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When We Push People Away

Laura Hartley Life Coach

Recently I felt hurt by a close friend. She wasn’t aware of this, and being honest, I never told her. The reason is not important, and is more a reflection of me than her. As with any conflict though, feelings of rejection and frustration that used to be frequent in my past started to arise.

I considered telling my friend how angry I was. A (somewhat substantial) part of my ego wanted to call her out and make her feel exactly as I felt – rejected and hurt. My feelings of rejection weren’t reasonable, and I knew this, but there is often a large difference between what we know to be true intellectually and what we actually feel. I recognised an old pattern of mine appearing, wanting to push people away before they can reject me.

When someone hurts us, it is easy to want them out of our lives. To push them away and stop talking to them until they understand how hurt we are. Sometimes it is a form of punishment, a ‘see what it’s like without me’ vibe; other times it is not that we want them gone, it’s simply that we don’t know how else to voice our feelings. We think if we express our opinions we’ll be told we’re wrong or we’re insecure, or they will push us away first.

Wayne Dyer often asked, would you rather be right or would you rather be kind? Pushing people away says we want to be right. It says our current pain is more important than our shared joys, laughter and happiness. It says that my need for you to act a certain way is more important than respecting you as you are.

I believe when we push people away we are holding on to a wound inside of us.  The source of the wound might go back six months or sixty years – where it comes from is less important than the recognition of its power today. Our mind tells us to avoid that pain at all costs, and so we react to situations that mimic the past with fear and more pain.

We have a choice in all situations whether we react with pain or with love, with kindness or with ego. Feeling rejected allowed me to question how honest I was with myself and others about how I feel.  It also gave me the opportunity to prioritise love over my feelings of insecurity and to take responsibility for the way I react.

To be clear, sometimes we need to remove people from our lives. Disrespectful, unkind, or abusive relationships should never be tolerated. Relationships, however, are complicated and rarely black and white. When we don’t express how we feel, we can’t expect other people to understand or react in the way that we want.

Often, when we want to push people away like I did, the solution lies in being honest with others about how we feel, and expressing our unfulfilled wants and needs. This may result in people leaving our lives, but if we do this with kindness then more often than not it will empower us to strengthen our relationships.

Other times the answer lies not with the other person, but solely with ourselves. For me, it meant being honest with myself that my friend wasn’t rejecting me, but rather I was afraid she would. My usual reaction to push people away was based in a wound of my past, and not in the person I choose to be today.

Reacting to rejection with rejection will only ever result in one thing, and so the choice is always ours: do we react to pain with more pain, or do we react to it with love and honesty?

I choose love, always.

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