When the UGLIES Escape

Being human is difficult. Becoming human is a lifelong process. To be truly human is a gift. ~ Abraham Heschel

Do you ever get grumpy? Out of sorts? Moody? Do your UGLIES escape?

Of course you do… you’re a human.

Sometimes, when reviewing basic communications skills with people who work in corporate environments, they tell me they “know all this stuff from seminars, workshops, and retreats at work” and then quickly ask the questions “why can’t I do it after I leave the office?”

I empathize with that question because I teach good communication tools… you know…

  • Use “I” statements
  • Don’t interrupt
  • Repeat what you heard
  • Validate

Yadda, yadda.

And yet, I too – am completely imperfect with using them. When we mix a big batch of emotion into the human factor – even the best intentions can go astray.

Sometimes, our frustration reaches a tipping point and we react without thinking about those skills we’ve collected in our communication toolkit. It happens when we are sick and when we are in pain. It can happen when we are afraid or worried. In those moments, our ability to stay focused and pay attention to how we could be behaving, is blurred.

In those times, we are prone to react first and think about our toolbox later…

And then communication goes south, conflict arises, sparing ensues, and feelings get hurt. The uglies come out.

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Now what?

First

I believe the most important thing we can do is apologize. We don’t have to apologize for how we were feeling… we only need to apologize for how we behaved when our feelings took over.

Listen, feelings are feelings and although they are not always rational or in context to a situation – they are still feelings and generally they just surface… we don’t ask for them.

Next

When we can collect our thoughts, step back, OUT of the emotion and pay attention to how we were feeling – the second step is to calmly, rationally, explain how we were feeling – using “I feel…” statements (remember to use ‘feeling’ words).

Think about the things I speak to in the post It Wasn’t Me – Or Was It? and try to communicate from the position of what you recognize about yourself…. In other words, OWN IT.

Ask for what you need – specifically. Do you need advice? Validation? Help? Or do you just want someone to listen? Letting someone know what you need in advance of sharing your feelings can often be helpful.

Lastly

Be willing to listen.

Frequently, an argument is simply the tip of an iceberg and representative of other issues that are simmering below the surface. When we can own our feelings, step out of the emotion, and be prepared to listen… we are able to address those matters that affect us subliminally.

Remember, the things I talk about take practice and patience! Don’t be hard on yourself as you experience your humanness… when you are tired or sick… when you temporarily lose track of your toolbox… or when you make a mistake.

Your life – my life – everyone’s life, is a work in progress. Just keep moving forward. Today is a new day.

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Who You Are

The most common form of despair is not being who you are… ~  Søren Kierkegaard

One of the most common conversations I have in my office is the one that focuses on personal authenticity. It seems like a ‘no-brainer’ – “just be yourself” and some of us believe that we are – yet depression and anxiety live in the space between how we behave out in the world and how our hearts wish we would.

There are a couple of obvious examples that are stereotypical, commonly known – the Doctor’s child who is guided toward medical school but internally, yearns to be an artist or an accountant. Or the person who yearns for same-sex intimacy yet believes he or she is only ‘acceptable’ as a heterosexual.

I see problems with authenticity with people who believe that no matter what they do – it’s not ‘good enough’… perhaps what they are doing IS the best and authentic to them yet they are unable to recognize it as so.

We are so driven to meet standards from outside of ourselves. First – our family or teachers and then from our society or culture and then again, our partner/spouse and social circles. The struggle I faced as a kid to ‘fit in’ in terms of body shape and physical fitness was real. I grew up in the era of ‘Twiggy’ where pencil thin was in and my Victorian physic had been out for hundreds of years. Standards of education, socioeconomic class, sexuality, language skills… they exist in every realm of our lives and so we strive to meet them with little regard for the ‘truth’ or the sincerity with which we present those standards to the world.

Earlier this week a client was expressing frustration that interacting with a relative often produced a gross reaction, sending the client into throws of ugly and spiteful thoughts while she spewed derogatory remarks that came from an unknown place inside of her. “That’s not who I am”, she says. She emphasized that she didn’t like that kind of reaction and she really hated herself when it happened. “How do I make it stop?” she was pleading for relief of the ‘despair’ she experienced when she found herself tackling sarcasm and malicious sentiment, tit for tat.

While some may argue that her behavior in that moment was indeed ‘part of her’, it was notably not part of who she ‘wanted’ to be. She saw herself as a kind person, warm and considerate most all of the time. She never wanted to represent herself as someone who could be enticed into a verbal warfare of inflammatory and debasing commentary. And so, when she gravitated there – for whatever reason – she experienced a sense of ‘inauthenticity’… that particular behavior was NOT part of the person she genuinely wanted to present to the world.

I remember taking family photographs the fall before Hubby and I were first separated. We met with a photographer, wore similar outfits, and snapped photos all over a local Civil War battlefield on a cool Fall day. By the time we got the proofs back, our relationship was feeling more strain and the pretending I was actively engaged in was becoming tiring. I looked at those photos and thought about how disingenuous I was in almost every one of them. There was a smile on my face and we posed well together, but Hubby and I were definitely NOT authentic. I didn’t feel the happiness that was represented in the picture – I knew it was a lie.

Sometimes we don’t notice or understand – there is no conscious awareness that we are living inauthentically. Several years ago, my family deserted me for a weekend, doing their own things – scouts, golf, etc… I found myself in the house alone for a whole weekend. It was just before Thanksgiving and so I began my Christmas crafting – making a disastrous mess out of the kitchen and dining area but loving the fact that I could leave my stuff out – and all over – without impacting anyone else. I never even noticed that time was passing. I was content, satisfied, at peace.

By the end of that weekend, I realized that I was ‘fed’ by utilizing my creative energy. I knew that about myself and yet, over time, I had allowed the opportunities for artistic expression to become unimportant, or at least very low on my list of priorities. I noticed how charged and full of enthusiasm I felt by Sunday evening; I was glad to see everyone when they came home. I had utilized my energy in one of the most AUTHENTIC ways possible and my psyche understood. I’ve never allowed myself to forget that experience and I always have something in the works. In reality, I had to open an Etsy shop in order to have an outlet from where to part with all of the ‘creations’ that I had generated. They are simple, imperfect things but they are made from a Zen place… at least that’s where my mind is when I am in creative mode.

Today, I am using that energy to write (and maybe fitting in a craft or two).

I believe that the most important part of being authentic is accepting ALL of you – the parts you don’t like, the parts you want to change, the parts that will never change, and the parts that you think the world will reject along with all the wonderful, amazing, and talented aspects of yourself. My life completely turned around when I understood that the whole of my person wasn’t all great – and accepted it. When I can see my imperfections and LOVE MYSELF ANYWAY, my ability to be in the world authentically is greatly enhanced.

I can’t tell you how many times in a session when I ask a client to say “I love you” to themselves – there is an emotional block or a strong emotional reaction. When we accept ourselves AS WE ARE and strive to present ourselves to the world bearing the values and qualities that WE aspire, we are living authentically and then… despair cannot exist. Learn to love everything about yourself – even the things you want to change. You don’t have to like them – only accept that they are there. Then – change begins and you can be WHO you are.