The Dangerous Territory of Feeling Misunderstood
In virtually every relationship I've ever had, romantic-familial-friends, there have been times when I've felt misunderstood. Someone read into my words, or my actions... they were mad at me or accusatory. Their reaction felt punishing and controlling. I would feel sad or angry and confused. Feeling misunderstood does not feel good. And left untended, it can lead to dangerous and complicating consequences.
One of the problems in my personality is I want everyone to get along. Oh yes, I also want them to understand me and agree with whatever I say or do. I'm smart, I'm honest, I know a lot... why wouldn't they? Well, it often just doesn't work out that way! Argh!
But maybe feeling misunderstood is actually the pathway to self-understanding ~ and strength ~ and improved coping skills ~ and inner peace. All of that? Yep!
In her book "Rising Strong," Brene Brown shares an experience. She was asked to speak at a conference that she didn't feel called to speak at. Quickly the organizers put her in her place aka guilt, and she agreed. Then she wanted her own room. Again the organizers let her know ~ who was she to have her own room? aka guilt. So, she agreed to share a room > to disastrous consequences and great personal growth.
How many times do we want to be understood and approved of, so we compromise what feels right to us and we accommodate, placate, and lower our own dignity to appease someone else?
Let me just go ahead and say: "It's okay to be misunderstood." "It's okay for people to think something about you that isn't true." "It's okay for others to feel misunderstood too." This is the path to healing.
We truly do teach others how to treat us, and when the desire is to be understood > we may often teach them that we will put up with a lot of BS. How many times have I compromised my own emotional balance to make someone else feel better? Maybe others have done this for me too. It's not helpful!
The more self-understanding and CLARITY we have, the less drama, the less placating, the less worrying about who understands us. We can listen to other's view of us, AND it doesn't have to be our truth. We can hold their opinion and desire and see how it feels. Is there any truth in what they think or not?
I'll be honest, I still sometimes fall into wanting to explain and defend and protect myself. And increasingly, I am able to just stand in my truth and say "Here's how it is!" This doesn't mean being boastful or egotistical. And it's definitely not being a doormat. It is finding balance and feeling integrity within myself. I do not always have to be right, or understood or accepted.
But that can also feel lonely and isolated and sad. Then what? That's where coping skills hop in. How many of us were brought up with good coping skills :( right! Frankly, I think lack of coping skills is one of the biggest problems with addiction. There's a distressing feeling in us and we don't know what to do... so we medicate, self-medicate to avoid the personal inner work waiting for us.
I love Transactional Analysis, and in that teaching philosophy, there's the idea that we all have an Adult ego state or part of us that is not emotional, but rational and factual. Too often, we are not brought up learning how to solve problems - especially our own emotional problems. So getting in touch with our own Adult and strengthening this part of us is a huge healing aspect of feeling misunderstood.
Otherwise, we become a nag - wanting someone to agree with us or a victim feeling helpless and misunderstood, depressed or lashing out. Feeling misunderstood is actually an amazing opportunity to find our own truth and feel the support of it. It can be scary, and it's also liberating. We are no longer dependent on others for approval or understanding.
Of course, it's nice to be understood. And the more you understand yourself, the more likely others will understand you too. Knowing our own heart and mind is the ultimate fabulousness. It's having increased inner clarity. Of course, our mind can be tricky, so checking in with a trusted guide or friend can help too. Find someone who offers spaciousness, not judgement.
Walking into our own self-understanding is the territory of the brave! You will be supported and you will find your way. There may be traps and snares and danger as you walk, but you will see them and you will conquer them... and you will feel the support of yourself for you!
Photo: The church at Auvers-sur-Oise, painted by Vincent van Gogh. Speaking of someone who felt misunderstood!