(To my friend — “tongue in cheek” tone for this post, k? I love you, and I want you to be happy and free.)
Today we interrupt our regularly scheduled programming to explore a new angle on a topic I’ve already written much about: the problem of the “special” relationship.
What is a “special” relationship? Well, it’s the kind of relationship that most people in our culture think “is just the way relationships are.” It means any relationship in which “special” love given only to “certain” people that is “different from” the kind of love (or hate) we give to everybody else. For most people, all of their family and romantic relationships (even if polyamorous) and friendships would fall in the category of the “special” relationship.
Do you love your mother or your child with a “different” kind of love than what you extend to me? Then it’s a special relationship.
And here’s the thing. It’s not just that the kind of love given in special relationships is perceived to be “different” and “special.” Special relationships also come with all kinds of “conventions” and “rules” and “rituals.” A great example of these are “I have to call my Mom on Mother’s Day” or “my self-worth is defined by the size of the diamond in the engagement ring he gives me” (yeah, I know, nobody will admit this out loud, but we all know it’s true for many people) or “we love each other so much that we have decided to be sexually exclusive.” Some people may claim to you that they are “consciously choosing” these rules and restrictions … I’ll be provocative here and say I don’t really believe that’s true.
“Love is freedom.” – A Course in Miracles
Nobody who understands that love is freedom is going to choose to place themselves in bondage. Nobody who understands that love is freedom is going to “sell” their freedom to get love.
Anyway, I digress … how are “special” romantic relationships like jobs? Let’s look at the typical phases, and imagine ourselves in the shoes of the job-seeker (a/k/a the “special relationship seeker”)
1. The Job Search:
You feel a nagging sense of unease about being unemployed. You’re scared your resources will run out, or maybe your resources are fine but you don’t know what to do with yourself. You feel purposeless and sometimes lonely. So you start searching the internet to find “the right job for me.” Maybe you hold a few odd jobs here and there to make ends meet but truthfully you’re holding out for “the One.”
2. The Interview Process:
You summarize your life on a sheet of paper and then go out and “put best foot forward” when meeting your prospective new employer. During this phase, nobody talks about the fact that you hate getting up early in the morning to an alarm clock, that you hate being told what to do, or that working from home is not allowed and the water in the fountains at work is polluted and bottled water is not supplied. Everybody wears suits, smiles, laughs, and “looks and acts appropriately.”
3. The Offer:
No major chinks in the armor were discovered on either side during the interview process (how could they be when nobody was being authentic?). You get the job offer. Phew, a “success”!
You sign on the dotted line and kind of “gloss over” the fine print where you just signed away most of your freedoms. Including your right to work for anyone else for the duration of your employment. It doesn’t seem important — today is a day to celebrate.
4. The Honeymoon Phase (Probation):
Things are “good” for a few months. You’re a diligent worker bee, and you get some gold stars. Maybe you start noticing that most people there don’t seem very happy. You start to feel tired from getting up early every day. You realize that you could actually be MORE productive if you worked a few days a week from home, and you hate that long commute, so you inquire about the possibility of doing so, and you receive the “it’s probably better if you don’t ask about that, you won’t be taken seriously anymore” speech from a friend at work. You are told that “these are the rules” and that the higher-ups are not open to innovative thinking. So you stop asking.
5. The “Responsibility” Phase:
You did such a good job following the rules for the first six months that you’ve now got the label “good do-bie.” This means you are a prime candidate for promotion! You notice that your in-box is starting to get stacked really high. Supervisors come by and tell you what a good job you are doing before asking you to take on yet another project or title that you don’t really want. You don’t feel you can say no. You would be perceived as a “slacker.” Suddenly you find yourself working evenings and weekends, and “giving up” your sports, hobbies, and friends.
It doesn’t even seem possible to negotiate for better terms. Never mind that both you and your employer would be better off. You’re not even allowed to ask for what you want, much less have it.
You may even find yourself doing things that go against your deepest values as a human being because “you have to do what you’re told or you might get fired or demoted.”
After this point, it usually goes one of a few directions:
6A. The resignation phase:
You keep working, keep sacrificing, and begin to die inside.
6B. The sabotage phase:
You start “acting out” at work and may even unconsciously get yourself fired because deep down you don’t want to be there.
6C. The “wandering eye” phase:
You secretly start looking for other jobs, hoping that the grass will be greener over there.
6D. The “hamster wheel” phase:
You get “addicted” to the crumbs of approval you are receiving, so you start to work harder. This phase may continue until you end up on your death bed wondering what the hell you were thinking for all those years.
And so it goes … over and over again … living a life you didn’t really choose, where you have no real power, where you wish you were making a difference in the world but you know you’re not.
Thinking “that’s just the way it is.”
But what if that’s NOT how it has to be?
What if you really do have a choice about this?
I’m telling you right now: you DO have a choice.
And I’ll tell you where we need to begin to take our power back. The easiest place to take our power back is AT THE BEGINNING.
It is perfectly okay — and indeed helpful — to make commitments in life. Commitments make partnership possible. They make it possible for us to combine our lives with other people’s lives. I’m even a supporter of LIFELONG commitments, and I do believe it’s possible to enter into them consciously and happily.
But commitment DOES NOT MEAN GIVING UP YOUR FREEDOM.
Negotiate for your freedom from the beginning. And if they won’t give it to you, don’t commit.
- Why would you agree to be at an office from 9 to 6 pm every day when you know it’s not necessary to get the work done?
- Why would you agree to sexual/emotional/financial exclusivity when you know it’s not necessary for you to make a commitment to someone?
Why are all of us unconsciously agreeing to terms and conditions that stifle our creativity, inspiration, and freedom? Why are we doing this WHEN IT’S NOT NECESSARY? WHEN WE DO HAVE A CHOICE ABOUT THIS?
Anyway, it’s food for thought. I personally will never again sign away my freedom.
Commitment, yes. Honoring agreements I consciously enter into, yes.
Exclusivity, no. Being micro-managed with rules and restrictions that make no sense: ABSOLUTELY NOT.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.
p.s. My new membership program is based on the principles of non-exclusive commitment and free-flowing communication. I am not creating a membership and imposing it on you. When you become a member, you become a co-creator who has a say in how things go. I welcome you to let me know what kind of membership program works best for you, and we will evolve it and co-create a really amazing community with content that inspires you and expands your life. Join our Advanced EFT Tapping Gold membership
About the Author:
Erika Awakening is a Harvard Law School graduate and former practicing attorney. She left the rat race to become a location-independent entrepreneur, holistic life coach, blogger, speaker, healer, and Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT tapping) expert. Erika Awakening is one of the world's foremost experts on eradicating limiting beliefs and lifestyle design on your own terms. Learn more about Erika Awakening
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