As I prepared to welcome another chunk of my second half century on this planet, 2014, I enrolled myself in a 10 week class to remind myself how to acknowledge my light, those parts of me that I think shine. Since 2005 I’ve spent most of my time unearthing my shadow parts. It was time to turn up my light.
Mary Herndon, one of my teachers in the class, encouraged me to embrace what I thought were negative qualities, my ability to be controlling and manipulative. She wondered if I could see these qualities as some of my best. Not likely, I thought.
Mary reminded me that some of our greatest leaders were great manipulators and controllers: Gandhi, Christ, the Dalai Lama, Rosa Parks, Nelson Mandela, Indira Gandhi, Hilary Clinton, Martin Luther King Jr., and Gloria Steinem, just to name a few.
She went on to share, “Great leaders know that it is valuable to be present to the listening of others in order to convey the message they intend (in a way that it is received and welcomed). One could say this is a form of manipulation and control. It’s all in your perspective I suppose.” I liked that!
What would it be like to embrace that every message I’ve conveyed, every whisper I’ve passed along, every bit of controlling and manipulation I’ve engaged in, was shared for the highest good of all.
So instead of doing this work alone I reached out to former partners, dear friends, colleagues and family, as Mary suggested.
Here’s the request I made of them; “I’d love your support in helping me remember my light. What three qualities do you love most about me? What three qualities would you love to see more of in me?” Yikes!
Upon receiving the feedback, one friend wrote back saying, “I love you and your light, Thomas. I am also very impressed that you are prepared to go to such lengths to better understand and accept yourself and your qualities.”
He added a comment in reference to Mary’s quote, “I can’t honestly say you always did this. Sometimes you delivered a bit like a freight train might deliver a message, thus MAKING me welcome the message whether I was prepared or not. But I don’t regret that either.”
He opened his heart and shared that by controlling him, I showed him how to live without cigarettes. I taught him how to run his fastest 10K EVER. I helped him create the most beautiful build he EVER sported. I made him take back his full name. I made him go back to a prospective employer and tell them that he deserved $10,000 more annually (they re-wrote the employment agreement giving him $10,500 more than the previous agreement). I made him face and then pay off his debt. I told him to ask his employee for same sex benefits and that in turn inspired his employer to announce same sex benefits to all 700 employees.
Finally, if all the above wasn’t enough control, I forbad him to buy more clothes that were brown, beige and green and invited him to see how great he looked in full colour.
A little stunned, yet feeling the control freak in me had done some good I went on to breathe into his experience of the impact of my manipulation on him.
I manipulated him by inviting him to know that he had a beautiful swan neck and not a scrawny chicken neck he had been trying to cover up for years. I made him believe that he disliked the taste and texture of meat and having him believe that he became a vegetarian. I made him believe he belonged when he didn’t believe he was welcome. I made him save money which allowed him to travel the world. I showed him how to live ‘on purpose’ and how to be in the moment. I told him I could see through his lies rather than allowing him to believe that he was fooling me or anyone else around him. I taught him how to recognize and value his true friends and let go of those who were not.
I really didn’t trust that what I judged as my darkness; control and manipulation, and all the energy I expended to make sure no one thought I was a controller and manipulator, could have such a light-filled and profound effect on someone in my life.
Just a few days after receiving that feedback, a dear friend who had also received my request shared, “You need trust. Trusting that you are safe no matter how you show up.”
So today, I do.