part in it; this is your perception. If you aren’t able to get around this, then simply accept that person exactly as they are, and don’t expect anything different — you aren’t ready to give them the room to be anything else yet. When you are ready, you can go to the next level where you truly see your part in the relationship and where you offer them no room to be different without a shift in your own perception. Then you can sit back and watch how life works, a shift in perception changes the world. Your world. And your world affects other people’s worlds. Worlds shift when your perception does; it’s a quantum phenomenon and the truest truism I know. When you show up differently, look at things differently, you allow others to do the same.

It’s liberating for all involved, and a priceless gift to yourself.

Image courtesy of razvan ionut/



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