Monday, July 27, 2009

Your Ripple Effect

Jerry: "We failed, didn't we?"

God: "There's no such thing as failure. You plant some seeds and you move on. If the seeds are good, they'll take root. I gave you good seeds. The best."
--From the movie "Oh, God", 1977

We all create ripple effects in the world. The things we do or say create an effect in those around us. The effect that occurs depends on how those around us perceive those words or deeds, so, strictly speaking, we don't control the effect, but we can watch it ripple out into the world. I've had a lot of fun watching the ripples around me -- especially the ones in my birth family!

Brian the People Pleaser
I used to be a big people-pleaser, always putting others ahead of myself. My family got to know me for 40 years that way. I was also a tremendously fearful and inauthentic person. Would "stretch truth" to keep the peace and totally hold back on saying things. I never asked a woman out on a date until I was 42. I had panic attacks for 19 years. Would over-schedule myself trying to please everyone and then do a ton of stress over it.

After my first personal development programs, everything changed. I became really comfortable with myself for the first time in my life, and created a person in me that I liked, rather than someone I thought would be liked by others. This also meant putting myself first. I like to use the analogy of the plane flight intro that we all ignore: in the event of a loss of cabin pressure, put your mask on first before helping others. The upshot being that we can't save anyone else if we're dead.

Well, this caused an immediate ripple in the family! Brian said 'no'! No more over-scheduling to please others... No more lying to keep from hurting someone... No more holding back! Oh, and no more panic attacks, ever. And some really wonderful romances now that I could ask someone out if I liked her!

Side Effects
The effects on my family were wonderfully diverse! My relationship with my mom was always a good one, but with the new authenticity, as I led the way, she followed with some really cool acts of authenticity. First, just with me, later she started practicing them with others.

My brother and sister-in-law had a very different reaction! Driving home on Christmas day, when asked about a certain type of art my sister-in-law had done on the gift cards (I didn't have this type of art on mine), I commented, "it was perfect that you gave me the card you did, because that's not really my style of art." My brother responded, "what are they teaching you out at that place?"

Other family members were somewhere in between. Over the years they have adjusted to me each in their own ways, but even more so, I've started to see a GENERAL change in the family dynamic. The more they ask me questions, and the more I explain why the Stimulus-Belief-Response model isn't something scary, (that it's something very powerful and exciting), and the more they understand that their beliefs control their experience (and that all beliefs are changeable), the more it's become just a teeny bit enticing to them!

Overt Ripples
So there is the overt ripple: my mom spoke to me just two days ago about initially agreeing with something that was said to avoid "rocking the boat", but then afterward going to my brother-in-law and telling him that she had lied, that she had really wanted him to help her in this certain way, but had been afraid he wouldn't like her for that. Wow! Mom rocks! She would never have done that in the past.

Covert Ripples
There is the more covert ripple: my brother (yep, same one from above) and sister-in-law telling me I should be a life coach and asking me to talk to my niece, who was having lots of fears and doing a lot of stress (she is 15), which I happily did, all the while in a delightful state of wonder about the change in their attitude towards the way I live now. They still think I'm weird, but at least useful!

Universal Ripples
And then there's this more subtle, universal ripple: I just notice these days that everyone is a little more open and authentic with each other. People speaking their minds on something controversial instead of avoiding it. Both of my sisters calling out my mom for not listening to them speak (not being present with them). All family members being willing to seek help in new ways that would have been too much out of the mainstream in the past—they would have been embarrassed to try them or even let anyone know they were thinking about them.

So each of them has had their own reaction to my ripple, some have even just completely backed away. But there's no doubt where the ripple started and I like the outcomes of this one I've created. I love being curious about where it will go next!

What ripple are you creating? Is it one from a place of fear, anger, stress? Or is it one from a place of comfort, openness, authenticity, and love?

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