Why we “allow” discomfort rather than speaking up

I have been exploring Dr. Betty White’s Wheel of Consent from her book “The Art of Receiving and Giving.” She explains the concept of how we often “allow” discomfort in our interactions instead of expressing our true desires. So, why do we tend to go along with situations without speaking up?

As we grow into adults, we don’t always “unlearn” or outgrow the conditioning of childhood. As little kids we are told to behave, to be quiet, to eat up, and so on, often going against the feelings and messages our bodies are sending us. It’s as if we’re being taught to ignore the wisdom of the body.

This conditioning sticks around into our adult lives. It’s no wonder we have difficulty establishing healthy boundaries!

We don’t learn to value our internal signals. But this conditioning CAN be unlearned and we can learn to ask for what we want and state what we don’t, in a more empowered way.

The Lingering Impact of Childhood Conditioning

“Sarah,” an inquisitive eight-year-old, attends a family gathering where relatives insist on big hugs and kisses. Despite Sarah’s inner hesitation, she complies, adhering to societal norms of politeness. Unbeknownst to her, this act sends a subtle message: override internal discomfort for external expectations.

I think a lot of us have been in a situation like this. Kiss aunty. Finish your meal. Don’t fidget.

As we grow into adults, this conditioning often persists, manifesting as challenges in setting personal boundaries.

Sarah, now navigating the professional realm, finds herself hesitant to voice her genuine desires. The discomfort lingers, echoing the societal expectations instilled during her formative years.

Unlearning and Embracing Consent

How do we go about unlearning these ingrained behaviors?

Sarah embarks on a journey of self-discovery. She reflects on her experiences, recognizing the importance of her internal signals and understanding that true consent arises when she aligns with her authentic desires.

The concept of consent detailed by Dr. White, goes beyond the traditional understanding. It is not merely a checkbox before engaging in an activity. It’s an ongoing, dynamic process that involves active communication, mutual understanding, and a genuine alignment of desires.

The Power of Consent

Consent, in Sarah’s story, becomes the key to unlocking authentic interactions.

Sarah discovers that by embracing consent, she taps into a wellspring of empowerment. No longer confined by societal expectations, she gains the confidence to express her boundaries clearly and assert her needs. This newfound assertiveness permeates through her professional and personal relationships.

In the professional arena, Sarah learns to say ‘no’ to additional tasks when overwhelmed, fostering a healthier work-life balance. In personal relationships, she navigates intimate moments with a heightened awareness of mutual desires, creating an environment where consent is not only valued but becomes the cornerstone of genuine connection.

Listening to the Body’s Messages

A crucial aspect of embracing consent is attuning oneself to the body’s messages. I’ve written about this in a previous post, but Dr. White’s teachings emphasize the significance of understanding and valuing our internal signals.

As children, we are often conditioned to ignore instinctive reactions, dismissing the wisdom inherent in our bodies. However, with intentional work, we can reestablish this connection.

Sarah, learns to listen to her body’s cues. She becomes adept at discerning between a genuine desire to engage in a particular activity and the discomfort that arises when her boundaries are pushed. This heightened awareness enables her to navigate consent with authenticity and mindfulness.

Embracing Consent: A Transformative Journey

Embracing consent, it’s quite a journey. It involves unlearning societal conditioning, actively listening to the body’s messages, and fostering open communication.

It is about recognizing the power dynamics in interactions and ensuring that all parties involved feel empowered to express their desires without fear of judgment or repercussion.

To fully embrace consent, individuals can engage in practices that cultivate self-awareness, such as mindfulness exercises, reflective journaling, and open communication with trusted friends or therapists.

Reclaim agency over your experiences

Sarah’s journey illustrates that by unlearning childhood conditioning, we can foster a culture of mindful interactions.

Embracing consent intentionally, and listening to the body’s messages, can help us unlock the door to a more empowered and fulfilling way of living.

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My book

If you have enjoyed this article and would like to take this journey further, check out my book The Good Thing About Mortar Shells: Choosing love over fear”.