Have you had the experience of someone withholding something from you? There are many kinds of withholding. When people mention it, sexual withholding often comes to mind, but withholding is a much bigger and more important form of abuse than we may realize.
Withholding affects us on many levels. It
- hurts trust in any area of life: personal, organizational, and social. As a result, it may be difficult for us to engage and participate in a relationship or other social part of our life. We will become guarded and less enthusiastic towards those we trusted.
- can cause us to feel less valuable or even unloved. When we are withheld important information or needs, we have to discern the cause, but it can feel like a blow to our value and affect our self-esteem.
- can increase our vulnerability without our being aware of it. We can then be taken advantage of.
- is often a power play designed to make us feel insecure and, therefore, react out of fear to the advantage of someone else.
Why Withholding Is A Tough Subject
Withholding is a tough subject to gain clarity about because sometimes, withholding is a way of setting boundaries. It is a way of protecting ourselves from those we find to be less scrupulous or even dangerous. It may be a way of protecting ourselves from those whose expectations and beliefs are not supportive, or simply unrealistic.
So sometimes, withholding is appropriate and even healthy self-protection. Other times, it can even be life-saving.
Withholding can come from social structures that advantage some over others. It may be that resources are more available to some because of custom, hierarchy, and social biases of various kinds. Sometimes, these kinds of withholding are presented as being about merit when they are really just forms of favoritism.
Those who are unscrupulous will often try to make you the “cause” of why they are withholding, as in “you made me do it.” This is a common tactic of those invested in the power-over model of human relationships. Authoritarians and narcissists may use this tactic because they believe they are entitled to what they want and, therefore, have a right to withhold if they do not get what they want. Withholding can be an awful form of punishment.
One of the ways withholding becomes ugly in these situations is that often, the person doing the withholding may have an advantage of one kind or another and can hold out to get what they want. We do not all have the ability to hold out in a contest of wills, especially with ruthless authoritarians. Withholding then can be just another way to use force to extract concessions from others. It is not infrequent and extremely harmful.
It is a mistake to continually seek to obtain what we need from those heavily invested in withholding as a strategy. Those whose purpose is to gain an advantage using withholding are unlikely to give up that strategy and, in my experience, often have a mindset of victimhood that justifies their actions. That is a lot of emotional baggage that you are unlikely to dislodge or affect unless, for some reason, the individual is open to hearing what you have to say and interested in meeting you partway.
Goal VS Process
Often, people who use withholding see life and relationships as a contest or fight. Some people are very skilled at fighting to get what they want, and it helps to recognize that so your expectations are informed. A withholding individual is usually seeking a specific outcome and, as a result, can be rigid and unyielding in their demands to gain concessions or capitulation from another. What withholding is not is process-oriented, and that is where a joy practice helps you.
How A Joy Practice Helps You
A joy practice is more process-oriented than combative approaches to life and relationships. It is also less adversarial. A joy practice seeks constructive actions, caring as an outcome, and serving the common good. By being so non-adversarial, a joy practice makes withholding a poor strategy for its purpose.
It is more grounded than aspirational, so it does not seek to take advantage. On the contrary, taking advantage is a great way to break trust, the very opposite of trust creating that a joy practice seeks. A joy practice is interesting in making the best of things and creating quality of life. It is present to reality and open to the possibility of creating goodness and joy. it serves the good in life no matter what that is. That is not the same as serving hierarchies and other forms of advantaging social structures. There is no point in doing so if what we are doing is destroying ourselves and others.
A joy practice recognizes the uniqueness in each person and respects that each is on their own path. It looks to make space for different kinds of people since each person brings something unique to the table to benefit all. A joy practice is joy-based, not fear-based, so it seeks to minimize fear, including the fear created when someone tries to manipulate or take advantage. It is seen as a waste of time and energy.
We currently live in a very wasteful world, one that is destroying us with its recklessness. We desperately need to step back from any strategies that deplete people and the environment. A joy practice makes it so much easier by creating space for what we really need and what is being asked of us. Withholding does not make reality go away. It does not improve social relationships and societal conditions.
We need to stop the one-upsmanship games, so we can have a world that works for us. A joy practice is a big step in achieving that goal.