“People take different roads seeking fulfillment and happiness. Just because they’re not on your road doesn’t mean they’ve gotten lost.”
― Dalai Lama
I’m a big believer in what I now call radical autonomy. (So much so that it’s the subject of my upcoming book, God(dess) willing!)
In fact, one of my most frequently used sayings in life is “Gift them with their own path” meaning honor the inherent right to autonomy in each person you interact with.
“The ultimate authority must always rest with the individual’s own reason and critical analysis.”
– Dalai Lama
Might be shocking to hear coming from an Omnist psychotherapist, but you actually don’t ever have to agree with or even like ANYONE and you can still have amazing, soulful, and truly satisfying relationships. You just have to be willing to let go of the need to people please… and yes I know, easier said than done.
PUTTING THIS IN PRACTICE
OR if someone else is criticizing, gossiping about, judging, or in any way misunderstanding YOU, we adopt the same stance in reverse, which releases us from the need to be worried about their opinion.
So, Sue from accounting annoying the shit out of you? Gift her with her own path.
Your parent trying to proselytize you? Gift him/her with their own path.
Your lover rejecting your help on an important area of growth? Gift him/her with their own path.
Your children adamant that they know more than you in their brief few years on this earth somehow? Gift him/her with their own path (within reasonable limits for safety of course).
There’s literally no one on this planet that shouldn’t be granted this life changing gift from you.
CRANKING IT UP A NOTCH
What happens though when someone else’s autonomy literally intersects or limits your own?
For example, when people become a danger to others or their belief systems include a limitation to your personhood; how do we handle bigotry or any of the ‘isms or ‘obias like racism, sexism, heterosexism, ageism, transphobia, etc?
Same rules apply. Hang in there with me, don’t start throwing shit just yet.
These assholes still have a right to THEIR OWN autonomy, but they never have a right to infringe upon someone else’s. 😉 See what I did there?
As a therapist, I am a mandated reporter for the state of FL, which means if I hear someone’s welfare is in jeopardy, I am required to do something about it. Because I take a strong stance on autonomy, I do not believe in involuntary hospitalization, except in extreme cases like psychosis.
So, in order to comply with the law if we’re talking suicidal ideation, I personally will do whatever I can to come up with a safety plan that doesn’t include stripping someone of their rights and throwing them into a psych ward which will result in an outrageous medical bill, a script for some pills, and a recommendation to return to the very therapist they now likely do not trust.
HOWEVER, if I learn that someone plans on hurting anyone other than themselves?? That’s a whole ‘nother story. I will never stand by and watch someone infringe on another’s autonomy. And neither should you.
Bringing it back to real life examples outside the therapy room, this tends to look like extremists demanding that you affirm their right to bigotry. Um, no. And not just no, hell no.
You can respect their right to believe whatever the hell they want to, but you do NOT have to support it, and can even stand in the way when need be. Indeed, most pacifists will take up arms to defend their sacred grounds if need be.
“If something is serious and it is necessary to take counter-measures, you have to take counter-measures.”
– Dalai Lama
LIVING RADICAL AUTONOMY
As you move through your day, practice a slight pause between each interactions. See if you can more fully listen without attachment to what others are saying.
Remind yourself that your ego never needs defending. Others’ beliefs and actions, including those closest to you are truly no reflection of you. Ever. Period. End of discussion.
If you can get this one thing down, your life satisfaction and productivity will soar!
- “The Four Agreements: a Practical Guide to Personal Freedom” by Don Miguel Ruiz & Janet Mills
- “I Need Your Love – Is That True? How to Stop Seeking Love, Approval, and Appreciate and Start Finding Them Instead” by Byron Katie
- “I Thought it Was Just Me (But it Isn’t): Making the Journey from ‘What Will People Think?’ to ‘I am Enough’.” by Dr. Brene Brown, LMSW
- “True Refuge: Finding Peace and Freedom in Your Own Awakened Heart” by Dr. Tara Brach
- “The Untethered Soul: the Journey Beyond Yourself” by Michael Singer
About the Author:
Tamara Powell, LMHC is a licensed therapist, university psychology instructor, and empowerment coach who believes life should be lived as a journey that is “anything but ordinary.”
Her work is specialized to help individuals break free from toxic cycles of distress, dysfunction, and dissatisfaction with life that are created when trying to live according to someone else’s rules. Only by living what she calls radical autonomy, can one obtain soul nourishing relationships and a sense of true life purpose and inner peace.
If you’re interested in working with her, either in person or online, you can learn more about her services here.