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Being Attached To Someone’s Potential

Have you ever heard someone say something along the lines of: I loved them for who I thought them to be or I thought I knew who they were? It’s very easy to become attached to the potential we know in our hearts someone has especially when your first interaction with them operated on a […]

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Eric Schleien - Headshot

Have you ever heard someone say something along the lines of: I loved them for who I thought them to be or I thought I knew who they were?

It’s very easy to become attached to the potential we know in our hearts someone has especially when your first interaction with them operated on a more empowered, higher, more enlightened level (or whatever hokey new age word you want to call it), then they were ever at. It’s the experience of someone else bringing out the best in you or you bring out the best in someone else. What happens is people then attach themselves to who that person is being in that moment and create a lens for them as who they are as a static being. When we become attached to that person we thought we knew the dynamics of the relationship become about trying to bring it back to who we think that person was in that moment and trying to create something based on where the relationship dynamic could be. This takes an enormous amount of energy to constantly keep up. Often, it results in the other person pushing you away and then pulling you back in whether they even realize it or not. This often takes a lot of extra effort on your part, a lot of giving without much acknowledgment from the other person nor much reciprocation back to you.

So why would anyone hang on? One possibility is our efforts actually do pay off…for a time anyway. The other person stops getting in the way of themselves around you, you become profoundly connected again, everything seems awesome and perfect, he/she thanks you for being there for him/her and you feel really good inside about how he/she finally saw all the amazing things you were doing for him/her. Then he/she goes I’m so sorry for giving you shit. Then you go “hahaha yeah you did give me shit but oh it doesn’t even matter anymore all that matters is that we’re here together now”….blah blah blah blah blah (fill in the rest here).

So what happens is you now get the results for yourself and the other person and the other person is actually motivated and passionate in going along with what you’ve created with them. But then right before you know it, this person is back to their same old destructive and energy-wasting patterns, their same ways of being, their same ways of acting out, sinking their own ship, and trying to take anyone down with them again. Over time you may wake up years later and realize that you’ve been chasing this same person for years, wasting your time trying to change them in order to “make it work” (oh baby we can make this work if you just do…..this…this…this…this….and maybe just a bit more of this and a little bit less of this).

Hanging onto another person based on trying to see the best in them or where they “could be” just plain out is a waste of time and consider that we just lie to ourselves to where a person is at a given time and instead cling onto where we think they could be. The thing is there’s always a possibility they may never actually get to where you think they could be. Someone with these destructive patterns almost inevitably ends up with someone who shares their own beliefs about the world and someone who can complement these destructive patterns. If he/she is socially manipulative, someone who takes a lot, someone who has fights a lot, he/she is very likely to marry someone who shares very similar belief systems and more important behavioral traits.

In something like this all that you really can do is give yourself space from the situation and allow that person to just be the way they are and the way they’re not. Consider then only can you really even know whether that person is someone you even would want to have in your life. You may not. They’re going to show up for you however they show up. Only when you can fully accept the person for who they are and who they’re not only then can you really make a clear choice on whether you want them in your life or not and and in what ways.

As I know for myself, people can be amazing to me in my life and show me all the doors and help me see possibility for myself but at the end of the day I am the only person in my life who can actually create those possibilities and open those doors.

There are days I wake up and think why do I care so much about other people. The truth is I’m committed that everyone around me in my life is full of passion for their lives, can really and fully live in the moment, can free themselves from their analyzing which gets in the way of reality. A girl once said to me (and I’m paraphrasing here) that when she was in high school the connection she had, the way she was always so lit up, she felt just incredible and always dreamed about her future doing what she did now. Now she lives from what on the surface is just a fantastic and awesome life, always on the road, doing what she loves, but saying to me that she doesn’t feel the vitality she once had and that she just is so much in her head it prevents her from just being able to fully experience her life. There was another person who once told me on the phone that he couldn’t even enjoy himself at a party without being drunk because he felt he was so much in his head that he would just freeze up when he walked into a room with a bunch of people. The list could go on and on. But trying to fix or change these people has always failed. Persuasion techniques can work in the short-term but they also eventually fail too as they were persuaded into thinking or doing something instead of making that decision on their own without the use of any kind of verbal force.

It may sound depressing everything I’m saying so far but the experience of this is very liberating. The truth is you can still make a lasting and profound difference in someone’s life. You can still be a positive role model for someone and a positive influence on someone. And not to say that nobody intrinsically shifts their behaviors. Now the vast majority of people will change their behavior patterns as most people confuse personal growth with constantly changing themselves and getting better. Of course, if you’re getting better you’re doing it somehow different or better than the past. It’s still based on who you’ve been being in the past. There’s still an attachment to the past. If you’re in your head and you practice meditation techniques to get out of your head, you’re still stuck in you’re head. If you’re practicing trying to be more compassionate towards people you’re going to die trying to “be more compassionate” instead of just “being compassionate”. Some people do however go through real intrinsic shifts in their lives, where they wake up one day and realize their path is done. They are here where they need to be, perfectly and fully complete. The experience of that is having a peak moment but instead of it just being a peak moment that moment lasts for the rest of your lives with the occasional regress which of course only goes away as you become aware of it again. Then the real growth begins from that place. When someone has a real intrinsic shift you can sense it. I know that sounds hokey, bizarre, and even somewhat new age, but that’s the best way I can describe it. When someone isn’t being fully authentic and pure with you and they have some kind of ulterior motive or some lack of integrity with you, you may not always know exactly what it is but you can almost sense it from the kind of space that’s created between you two. When something isn’t complete from the past which continues into the present with them or when something just doesn’t feel comfortable. It’s there. When one day you’re around someone and those old patterns of behavior aren’t being resisted or being suppressed, but just don’t even exist in the space between you two — you just know it’s there. For instance, I had a very close friend of mine who became heavily into alcohol and drugs. Now I’ve smoked pot (and yes I did inhale) and drink (and yes I have been drunk before) so I’m not in any way trying to turn this into a D.A.R.E. class. My point is my friend who was once this all around, fun, silly, goofy, and great to be around a guy who I couldn’t stop laughing with, became someone I didn’t even recognize. I felt sadly disconnected from him every time I was around him and it got to the point I didn’t even feel anything around him anymore. He was just dull and his personality to me wasn’t authentic. The dynamic we once had was no longer. He ended up going through an intensive AA program after he almost died in a drunk driving car accident and when he came back and saw him for the first time in about a year it was like I had my friend back. Even thinking about it while writing this right now is moving me so deeply that it’s bringing tears to my eyes. And it’s that experience wherein five minutes I knew I had my friend back. It may have been less than five minutes for me to get that. All his bullshit, all his garbage, all the stuff that was getting in his way was just gone. What was left was just him again.

I had another friend of mine who I was always pretty close with. She went to school with me and just always felt really connected to her every time I was with her. Just an amazing person. Then over time her vitality for life just went away. She was doing all these great things, living her dream, doing nursing school, making stuff happen for herself in her life, yet she was just in her head about everything. I felt like my energy would be drained everytime I was around her. My experience of her was that she was selfish and always very manipulative around me. She started serial dating and at one point while we had never been officially a couple you could say we were dating without a label. Then one day she called me and I could hear this energy and vitality in her voice which I could tell just wasn’t her practicing “positive thinking” or trying to sound excited like so many self growth scam artist gurus try to do or motivational speakers try to do. I could just tell she had this natural authentic love for just connecting with me and being with me on the phone. She was telling me how she took this course over a weekend and it was one of the greatest things in her life. Then she was sharing with me all of the things she had already taken action on and even told me how she had resented me because she always had heard me as I was trying to change her but then goes but I realized you never said that and you were just always just being yourself around me and that who you were in life made me feel insecure and threatened. In that moment all the shit from our past just went away and it was in that moment we really began to grow a beautiful friendship with each other and she is one of my closest and most loving friends today.

My point to these two stories is there times where people really do have real intrinsic shifts. The worst thing you can possibly do is actually know someone has had a real shift in themselves and you resisting it because you’re scared they’re just lying to you or trying to manipulate you because of perhaps others pretending to be someone they’re not just so they could have you back in their life. (Oh baby Ive changed….oh ill show you aka convince you, persuade you, and downright manipulate you to show you that I’ll be what I think you want me to be. Please take me back…blah blah blah blah blah)

It has happened to me with anything I’ve done in my life that’s made a difference for me.

About 9 years ago, I did something called the Youth Leadership School with the Leadership Institute. It’s a fantastic organization for anyone interested in getting involved in political activism. It gives some amazing political technology to allow you to see what’s not working in getting elected yourself or getting someone elected into office and showing you ways to actually be effective at getting what you want. I had a lot of great takeaways from that program. But of course, as soon as I shared it with people, I got a lot of cynicism. Some people tried to convince me I had wasted my time, that it was just a bullshit program, that they just brainwash you politically, etc.

I was doing a project called Energy Independence Day which was to empower people to come together to make a difference in forwarding the cause of getting the United States less dependent on foreign oil and become more energy efficient right here at home. A year later it was put into action and celebrated right on Capitol Hill. You can read about what ended up happening with it here

Now I had plenty of people willing to help me make this happen. Of course, you had the people who needed to find something wrong in any situation, something to fix, something to be skeptical about, find some reason why it wouldn’t work, and try to get me to believe those reasons. They said things like I was thinking too big, was wasting my time, there was no way I would even have the time for something like that, blah blah blah.

About a decade ago I joined Young American’s for Liberty and they’re making a huge difference politically. However, the moment I joined, I already I had people saying how I’m not capable of making a difference here, I’m thinking too small, I’m in over my head, it’s a cult run by Ron Paul whose using Jeff Frazee as his puppet leader, they brainwash you, blah blah blah blah blah.

I did work with a non-profit called United Global Shift which taught a discipline called System Shifting. They’re a wonderful organization with some incredible organizations using their work such as Campaign for Liberty, Shift the Power to the People, and Musicians for World Harmony. I had some people tell me how United Global Shift was just a scam, that they really didn’t make a difference, and that I was wasting my time learning about system shifting.

I did work with Landmark Worldwide during the summers of 2008 and 2009 to learn the discipline of transformation/ontological coaching and of course, would get the same kind of resistance from the same people. They would call it hokey, a scam, a cult, but instead of it being a political cult it was a personality cult. People would say I was living a lie or that it was just positive thinking and that I should be more realistic with my life or that I was just on an emotional high and that give it two weeks and I would just lose my enthusiasm and see that I got no results and that I had just wasted my money. You hear the same thing from Graduates of other transformational programs such as Legacy, Momentum, and Personal Dynamics.

Just how you can’t change a person or get them to a place when you see the best in them you also can’t make anyone see the greatness in yourself. Some people will die never seeing it in you. The more you do, the more people are going to not approve of what you do. There are people who think that Ron Paul is a moron & a kook, that Rand Paul is crazy and a wackjob, that Mother Theresa actually didn’t care about other people, that Warren Buffett is actually an incredibly dishonest businessman, that if you’re a Republican you’re homophobic, and that nobody can make a difference. People have called me a scam artist because they can’t figure out what my ulterior motives are, selfish, rude, arrogant, that I don’t care about other people, and that I think too big.

Like the guy who thinks that all women he dates are psycho — the one time she is stressed or does something irrational then you can go “see you’re a psycho!” then when she lashes out at you for calling her psycho it even furthers your narrative about women that they are. (Because as we know no man has ever said something irrational under stress or has made an emotional decision)

Like the girl who thinks all men can’t be trusted or that all men corner them into a box — the one time he says something that then breaks his promise then it shows all men can’t be trusted. Or when a girl starts analyzing the actions of every guy and then when she feels like the guy is pressuring her based on her analyzing usually caused from a past experience she goes I feel like you’re forcing this situation or pressuring me emotionally or something along those lines. Then if the guy really has no idea what she’s talking about and starts apologizing for something he didn’t even feel like he was doing or makes himself wrong in some other way just to get her to like him again it only makes it real in her mind that he was pressuring her. If reacts and tries to convince or persuade her that she’s wrong it then only feeds into the narrative that he’s trying to force his will on her.

My point here is that when someone sees, hears, or listens to you in some way typically it’s in your best interest to move on and find people who will support you in your life and work to be a contribution to what you’re up instead of constantly put you down as a defense mechanism to not being able to see what you’re up to in themselves. And while there are ways to shift how people experience you permanently and ways to permanently shift and transform other people’s realities and how they experience the world around them, unless they are family, or someone who is so incredibly important to me in my life, the vast majority of time it serves me better to find people who I don’t need to put in any energy to make it work. And what I mean by making it work isn’t the same as what I meant by making it work above. Making it work by trying to fix, change, or persuade someone else to make it work will give you results that DON’T WORK! That was my point above. What also doesn’t work is trying to explain how to make something that actually works so for the purpose of simplicity if it doesn’t work move on. That would be like a computer programmer who not only understands programming languages but also understands the mindset of a computer programmer which cannot be taught in a book have a program that doesn’t work and when the program doesn’t work he just writes a new program and makes it work. For 99.99% of people out there including myself, if a computer program doesn’t work I move on and go look to find a program that does work for me without having to do any kind of coding.

As Paul McCartney said in one of my favorite songs of all time, “Let it Be”. As Werner Erhard used to publish in his pamphlet of aphorisms he would give to Graduates of the EST Training in the 1970s, “Ride the horse in the direction it is going.”

At the end of the day as Gandhi said in a speech once, “They cannot take away our self respect if we do not give it to them.”

As the example I use of the guy apologizing to the girl because he wants her to like him it reminds me of a Frederick Douglass quote (which I then had to look up because I unfortunately cannot pull out quotes word for word at will at a dinner party and I don’t like the sound of a paraphrased quote) where he said, “I prefer to be true to myself, even at the hazard of incurring the ridicule of others, rather than to be false, and to incur my own abhorrence.

During my advanced course with Landmark the guy teaching it shared a story about being punched in the face by police officers for being gay and while he couldn’t’t tell them not to be gay he would continue to throw back love and compassion at them for his commitment for it to be safe to one day be gay and out about it in NYC — a project that he was working on back then.

With people you can never change them, only create an authentic space for them where it’s possible they will one day change on their own. But if they don’t, a person is free to be however they want around you. It doesn’t mean they have to be your best friend (if only he/she liked to collect baseball cards as much as me), it doesn’t mean they have to join your movement (if only he/she could just stop being so lazy all the time), it doesn’t mean they have to be romantically compatible with you (I would date him/her if only he/she didn’t get in the way of themselves so much), etc. We can only be a beacon of light for someone we wish to have in our lives if we so choose to include that person in our life to begin with. If someone is in your life and you’re constantly complaining about them that serves no purpose whatsoever and is a friend of mine once said to me just turns them into a “black hole” in your life.

Special acknowledgments to my friend Stephanie who shared this comment publicly on my facebook which inspired me to write this note. Her comment is below:

“I can honestly say the above [Elizabeth Gilbert quote in your Facebook note] was my default M.O. until last spring. I suffered the biggest heartbreak of my life, largely because I would not let go to my attachment to his “potential.” I hung on for FOUR YEARS, always creating what “…could be” – many times with his enthusiastic participation. But then he would go back to his old patterns to cope, and they were quite destructive.

What I leaned is that RESULTS are the only yardstick which to measure by, even in love. This was a hard lesson for Miss Eternal Optimist. I thought that I needed to be “patient with his process.” It was SO FRUSTERATING to see that he had SO MANY resources – amazing people who believed in him, opportunities, our love, spirituality, awesome parents -and he would not utilize any of his resources to pull him out of his shitty, hurtful patterns.

I learned that you can you CAN’T put anyone’s SELF RESPECT or INEGRITY in for them.

Ultimately I learned I had the freedom to either make my life about the high drama of passion and despair with this guy, or I had the freedom to choose a peaceful life where I could actually focus on contributing to the world.

I chose the latter. It’s been 8 months. My life is amazing and free in ways I couldn’t have imagined back then.

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to share Eric. ♥”

I would like to leave this off with a video. And if you’re thinking, how the hell can you leave printed text off with moving text, did you really mean a video Eric? Yes, I mean a fucking video because this text is off the Internet and thanks to YouTube, I got links!

Here’s the link.

Wishing you all a very happy and delicious Thanksgiving later this week!

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