Wednesday, August 5, 2015
"I get it. You've been carrying this for a long time and it feels excruciating to think about unpacking it and coming clean. What's the real risk?" I asked.
"Clearly that she'll throw me out. I'm a scumbag."
"Got it. Your relationship might end. What else?"
"I don't know. It seems like it might also be a relief to not carry it."
"Is that a risk, or a possible benefit?"
"Ha! You got me. That would be a benefit. To me at least. Would it be a benefit to her?" he asked with curiosity.
"Now, that's a great question."
Getting something off our chest, letting go of the remorse or guilt that we have carried around some issue or action can bring incredible relief. AND, it brings risk. Risk that the relationship might end. Risk that coming clean with what we've been carrying may result in harm or hurt. AND, it brings a significant benefit of possible renewal. The authentic ownership of an issue or action opens the door to the renewal of the relationship both with ourselves and with the other person involved. But there's a catch.
The thing that has been carried for so long is new information for the other person. So, while there is relief on the one side, there can be all kinds of emotional responses on the other. They haven't been living with the remorse, guilt, and fear. So, your sense of relief can be viewed as a "dump and run." Some compassion is in order! And, this is true anytime we speak a courageous truth. At its best, coming clean creates compassion for ourselves and the other person while promoting authenticity in the relationship. At its worst, it becomes an emotional dumping ground and an escape from responsibility.
What to do?
Talk about talking about it. Let the other person know you have something you'd like to unpack that might be difficult. Ask for permission and create a supportive space. Unpack the issue with an uninvolved friend or counselor to get your own feet on the ground first. The pathway to renewal opens up when both parties understand the idea of 100% ownership... both parties take 100% responsibility for their part in the relationship. What will it look like for you to take 100% responsibility for your part?
And on it goes...