Distress Tolerance and Severed Relationships

Something really interesting I’ve noticed over the past couple of years as I’ve really made a concerted effort to practice greater distress tolerance and not be so quick to sever connections with people is that connections now tend to be severed much more quickly on the other side. I think the reason is that instead of cutting people off or going nuclear my primary focus is being in my integrity.

And instead of defining integrity in terms of who and what I do and don’t tolerate (I mean that’s a factor but my idea of it has broadened a lot), I define my integrity in terms of being willing to speak honestly from my values and to name the dynamics of situations as accurately as I see them. And people HATE this. It breaks a social contract that makes conflict and power dynamics something covert, not to be named.

I tell people “hey you’re doing this thing. I’m not willing to have that conversation though. I will engage with you like this though” Or I’ll respond to little things meant to undermind me and take my power away.

I don’t demonize anyone for this kind of behavior because it’s something literally everyone does. But most people cannot handle having their actions shown to them accurately.

And honestly it’s perfectly reasonable that they can’t because most of the time those behaviors are labeled as things only “bad” people do and there can be major social consequences for owning up to them. But, I’m not in the business of entertaining bullshit for the sake of other people’s feelings. There’s nothing sustainable about that. So if I want sustainable, diverse community in my life, I need to be in my integrity, and being in my integrity means not selling myself out.

By and large I’ve found this works pretty well and I’ve been really happy with the strength of connections I’ve made (particularly when that kind of integrity goes both ways and I can trust people to push back on me when I’m on my bullshit!).

But there have been a chunk of people who really can’t hang and who break the connection between us. Either explicitly or just by withdrawing. It’s felt like a really aligned way to filter connections for strength and mutual respect.

I feel stronger both for being in my own integrity/being brave and learning how to do it without being cruel, and also for not just dipping when some kind of dissonance becomes intense. I’ll take the losses honestly because I have far more respect for myself now.