“Freedom begins the moment you realize someone else has been writing your story and it's time you took the pen from his or her hand and started writing it yourself.”
— Journalist Bill Moyers
The opposite of freedom is to not have a choice. Moyers' quote reminded me of my friend Debbie Williams who years ago introduced me to the lyrics of a song by the Eagles. I don't remember the name of the song, but one of the lines has stayed with me. “So often times it happens that we live our lives in chains, and we never even know we have the key.”
Most people can tolerate a lot of pain, and it is amazing what great lengths we will go to cope with it before we seriously consider doing something different.
We nurse the hurt and blame our partner, our parents, our boss or our children. Sometimes we blame our age, gender, lack of money, education or connections. But the reality is if anything is going to be different, regardless of how wrong or dysfunctional the situation or the other person, change must always begin with oneself.
Of course it would be easier if the other person changed also, but we are the only ones we can control. Many of us have tried to force a change on another adult. They may make a shift for a short time to get us off their backs, but it will always be temporary.
Consider this, if someone finds a sense of power by walking all over you, it will do no good to whine, complain, argue or tell the person how bad or thoughtless he or she is. Change will not happen until you get up off the floor and walk away — temporarily or permanently.
If you are in one of those times when you feel you are “living in chains,” take a look at your own behavior patterns. When someone continues to mistreat you, you must set aside the question of who is right and who is wrong, and instead notice how you are cooperating. The question to be answered is, “What else can I do?” That is when you can begin to write your own story.
Charlotte Lankard is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.