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💘We need to keep our composure to give a respectful response.
Here is my hand.
💜 The idea of being brave and courageous can be frightening. 💙 Why?
💛 Not only because we have to deal with the other person’s response, especially when we are about to say no to someone for the first time. We also need to face and conquer our inner uncertainty. 😱 Because we might feel we do not have the right to say no. 😱
🌜 It might seem like a war on two fronts. 🌛
💥 We not only don’t know how they will react, but we also don’t know how we will respond to their reactions. 🔥
⛄️ Although we can replay the situation a hundred times in our head – which, if we do it right, can eventually help a little – we don’t know how it will turn out until we do it. 💦
✔️ The first time may not be perfect. It probably won’t be. But we dared! 👍
we were brave
While next time, it will be a little easier – at least it won’t be the first time – so we can focus more on the how. What we say, how we say it, what emotions struck us inside and how we can manage those. 🌗
🌝 And over time, with practice, it gets easier. We will get used to different reactions and build up our own toolbox of responses. ☔️
❄️ We will also learn to manage our inner fear of standing up for ourselves. 🌞
💜Believe me or not, it’s scary to stand up for ourselves. Especially when we were taught never to complain, just accept what is and move on. 💛
❤️You know what?
❤️It’s worth it being brave. Because in the end, you learn how to find the ground to ensure that you have a truly free choice. ⁉️
🤗Are you keen to get there?
Here is my hand.
So, how to let go of all those past offences that still keep on bothering us?
I believe the breathing technique is just like a band aid, it helps at that immediate moment, but it does not provide a long term solution.
the pain originated in all these grievances
as backpacks full of rocks we carry on our back daily.
They slow us down, steal our energy, divert our focus – we need to get rid of them.
We must learn to leave our bags behind.
Before we start complaining about how badly some others have treated us, let’s take a look at ourselves from an outsider’s perspective. How many times have we deliberately or accidentally hurt others? With the tone of our voice, with a degrading remark, by not listening carefully to them.
Maybe it is time to reconsider our “greatness”, and start planning to ask for their forgiveness. A simple “I am sorry for what I said the other day” would do.
We might be surprised what changes it can bring in them!
Recognise: we again changed how we react – we may have left the scene of confrontation feeling victorious, this was the “norm”, but now we humble ourselves and admit we were wrong.
How would it feel if someone did this to us –
asking for our forgiveness for their wrongdoings?
Of course, a positive answer for our intention to gain forgiveness is not expected.
We should never believe that everyone will forgive us everything, it’s just simply not the case. However, the good news is that
we did our part in seeking reconciliation and restoration,
and it’s now their turn. Which means, we did what we could, and
now we can let it go.
We can leave behind our guilt about those offences we committed against others. This was another backpack 😉. We can leave this one because
it is their choice whether they forgive us or not.
And if they choose not to forgive us, it’s their decision with its own consequences: they are going to carry their own backpack containing their own offences.
So, how to deal with our own offences backpack, how to leave it on the kerb?
Forgiving those who have hurt us, even if they do not ask for forgiveness. For our own sake!
It our choice to forgive or not, but when we forgive, we can leave the extra weight and pain we are carrying behind.
Forgiveness is a decision, not a feeling.
When we declare that we forgive, we make the first step to re-write our attitude towards that situation and that person. As it is rooted deep, it will take time to alter our instant reactions.
Old attitudes will try to sneak back at least a few times, demanding attention and the refocussing on the pain we suffered when we were hurt. Now, we can simply reject this desire by repeating to ourselves “but I have forgiven”.
Although it is a process, the time will come when we do feel forgiveness: the relief of not carrying the backpack of stones, the feeling of freedom from pain, guilt and resentment.
The most beautiful part of it is that
we do not need them to forgive them.
We do not need to tell them, we talk to ourselves: it is an inner process within us.
And because of this we can deal with the pain we suffered from those who have already died, or who we are no longer in contact with.
We just shout out our decision to forgive, and then stick to it. It will bring us joy.
Here is my hand.
Many might think that emotional conflicts are more likely to happen in households, but they are widely prevalent in workplaces as well. Being reprimanded for things that are outside our control or are not our job assignment, experiencing others pouring out their own frustration onto us, a boss not listening to us but jumping into presuppositions about what we are saying (but we are saying what we think!), and many more.
When we know who we are and know how to control our emotions in heated situations to ensure they do not take over (breath!) we can dodge many of these fights.
We come to understand that most of these outbursts are not about us.
The teenager having a tantrum is, I believe, just seemingly unhappy with us (the boundaries we set up for them).
What really bothers them is the feeling of incapability and hopelessness.
At least this is how I remember my teenage years. It is true for adults as well 😉: every outburst we have represents our inner frustration, the fact that we have no control over what’s happening to or around us.
What we do have control over though is our reactions: while a tantrum likely won’t solve the problem, running away to a quiet place and calming ourselves down, breathing slowly, can highly improve our chances of finding a rational answer.
When we erupt like a volcano it is never about the other person we pour it out onto. It is solely about us.
So when someone else is acting like a “2-year-old having a tantrum” what should we do? Tap their head and leave them alone to settle down 😄.
Is it about us? No: the underlying issue might be but the emotional upheaval “add-on” has nothing to do with us. And, as we discussed, it is useless to engage in a conflict like this, so let’s provide them an opportunity to have another go at solving the issue later, in a respectable manner.
This leads to quite a painful area:
If I am offended, it’s my problem.
It shows that I need to work on myself.
It took me many months to accept this, so I do not expect anyone to swallow it easily.
On the other hand, I found this one of the most helpful guidelines.
- If we take offence and the feedback we have been given is valid, it means we need to improve.
- If we take offence and it is not valid, then we need to figure out why we took offence when we shouldn’t have. Quite simply, if it is not valid we just should shake it off, and move on: it is not about us, it is about them as they outpour their inner frustrations onto us.
Even if it sounds logical and clear, it is not always easy to do. However,
the less offence we take on, the more time, energy, and motivation we have left to use for other positive things.
Every situation where we get emotionally hurt can deeply affect us not only mentally, but also physically. When it can push us into fright/fight/freeze mode it will trigger its physiological symptoms (elevated heartbeat and blood pressure, more frequent but shallow breathing, etc). To stop this, we need to get our “brain” back by deep, slow breathing.
every time we recall these painful events, the symptoms come back, we re-live the situation, emotionally and physically.
Which means, every time we ponder upon past hurts we wound ourselves again, and again, and again – and it all has a negative effect on our bodies and mind.
That’s why we should learn to let these things go, to deliberately avoid recalling them and learn how to deal with them when the unwanted memories appear in our mind.
Here is my hand.
Bringing emotions into arguments does no good.
I am not saying we should not have feelings. They are important, but we should not submit to them. They can give good advice but equally they can give bad advice.
Emotions are not factual, and they can change as the wind can change in Dunedin: taking a 360 degree turn within half a day.
I am also not saying that we cannot talk about emotions, there are times we must. What I am trying to explain is that
we should leave our emotions at the door when we enter a confrontation.
We can look back at them, we can reflect on them, but they stay where they belong: having no impact on the conversation. When we manage to do this, we can keep ourselves from falling into fright/fight/freeze mode. Which means we can use our logic in our arguments, we are able to listen carefully what the other party is saying, and we can even find ourselves showing empathy with them.
Moreover, it is not only easier to leave a conversation when it is getting overheated, but it is far more important to recognise when it starts slipping into that category.
Leaving a conversation when the other party is getting more and more emotionally involved gives them space and time to reconsider the topic.
Listening well, I believe, is a key factor in effective communication. It takes time to learn but brings huge benefits.
When we listen to the other person without presuppositions, bias, and our own agenda, we can understand better their point of view, analyse their arguments, and more likely find a solution which satisfies both of us.
A key factor to success is to be persistent in our communication.
We need to learn to say what we think, leaving no place for others to try to figure out what we might have really wanted.
By doing this we represent transparency and accountability, which are essential factors in building trust.
However, it is a one way street: we can use it as a guideline in our perception and evaluations of what others say to us. Implementing this rule can save us a lot of time pondering about what others might have thought when they said something.
People say what they think. If not, it’s their problem.
This approach, although seemingly quite harsh, draws clear boundaries, ousts hidden agendas, and leaves no place for emotional manipulation. Then people cannot blame us by saying: “You should have known what I meant by saying …. “, because we can be sure we acted upon what they said, which is far more factual than thoughts and theories 😊.
When we manage to build up a habit of factual communication we are more likely to identify situations where we are being manipulated, and so, avoid them.
Upskilling ourselves in the area of ‘the dynamics of conflicts’ is beneficial both for ourselves and those around us: using this approach the way we re-act to others changes, which will most likely make them stop and re-think.
An emotionally heated argument is like a whirlpool.
It might only be a gentle pulling force at the beginning, but we quickly find ourselves pulled down to the bottom, deliberately hurting each other with labelling, and saying things we would have never said if our brain was working!
The improvement happens gradually. First we might recognise that the bottom of the whirlpool is close, so we just suddenly opt out: not making the other person cry at the end is a huge step. Then we might spot at an earlier stage where we have just been pulled into an emotional conflict, so we gently row away. And the time might come when we spot it before putting our feet in.
Sticking to the facts – including our emotions – demonstrates not only honesty but also openness: we are keen to solve the problem. We dare to show vulnerability as we talk about our emotions, but we are not willing to go down the rabbit hole of deception and manipulation.
“I know you did not mean it, but when you did such and such it made me feel such and such. Could you please help me to figure out why and what could we do about it?”
Here is my hand.
Who’s in control?
One of my most painful revelations came when I realized that the source of my ongoing problems with my bosses in my frequently changing jobs was me.
Of course, at the beginning I started with blaming others (especially them), the circumstances, the workload (too much or too small), desperately trying to justify I had nothing to do with how they treated me. I was absolutely sure it was not my fault in any way that they showed barely any respect for me. Well, at least, that was how I saw it for quite a while – changing jobs and hoping to find peace.
Then one day someone asked me a question. I have no memory who it was or what they asked, but I still can recall the feeling of being punched in the stomach when I realised that it was all my fault.
My bosses treated me the way I let them treat me.
I did not respect myself, I had fully submitted myself to them (in working matters), and I was surprised at the lack of their respect.
When we act like a doormat we will be treated like a doormat.
Even if we are not treated like that, we likely would perceive it, simply because this is how we see and evaluate ourselves. Good news is we can change it –
we cannot change how they speak to us but we can change how we react.
I am not saying it would be as quick as it was for me, but we do have power over what battles we choose to fight, and whether we engage in emotionally heated ones.
As we teach our children about healthy boundaries and the right to walk away we also might start practicing it 😄.
Reflecting back on my own story, I believe we are wired to find someone or something else to blame first when things don’t play out well. It takes courage to humbly admit when it is our fault, but this is a key step in the process, because now we can focus on the how.
Whenever we find ourselves in an unexpected and/or emotionally involved conflict it seems we cannot think clearly. Which is true, we cannot think because our brain has switched into fight/flight/freeze mode. This is when the reptilian brain and the limbic system takes the control over, so the neocortex – where logic, planning, self-control are situated – switches off.
No wonder we cannot think.
However, we switch this back on when we pause as we have started the process of rewiring our subconscious. To turn our brain on we first need to turn our survival mode off by slowly breathing through our nose down to the bottom of our stomach. Then we can think, evaluate our situation and can choose a different response to it. It is absolutely fine to walk away to a secure place and avoid immediate confrontation.
Leaving the situation does not mean acknowledging the other party is right.
Walking away simply means acknowledging that it makes no sense to continue the argument.
The conversation can be resumed at a later time when both parties have their logic switched on. Undoubtedly, it is a choice that is hard to make, as deep inside we carry the false impression that leaving an argument means defeat.
However, stepping out of a fruitless conflict requires courage, but implies the benefit of creating a future chance to solve it. Staying in a heated conversation when both parties are throwing smelly buckets of emotionally rooted garbage is a loss, for both of them. Even if it does not seem like it at first: one usually leaves feeling victorious and the other defeated. However,
winning that battle might bring ruin long term:
the unconscious feedback we get from that “victory” could push us to resolve all our conflicts that way, and we find ourselves fighting most of our battles using emotional pressure. This way worked before, so we keep on using it. But
it will damage us.
Over time we might become “what we are”, like a puppet driven by uncontrollable emotional eruptions. Finding our way back to “who we are” would take a long period of painful corrections in our thinking.
Was winning that argument really a victory?
Here is my hand.
Talking about teenagers and our resilience journey, I started to think whether there is any benefit in continually reprimanding them for their bad choices when they are already aware of the fact they have “screwed up”.
Shouldn’t we change how we react?
Things we learnt in our childhood are sitting deep in our subconscious, determining our instant reactions as parents.
I am talking about how our parents reacted to us – and most of the time we pull out the same patterns with our children.
How many times do we hear our mother/father talking to our children through our mouth?
Furthermore, how our parents treated each other has an impact on our instinctive reactions to our spouse. There is no magic in it: we use the learnt behavioural patterns, until we consciously re-write them.
Why is it worth putting time and effort into something like this? We have already started when choosing to love, and acting accordingly, haven’t we?
To get from A to B we need to start with recognition:
realizing and admitting we need to change.
Unfortunately, we cannot do much without looking in the mirror and acknowledging our issues.
I think one of the most heart-breaking revelations is seeing our older child treating the younger one in a way our parents used to treat us, the way we have said we would never ever act.
Well, how has the child learnt this, if not from us?
However the painful realisation comes, we need humility to deal with it in a positive way. When we analyse our behaviour and can spot the triggering factors, we can create a plan to establish a new reaction. Having true friends around who can provide honest feedback can be quite beneficial. Many times just sharing our discoveries with someone trustworthy helps to find the solution when we describe it (either verbally or written). The further we step back from it, the bigger picture we get:
The easiest way to get out of a maze is to fly above it.
Figuring the way out, making the map and using it to reach the end. Once we can see our problems from a higher perspective we can identify more contributing factors and can have a better established response to deal with the situation.
Why is it us (always us!) who needs to put effort into these connections and relationships?
Well, if we don’t act, who will? Who else can change the outcome if not us?
There are things in life we have absolutely no control over. Nothing we can do will change these things happening. But the determining factors of the outcome are our own reactions to these things.
And it is resilience!
As long as we give the same reaction to the same issue the outcome will remain the same: no change has happened in the equation.
If we want change in the outcome we need to intervene in the one and only part which we have control over: our reaction.
We need to re-wire how we act through re-writing how we think.
As our innate reactions are rooted in our subconscious, we have to really push the new “how to” to replace the existing patterns.
It starts with declaration – as we made our choice to love, we need to hang onto it, even in the midst of turmoil. If we keep repeating “but I have declared I love” it will make us pause before we act, realising in our subconscious there is some contradiction between how we are about to act vs what we declare.
Pausing enables us to use the new reaction we have found, or simply gives us space and time to come up with an alternative response.
Either way we successfully changed one factor in the equation, so we can expect a modified outcome.
Here is my hand.
I think there is a huge misconception in our heads about love.
This might be one of the root issues from the topics discussed earlier. Some of us might have been brought up having to earn the love of our parents.
We had to prove we are worthy of their love.
We had to act in a particular way to gain their affirmation. Often refraining from acting in a particular way produced no positive feedback because “not doing that” was the expected behaviour. Picking up all the errors and neglecting any improvement, saying that the level reached is “the norm” so there is nothing to praise – won’t have contributed to developing a positive self-image.
The pattern seems to be painfully familiar:
being loved for what we did, not for who we were, leading us to embrace what we are instead of who we are.
It ended up rooting our identity in the what, because we missed out on the experience to be unconditionally loved for who we are.
The beauty of being grown up is that now we have a choice: we can say it is not good enough for us, so we want to change.
We want to discover and rely on, who we are, but where to start?
We tend to think of love as a feeling: we love our spouse when they act in a nice way – bring us flowers, a book, makes dinner, picks up the kids –, but dislike them (or should we rather honestly say “hate”?) when they disagree with us, doesn’t do what they promised, had a bad day and their tone is not the nicest.
When we act like this, we are falling into the same trap: we love them for what they do.
And isn’t it easier to love our kids when they act in a nice manner rather than having a tantrum?
However difficult it seems, even impossible, we need to learn how to love them when they are having their tantrums. Again,
love does not mean the lack of healthy boundaries nor the affirmation of their behaviour.
So what is love?
Love is a choice.
Simple as it is.
We make a decision to love – our children, spouse, colleagues, boss, janitor, parents – and we stick to our choice.
It won’t come easily, it will take time to redefine our reactions until the new ones become the norm. Also, redesigning one reaction does not mean the automatic reshaping of our reactions for other situations, but the more we reconfigure the easier it will be. And in the meantime, we need to learn how to address our disapproval of certain acts. Which is another big chunk of sweaty work. So why would we bother with all this?
Well, there are two main reasons: us and them.
For them it would mean
they start experiencing being loved for who they are.
Not what they have or what they do, but simply who they are. And whether it is a close relative or even a stranger, it might start reshaping how they think of themselves.
It might trigger questions in them:
- Is it really possible that someone loves me despite how I act? Despite how despicable I am?
- Maybe there is more about me than my position?
- What has someone spotted in me that makes them believe I am valuable?
- Am I really worthy of love? How can it be?
They might even start a journey of re-establishing their identity on the ‘who’ instead of the ‘what’.
We cannot deny, humans are subjects of self-centredness 😉 so what are our benefits in all this?
First of all we step on a life-long journey of personal development.
We learn that we are capable of more than we think,
we have control over our behaviour.
We will slowly change in other areas as well, as our decision to love sneaks into our subconscious and starts its work there. As our perceptions and attitudes are gently altered, we change.
Our actions, tones, words chosen, start softening and this
triggers change in others around us.
They may get an unusual response from us which would likely make them stop and think – whether they re-think their own actions or analyse the change in us, it pulls them out of the recurring pattern of interactions. Their reactions start to alter.
And one day, out of the blue,
we realise that we do feel love for our child in the midst of their tantrum.
We empathise with them as we remember feeling as confused and hopeless as they might feel now, and we just simply leave them alone.
It is their battle with themselves.
And when our teen emerges later, pretending like nothing has happened, we know that our message has come through. Their silence is a form of acceptance and affirmation – of the rules and boundaries we, as parents, set up for their benefit.
They would not be afraid of doing the same to defend themselves.
Here is my hand.
Resilience also means discerning information.
I have heard recently in an interview with an HR person – speaking briefly about the origins of narcissism – that unconditional love (as with neglect) can lead to a child becoming narcissist. My eyebrows lifted into question marks, but as they kept talking I quickly realized where their argument went all wrong.
They made a tally between unconditional love and spoiling children. By spoiling they meant buying and giving everything to a child that they want.
It seemed for me unconditional love is often misunderstood, so I think it is worth defining it so we can avoid later confusions.
In a nutshell I see unconditional love as loving someone regardless of their actions.
Loving unconditionally means we love them for who they are, while we can still strongly disagree with what they do.
Loving the person and not affirming their actions are not mutually exclusive. It is part of resilience.
This is how parents should treat their children. Loving them to bits but not approving of or affirming their bad behaviour or wrongful actions.
No question, it means a lot of confrontation – but this is how children learn how to handle disagreements, how to set up and keep boundaries.
They do not do what we parents say, but they do as we do.
We are being watched all the time by them, and
they learn how to live life by examining the concordances and discrepancies between our speeches and our acts.
They learn what is important and what is not, whether we do as we say, or not. I see this as a huge responsibility of adults – not only of parents, but aunts and uncles, grandparents, teachers, and coaches.
More importantly, this is when and where the children develop a solid inner foundation of their identity, which they can rely on when facing challenges.
This is when
they learn they have the right to say no.
They’ll learn it also means having the option of walking away from any situation they feel is uncomfortable, and that others’ opinions about them are not necessarily objective reflections.
This is the time when children
develop their identity of “who I am”,
so we can save them the hard part of re-establishing themselves from “what I am” to “who I am” in their later years. It is a gradual process, the older they get the more they should start setting up their own boundaries, so they can practice protecting themselves – physically and mentally.
So by the time they step out into “life” they have learnt to say no and not be afraid to stick to it, or be shaken to the core by any negative feedback, and hopefully identifying attempts of manipulation and dodge them – because they have carefully set up their boundaries.
Boundaries are essential parts of life.
If we do not have any boundaries, at the right distance, or firm enough, we easily take on undesirable impacts from outside which can cause huge damage to us.
How to reconcile love with boundaries?
Just think of parenting – if a child faces no boundaries in their upbringing how hard will they find life, which is full of them, e.g. what age one can start driving and under what conditions, having a job means getting to work on time, not when it suits, respecting others, obeying police officers, and countless other situations.
I strongly believe a child brought up without being taught about boundaries is yet to experience true love.
So reflecting on the topic at the start of this article, unconditional love does not mean the lack of boundaries.
Love without boundaries is not love.
Here is my hand.
The more we get to know ourselves on the resilience journey, the more challenging it can be looking at the mirror.
There are times we’d like to spit at the person we see there because he/she screwed up, hurt others, was mean to those he/she loves the most, lied, cheated, gossiped… we can lengthen the list with multitudes of wrongdoings.
Still, there are (a few) who are looking beyond our shortcomings. How can they do that?
First of all
they are aware that they are no better than us.
So there is no reason why they should position themselves above us in any way. Like us, they have their own and have made countless mistakes. They also know they would fail again, sooner or later.
It does not matter what issues they have, the emphasis is on the act of screwing it up.
What is the difference then between us and them?
They have overcome the constant struggle with guilt, resentment, condemnation.
They understood the rule: we all screw up, no one is an exception. But that is not the end: they recognise, seek restoration and reconciliation, ask for forgiveness and forgive, then move on, leaving the whole thing behind.
They know that even when they do their best, they will fall again – but they know how to deal with it.
What is the key to their approach?
They have learnt some skills they can utilize when things go wrong. They admit they are not perfect, can have bad days, can wake up grumpy, life can severely hit them as well – but they look at it with an expectation of overcoming and with the knowledge of having
control over their own attitudes and actions.
So why are they beside us on our resilience journey?
Because they have been through stuff.
They know what it is like – even though they cannot fully understand our situation.
They have already fought through the feelings of desperation, hopelessness, rejection, doubt, being lost.
They also remember how much it meant to them that someone was there and they could pour their heart out to them.
They could share their struggles with someone who listened – without judgment,
without telling them what they should, or shouldn’t have done. Their listeners were not aiming to fix their lives but gently leading them to arrive at a better understanding both of the consequences of their earlier actions and figuring out how to survive the actual situation step by step. Due to that successful understanding they can be here for us: to help us to figure out what’s next and how to prevent the same situation again.
Neither by fixing our current situation nor fixing us, but providing us with support, a hand to grab, an arm to hang onto when we pull ourselves up.
And they remember it is hard and painful work, that’s why their words of encouragement sound valid:
they do not deny the hardship but themselves represent a positive outcome.
They are living proof of the “possible”.
They have been through their own resilience journey.
What gave them power to achieve all this? I believe one key factor is admitting that we have flaws and failures.
We cannot fight “something”, but we can fight “the thing” – we must name it. Otherwise we are just throwing arrows into a big forest without targeting anything in particular. What is the chance of hitting a target if we hunt that way?
Unfortunately, these days taking responsibility and disclosing our own mistakes is seen as weakness.
However, standing alone in front of that mirror first, then amongst others, and acknowledging we are not superheroes and we need support is indeed a picture of strength.
We dare to speak out and declare we want to do it better. We are brave enough to ask for help.
Those friends who stayed with us in the turmoil will be our helpers, and others might join in later – as
we re-build our lives and discover step by step who we are.
Shaking off the fake postures, social positions, while finding the true meaning of our lives.
And over time we will find out what our true friends already know: we are worthy of love.
Together with all of our cracks and brokenness, we are worthy.
And once we can grab that, we will have the knowledge, deep enough, inside of us, to be sure of who we are.
Here is my hand.