IF I said you’d have to go to a party tonight where you wouldn’t know a single person, would you have a sense of how you'd behave there? What would people notice about you?
What if it were a party where you knew everyone?
Now imagine someone in your family calling to say, “We need to talk.” What if your boss came up to you and said that? How differently would you respond in each of those occasions?
Would be it safe to say that we all have ways of being with people that are predictable and automatic? May I assume that each of us have our own ways of coping and for feeling better when things get tough? And when things get tough, how would you be? What would people see?
As I was reflecting, I realised the strangest thing. In my way of handling life, I often worked to control situations!
I was totally unconscious of this until now — I control by appearing more composed than I really feel, denying I feel pain when I’m hurting, or by keeping silent to avoid conflict. By controlling, I disallow myself (and others) the full experience of reality. I work to protect myself (and others) from it.
“It isn’t about controlling what we feel. It’s about feeling what we feel, and sharing what we feel. Healthy human communication is not really about protecting ourselves from discomfort, or controlling how others react to us. It is about knowing and being known.” (Getting Real: 10 Truth Skills You Need to Live an Authentic Life by Susan Campbell, Ph.D).
Why control? We simply want to avoid the stress and anxiety of taking on more than we can manage. I often hang back because I don’t want my presence to affect others. (Hear the presumption?)
Wife says to husband, “I’m going to bed. I’ve got a headache.” Husband replies, “You’re always tired! Don’t blame me if I find myself a girlfriend.” Covert communication: “You’d better give me what I want or there’ll be trouble,” instead of saying, “I need to feel loved right now. I’m thinking maybe you don’t care anymore, or that I’m not as important as the children.”
Mother to daughter: “Give yourself some time to build your career before settling down.” Daughter responds by withdrawing and withholding, being emotionally and physically distant from her mother. Embedded message: “We have no space for sharing opinions in this family.”
Boss at work: “Don’t interrupt me.” Instead of, “I feel irritated at the number of times you ask questions or start to talk before I’m finished. It would help me think more clearly if you allowed me to finish before you speak.”
Do you know your coping strategy? Is it to avoid, confront, suffer, or quit?
I used to eat to feed whatever was missing in my life, usually a feeling, and one caused by fear. Of course that only made matters worse. Self-sabotage does that. Paradoxically self-sabotage is driven by ego. Fear-based, ego wants to protect us by keeping us safe. Staying safe means remaining stuck in our comfort zones. No breakthroughs come from there.
Change and transformation come from stepping out of our regular patterns, and when we risk an attempt to break out into the field of possibility — the vast unknown.
Examples: (1) If you’re uncomfortable speaking up and offering your opinion, offer it anyway. (2) When someone compliments you on your outfit, say, “It feels great that you noticed!” instead of, “This old thing?” or, “What do you want from me?” (3) Ask, when you want to know the answer.
I know it means expressing your vulnerability, but wouldn’t that just clear the air and make things lighter?
You hear your friends are going to a party and you haven’t been invited. You get all worked up. You think, “Why are they ignoring me like this?" Would you (A) Ask or (B) Keep quiet? How are you likely to behave with them after selecting (A)? What about after (B)?
So being complete (finishing off business without the feeling that something is left hanging or undone) is just as much about respecting the self as it is about relating to others. Relating demands honesty, doesn’t it? Usually people work to control by withdrawing, making snide remarks, doing things to upset others, or faking it — because the unspoken now occupies so much space and has left the wound unattended for so long that the players are reduced to trading blows.
How well do you know yourself? What is your relationship to others?
Give yourself a choice
I GET angry when people don’t keep their word. They make promises easily and agree to all kinds of things but don’t turn up or fail to honour their commitment. Then they behave as if it’s nothing or, worse still, they get upset when you try to hold them accountable. How do we function if this so pervasive everywhere?
commitment, honour, and accountability are of great value to you. Great! Good people keep their word. People who break their promises make you angry because you believe that’s not what good people do.
I also hear two distinct opposites in your language — good/bad — black/white — all or nothing. This being the case, your response would either be angry or agreeable. It sounds like you’re easily “gettable” or easily affected by people and situations that don’t fall in line or match your value system. And because you describe this problem as pervasive, you might even be experiencing these types of upsets... often. I bet that doesn’t make life a party!
To live your best life, would you be willing to relax a bit? Would you be willing to let people be? So how do we do this? Well, first, the million dollar question: What do you want from this? Do you want more “angry?”or do you want “best life?” Step one is realising we have a choice!
So try this: I can choose who I relate to. I can choose my friends. How does that fit? And when we are in the company of those who have differing views about the world, instead of good/bad, maybe we try on “accept,” “tolerate,” “appreciate,” “respect,” “curious,” “understand,” — there are a host choices we could use so that we get to stay on “best life” path. We are responsible for our own lives.
Let others be
WHY do people gossip so much? My girlfriends think I’m a loner because I prefer to keep to myself. They can’t understand why I don’t like lunching with them and sharing their stories about life.
SO why don’t you like lunching with them and sharing stories? If you would just extend yourself a little... what could you like about lunching with friends and sharing stories? As you think about that, what comes to mind?
Your girlfriends think you’re a loner. Would they be right? Preferring to keep to yourself — what does that protect you from? What works about being alone? What doesn’t work?
And you’ve labelled gossip “bad.” Does that make people who gossip bad also? The activity of talking about other people and passing stories about them that may or may not be true — what does that mean to you? What does doing that say about the person doing it? What does that say about the person judging such behaviour?
Becoming aware of how we think and how we give meaning to things helps us remember that our judgments say as much or more about us as they do about others.
My take is simple. It’s always what we want for ourselves. We are responsible for our own lives. Other people’s business is their own. What they think about us is none of our business!