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Entries in change (9)

Friday
Apr042014

Getting Better at Feeling (rather than feeling better)

I have been angry and resentful for years.

I have called those feelings all sorts of other names in that time in order to hide their origins or make them prettier, more acceptable. Yet, regardless of the labels I have used and the ways I have justified my emotions, the feelings are 'angry' and 'resentful'.  

The shock I wrote about recently has helped me towards this place of learning. Owning my feels - including my immense shame - will hopefully help me towards letting go.

That makes letting go sound like a goal. 

In a way it is - because the holding on is now too painful and is no longer a place I want to be. Seeking to let go, be it a place, a relationship, a feeling, a thought, a behaviour; is really about moving from one "place" to another. In doing so, a movement or shift occurs, and change happens.

In another way, owning my feelings is the goal and letting go is an attractive by-product of it. Owning and naming my feelings has many interesting and life-changing benefits. My objective has become getting better at feeling rather than simply hoping to feel better

It's not easy at first: I feel like a baby again. I get tied up in language, and using too many words. I notice myself reach for the comfort of explanation ... "I feel this and this is why and how it came about and and and". The story I tell about the origins of the feeling takes me away from feeling the feeling. I get carried away, literally, by telling minute details of the story. The story becomes a place to blame, to hide, to escape and to avoid. The story helps me stay away from taking responsibility for and owning my part.

Likewise, I watch my well-trained and practiced impulse to judge those feeling when they come: "I feel sad ... and sad is not good, sad is bad and I need to change to feeling something else because sad isn't a good thing" goes my head. I even go so far as to take up the cry of "sad? you have nothing to be sad about! you have a home and family and food to eat ..." - all unhelpful judgements and shaming myself for feeling what I feel. 

Stepping back from the judgement, resisting the temptation to get caught up in the story: these things are helping me learn to get better at feeling, to sit in the discomfort of the resentment, anger, jealousy AND to feel the joy, the happy, the warm, the connected, the soft. 

Getting better at feeling ALL the feelings is, by default rather than by design, helping me feel better. 

What are you avoiding feeling in the hope of feeling better?

Sarahxx
Tuesday
Feb252014

The "how" of those difficult conversations.

I often get asked in sessions and groups about the HOW of speaking to others assertively. Most often the concern is about finding the words to do this in a way that does not make a tricky situation even worse. Above all, we are trying to have our feelings and our concerns heard by others. 

We all, me included, need reminders of helpful ways to have these conversations. I found this excerpt from Quest for Life's founder, Petrea King's, book Your Life Matters – The Power of Living Now. 

The formula of ‘I notice… I imagine… I feel…’ explained below, can be a very useful one for dealing with challenging conversations.  When we use this formula - perhaps not with the exact words - we’re endeavouring firstly, to describe the behavior or the situation that we see is happening.  Secondly, we’re endeavouring to compassionately understand how it might be for the other person, and thirdly, we’re letting the person know how we’re feeling about the situation.  This formula conveys that the other person is not the problem.  It’s as if we stand hand-in-hand together looking at the problem rather than seeing each other as the problem.  Here are some examples of how this formula might be used:

‘I notice that your room is a mess and I’ve asked you three times this week to clean it up.’ (Perhaps this is better directed at your children rather than your partner!)

‘I imagine it is not a priority for you, however, it is for me.’

‘I feel angry and upset that what I’ve asked you to do hasn’t been done.  Can we talk about this, please?’


This approach is very different from screaming at the kids and telling them how hopeless and feral they are. It can work well on the really difficult conversations that we often avoid such as:

Example 1

‘I notice that whenever I want to talk to you about what happened to me when I was a child you change the subject…walk out of the room…go to the fridge…tell me not to be silly…tell me it’s all past history’…or whatever the behavior is.

‘I imagine you don’t want to talk about it because it’s in the past…it’s a painful subject…you think I’m blaming you…’ or whatever you feel compassionately might be the root cause of their dismissal.

‘I feel sad…alone…humiliated…angry…estranged from you…because we don’t seem able to communicate about this subject.  Can we please talk about it together?’

Example 2

‘I notice whenever I want to talk to you about driving more slowly you become angry…speed up…go quiet…get moody…laugh it off.’

‘I imagine that driving fast is something you enjoy…you don’t realize that you’re speeding…that it’s just the way you drive.’

‘I feel really frightened when you drive that way and I’m wondering how we can talk about it together.’


Example 3

‘I notice that when I try to talk to you about the fact that I might die from this disease you change the subject…try and cheer me up…tell me to be positive…tell me I’ve got colour in my cheeks…pour a Scotch…stop me.’

‘I imagine that you might be as frightened of the future as I am…might find it as difficult as I do…are as sad about the possibility as I am…it might be your worst nightmare too…you don’t have words for it either.’

‘I’m feeling more and more alone with my thoughts because you only seem able to hear the “positive” or cheerful parts of me and I need to talk to you because you’re my best friend…I’m sad and lost and want to share my thoughts with you…I’m isolated by my fears and need to talk them through with you…I can’t make arrangements and let you know what I want in the future and I feel anxious about that.’


Example 4

‘I notice that when I’ve mentioned your driving in the past nothing changes…you become angry…you laugh at me and tell me I’m a scaredy cat…you ignore me.’

‘I imagine that my thoughts and feelings on the subject are of little interest to you…an aggravation for you…of no consequence to you.’

‘I feel angry and upset that you ignore my pleas for you to drive more slowly and I’m letting you know that I’ll be making other arrangements to arrive at the destination…I won’t travel with you in the future…I’ll be driving from here on in.’


Sometimes this simple formula is best presented in the form of a letter.  If the subject that you want to discuss is considered a thorny one and conversation about it seems impossible, then putting it in writing can have real benefits - it enables the other person to read your thoughts and react to them privately; they can throw the letter on the floor, re-read it and weep, ignore it or mull over it and come back to you later for a discussion.

Sometimes it is enough to have conveyed the information about how you feel and things begin to change automatically.  And sometimes it’s not even about the other person at all but communicating the feelings fulfils our need to understand and heal our emotional self.  Don’t expect a response from the other person.  If they choose to ignore what you’ve written, then you know more about that person and their ability to respond.  Their response might equally come in the form of a hug, a gesture, a kiss on the cheek or a flower on your pillow.

The important part is that you have fulfilled your responsibility, which is to acknowledge and express yourself in a way that was never intended to wound - our intention is very important.  If there is any intention to wound the other person, there will be a hidden barb in your words.  Make sure your intention is honourable and that it is an honest communication based on the need to share your thoughts and feelings.

I Notice...I Imagine...I Feel I Notice...I Imagine...I Feel (58 KB)

There are plenty of models to choose from when it comes to conflict resolution. This one struck me as both easy to remember, and easy to execute.

What do you think? 

Sarahxx

 

Monday
Jan132014

Time flies, stay your path.

How time flies ... how life changes! 

It's been almost a year since I last shared here. So much has happened, yet it's still hard to believe it's been almost a year! Regular life and a few big changes have distracted me from parts of my work and some of the things I value. 

So it is with days, weeks, months and years. We get caught up in the goings-on around us: we neglect to pay attention to the small but important items that hold us together, keep us on track, help maintain the balance - the things we value as important.

In my case, I packed up my life and moved it across the world, reinstalling myself and my family in a new location with new 'everything'. It's taken time and energy and focus away from my Self and my work and placed it on other things that are important to me.

All the while I have been conscious of wanting to get back to this place, because I value the work I do here, I know that it's important to me. I felt nervous all those months wondering how long it might take, and whether I could find my way back - whether the link was strong enough for me to know how to return.   

I consciously gave myself a year: a year seemed like a decent time limit without letting it spill over into two or three or even more (the horror :0)! Putting it off any longer would be giving in to the resistance. Not coming back would be about fear and the disconnection that comes with it. It would also be about denying a part of me I had come to know, and ignoring things I hold as valuable to doing the work I love.

Yes! time flies. Yes! life gets busy. Yes! there are other things to do or concentrate on. Yes! it's not easy to find the way again. Yes! it's scary and challenging and there are much, much easier ways to spend the time.

No! I don't want to give in to the easy option, the fear, the resistance, the distractions.

Yes! I choose to do the things that keep me in balance, keep me on a path that I value, hold me accountable to myself, maintain my authenticity, help me feel. 

Do what you value. When you find yourself distracted, review your values and priorities, sweep aside the excuses and get back on track... even IF it takes almost a year.

Sarah xx

ps I passed with a Distinction :-)

 

 

Tuesday
Sep112012

It's spring ... somewhere.

After more than 7 years in the northern hemisphere, I appear to have suddenly reverted to living my home (southern) hemisphere’s seasonal pattern. The planet’s south has passed the magical date of 1 September and launched itself into spring. That means the north is on it’s way into autumn – not exactly the traditional time to begin the behavior of ‘spring cleaning’.  It appears to be part of an elaborate plan of resistance to taking back my “old” life in an effort to have more of what I truly want and less of what I have settled for. 

I am clearing, cleaning, culling, washing, airing, tidying, and making space between the stuff. I am recycling all manner of work-related paper that I was sure I would ‘do something’ with one day. I am vetting carefully the social engagements I accept.

I am choosing nothing over 'something' ... instead of settling for less-than. 

I have to admit that, aside from a few attempts in the area of spring cleaning (even on-season), I haven’t done this properly in years. I put it down to a recently restorative two week holiday where I didn’t cook, clean, grocery shop, do laundry, organise a babysitter, follow a routine attend social events or work.  The holiday created space for awareness and reflection – for detaching from my life.  

Post-holiday, I feel a strong resistance to falling back into the old way simply because it was “the old way”. An automatic response that pre-holiday was simply there – perhaps even something I would have labelled ‘natural’- is no longer the leading force in my actions. 

Instead, there is a delay … a moment when I find myself thinking “umm is this what I want? Is there a better way/different response/alternative thinking I could be using? Do I need this in my life? Is it bringing me closer to Self and the ones I love? Am I living my values” 

Of course it’s not a sweeping change. It will come as no surprise to you that there are times when I just do it the old way because it doesn’t feel like there is time to suddenly create a new one. Other times I choose to do nothing instead of just doing the same ole, same ole.

There is a very strong sense of coming up for air – from daily life, from habit, from a kind of sludgy place where I always felt I was struggling to keep my head above water. 

For years, when asked what I want I would respond “a simpler life”. Now I feel like I am creating it. 

Why did it take me so long?

I suspect it comes down to letting go – to just simply having the chance to STOP and step back. Doing nothing of the normal allows us to reflect on the ways we normally spend our time and energy.

It's spring somewhere ... 

sarahxx

 

Monday
Jul022012

A simpler life.

Knowing, prioritising and living your values is fundamental to having a simpler life. 

When you are not aware of your values, you don’t know what your priorities are. When you don’t know your priorities, everything seems “important”. 

When everything seems important, life is overwhelming, too busy, hard, murky, confusing, exhausting. When life is overwhelming, creating the changes you want and dealing with transition is tough going.

You stick to the daily grind.

You need that time in front of the TV to ‘shut-down’ for a while.

You need that drink to get through.

You need that food to numb the noise of the busy-ness.

You need to blame others for the way your life is going.

You need to look outside yourself for answers and direction. 

When you know your values, you know what is truly important – to you. When you know what is important to you, you make it a priority.

When you know what your priorities are, all the other ‘stuff’ pales in comparison.

Life becomes less overwhelming. You are focussing on what’s important to YOU – and that’s a lot fewer balls to juggle.

If you want a simpler life, work out what’s truly important to you.

Sarahxx