I’d really like to think it’s all about me, and most days, I probably do think just that. But I find that I tend to wake-up the next morning after a totally me-day feeling like something is inherently missing.
While some of us may run from the fact, we are relational and social beings. We interact with each other and learn, grow and develop from what emerges out of those interactions. Sometimes those encounters are innovative, exciting and expansive. Others not so much.
When we characterize challenging encounters, words and phrases arise like blow-up, exploded, went ballistic, burst my bubble, erupted, shattered, broke-up, flooded, blew a gasket and then I blew my top. All of these describe and explain how we’ve somehow exceeded the capacity of our boundaries and they couldn’t handle the strain and crumbled.
In the world of emotional intelligence, we speak about the quality of resilience as being a critical factor in our emotional style. It is often described as our ability to recover from an unexpected turn of events. If we’re very resilient we recover quickly. If not, the experience was undoubtedly accompanied by one of the aforementioned words or expressions. Our boundaries couldn’t contain the emotion that arose and they simply burst asunder.
Recovering from that kind of experience is usually not so quick because it means we have to figure out how we’re going to rebuild our breached boundaries. That reconstruction, while not always involving a lot of moving parts, normally requires some form of forgiveness coming from at least one of the participants involved. And forgiveness or having to ask for forgiveness can be very trying to some.
There is another approach which is much less painful and shame-filled, and ultimately far more satisfying: Accommodation.
Accommodation requires us to take a good look at every inch of the boundaries we’ve created for ourselves and find where we have solidified ridgid and unyielding segments that when tightened even further become frail and brittle.
In relational terms, accommodation is really about being able to make room for the other without busting a gut, er exceeding our boundaries. It’s the supple flexibility to move with whatever shows up. It’s that elasticity which is a hallmark of our resilience, but it signals something more. It is a demonstration of our ability to be at ease with the world we encounter.
In the complex world of interactions and emergence, distractions and busyness, it is easy to become overloaded and overwhelmed. The feeling that courses through our bodies when that “too much” sensation cascades from our shoulders down into the pit of the stomach is a real-time emotionometer. Those of us who recognize that indicator sounding its physical alarm can fend off the emotional outburst that can arise fueled by just one more proverbial straw. That moment when we can stretch our tolerance by just the merest of an iota, feel the feeling and then relax with it, is accommodation in action.
What powers our inability to accommodate is our need to be right, because after all it is all about me. I was recently in northern California, a few miles from the devastating Valley fire, burning through 100 square miles of terrain and charring over 500 homes. The wine valley communities of Calistoga, Napa, et al, opened their doors, wallets, hearts to the families that lost everything they had in the firestorm that consumed their everything.
Those living within the vineyards immediately did all they could to accommodate those whose homes, livestock and personal boundaries had perished in the smoke. It wasn’t about who was right, who gave the most, it was about their ability to meet and accommodate other, so that perhaps their recovery might be just that much easier.
It’s interesting that what I heard again and again after the devastation had taken its toll, was “the important thing is we’re all alive and people have been so generous.” We can accommodate even ruin when we are touched by the example of another’s willingness to reach out toward us.
What is missing in all of this is that it doesn’t have to take a crisis for us to accommodate each other, to be more malleable, lithe, bendable in the face of another’s humanness.
I once was told a definition of anger that has resonated with me time and again, probably because I continually fall prey to it. “Anger is when someone doesn’t follow the script you’ve written for them.” Accommodation is the recognition that we all have our own scripts, and none of us are sure of our lines or the next action we’re expected to take. Of course for some of us, the really hard part about accommodating your script is one’s eagerness in wanting to rewrite it.
Accommodating your script means I have to be willing to rewrite my own. This may sound like Hollywood heresy, but it’s amazing what we can accomplish together if we are willing to do so. What nature shows us again and again, is that it’s really not all about me. And if we are courageous enough to let go of me, for even the briefest of times, the world doesn’t swallow us up. It embraces us, welcomes us, and accommodates us, as well.
Now if this sounds too soft and squishy, check it out for yourself the next time a co-worker, a friend or a loved one blows it, and you don’t let it grab you. How does that change the dynamic of that interaction, and then the next one?
The political world may think it’s OK to not accommodate the other, but the natural world will ultimately win out.