One of my favourite things on Meg-John Barkers blog is their work on opening up and closing down. They talk about lots of different topics in relation to this, most recently new relationship energy, and I think it is a great concept for thinking about what is going on in lots of different parts of life. They suggest that things that open us up are those things that bring us close to living the life that we want to. A new relationship, for example, can open up creative energy within that relationship, but also in your work life and through your passions. A change in the law can open up recognition and representation. Closing down is the opposite, it is a change that moves you away from the life you want to lead. They give the example of the same-sex marriage regulations requiring trans people to get their spouses permission before their gender can be recognised. While the law brings us closer to a just and equitable society in one respect, it also moves us away from it in respect of trans rights. On a personal level, NRE might open up lots of new and exciting things to explore with a new partner, but can also close down the connection with an existing person.
When I was looking at which values I held, it really helped me to consider whether the ones that I had selected were about opening up or closing down. Were they bringing me towards a life I valued or closing me down in an attempt to protect me from something I feared?
As I mentioned in the last post, I found that I had selected a few values – boundaried, self-controlled, self-reliant – which were all about *not* engaging in conflict or emotional vulnerability. That is not to say that these values are always about closing down, indeed they can be about moving towards being a healthier person – and have been about that in my past. In my present, they are about closing myself down and protecting myself from things I have been afraid to deal with. When I really allowed myself to reflect on whether these were real values, or simply things I had chosen because I was looking for ways to avoid conflict, I had to conclude the latter. They were really about withdrawal and avoidance.
I invite you to look again at your list, and really interrogate whether any of your values are actually about fear or closing down. If they are, I invite you to really consider whether you are trying to find a way to avoid something difficult, rather than opening yourself up to conflict being a growthful, if sometimes painful, experience.