respect

Withhold

Hi everyone,

I have a withhold that I need to address. For those of you unfamiliar with the term, a withhold is something that you need to give voice to that happened in the past, which you did not properly address at the time. It is a withhold because it has been affecting you and your life, and you eventually found out that you needed to speak up about it for your own sanity and well-being.

As a disclaimer, my goal here is not to rehash the past, or to blame anyone, but rather to share my feelings authentically and vulnerably about what occurred, with the hope that with this understanding of how it affected me and my feelings, then it would not be repeated again in the future.

The scene is May 2015, and I have just graduated with my master’s degree in geology (geothermal energy) from University of North Dakota. I have packed up all my belongings and I am now driving across the country from North Dakota to Nevada.

As I’m sitting in my car, I’m ruminating about how unsupported I feel from my entire network. I feel completely isolated and alone, not to mention completely unsupported.

For those of you unfamiliar with my story, I had not wanted to get my master’s degree in science; rather, I had wanted to get my master’s degree in music performance. However, after my junior recital at Penn State, my viola teacher had lost confidence in me and my playing. He asked me what I wanted to do after PSU, and I had said that I had wanted to go on and get my master’s degree in music performance and then go on to play music in pit orchestras on Broadway. This was my dream, I had told him, and I was very excited about it.

My teacher promptly told me to give up on my dream, because it sucked. He said that many people embarked on that kind of career with high hopes, but then quickly got tired of the long hours and low pay, and then could not afford to take time off to look for a different job. He didn’t want to see me “backed into a corner with my career,” so he told me to give up on music and become a geologist instead.

Ironically, with this very interaction, I already felt “backed into a corner with my career.” Without the support of my instructor, I didn’t feel either willing or able to pursue my career in music. So even though I was crushed, demoralized, and devastated, I followed his advice, moved to North Dakota, and got my master’s degree in geology.

Even though I liked geology and I liked my professors and colleagues at UND, I knew that this was not the right decision for me and that this was not what I wanted to do with my life. After the excitement of being in a new place with a new plan wore off, I began to really loathe my time in North Dakota. I didn’t feel like I belonged there in terms of the culture and values, and I didn’t feel authentic because I wasn’t following my heart and being creative.

After the incident at PSU, I all but gave up playing my instruments. I played viola in the Greater Grand Forks Symphony Orchestra, but this was only because my dad had encouraged me to join. In general, I felt very turned off to playing music and instruments and I didn’t want to do it anymore. Writing became my primary creative outlet, and my first summer in ND I wrote my first novel in its entirety.

After writing my novel, I often fantasized about quitting my degree program, moving home to Boston, working at Starbucks, and becoming a writer. However, whenever I shared these dreams and desires with others, I was always brutally rebuffed and unsupported. Without naming names, there were people that I called, so upset that I was crying, and I told them how much I hated my life, how much I hated the direction my life was taking, and how much I wanted to go home, start fresh, and be creative again. I even posted about my goals on Facebook, but people on there were very unsupportive of me and my plan. They told me I had to stay there in ND– even though I was completely miserable– finish my degree program, and “get my piece of paper.”

However, I knew that this would never be the end of it, and I was right. Because I felt again like I was backed into a corner and that I had to take everyone’s advice, I did stay in ND, I did finish my degree program, and I did get my piece of paper. But afterward, all I heard from those same people was that now I had to stay in ND and get a “high-paying geology job” and “use my degree” so that I could be responsible, take care of myself, and pay my bills.

I get it, I really do. As I now know from my adult experience as well as my research on the subject, the scarcity mindset is primarily developed from lack of financial abundance and resources. These people who were giving me this advice had learned themselves that they could not be creative, that they could not have fun, and that they had to be boring and logical to get a steady, high-paying job to pay their bills and be responsible adults. Similar to my viola teacher from PSU, these people had thought they were giving me kindly advice and words of wisdom to help me live a better life, but in fact, they were just telling me their own story of misfortune, not mine.

Going back to the people who did not support my decision to quit my degree program in ND, I understand that too. I understand that these people thought they were being loving, supportive, and helpful, by pushing me to finish what I had started and helping me be accountable to my end-goal of getting my master’s degree in science.

However, both of the above events were very detrimental to my health and well-being. This was a really hard time in my life, and I don’t feel that I received proper love, encouragement, or support from the people in my network. Also, I feel disappointed that most people didn’t even want to hear about my hard time, instead just wanting to be surface level friends. I have always done my best to be a “hard times friend,” so I felt hurt and let down when that favor was not returned.

Furthermore, I felt that the people who encouraged me to stay in ND afterward to pursue a high-paying geology job only cared about finances and financial well-being, at the expense of mentality, emotions, and physical well-being. I felt that they did not really understand me, my needs, my wants, or my desires, because they were just pushing me to continue on a path that I hated, which was not right for me, and which was making me have an autoimmune illness (lupus).

As a result, I felt lonely and like I didn’t have anyone to turn to during hard times that really cared about me and my well being. It caused me to withdraw from my network in isolation, because I didn’t trust others anymore. I began to lose faith in humanity and started grinding my teeth at night.

I felt that the people giving me this advice clearly didn’t know what was best for me, but that they were pushing their advice on me anyway and telling me that their way was valid and that my way was invalid. I felt that they were just saying that in order to be considered a valid adult, I had to be boring and logical and get a steady, high-paying job that I hated, just to pay my bills, just so that I would have a secure financial future, at the expense of my happiness and joy. I felt that they were telling me that it was valid to be logical and scientific, but invalid to be emotional and creative. I felt like my voice didn’t matter, my decisions and opinions were not good enough, and that I needed to change myself and my entire way of being to fit in with everyone and gain everyone’s approval.

However, now I know that this was wrong. There are many people who have become very wealthy and very successful being creative and following their passions. There are also many wealthy people who are silly and fun and who are also very successful in their businesses. And I will be one of them.

Not to mention, I deserve a network of people who support me in my decisions, regardless of the path that I choose to take and regardless of what I choose to do with my life and my time. The right people support my decisions to be creative and pursue a life filled with music, writing, fun, and laughter. I believe that I can have it all, and I deserve relationships with people who also believe that I can have it all.

By the way, I eventually did reconcile myself with the life that I wanted. I started by playing the piano again when I lived in Nevada, and after I moved back home to Boston I joined several orchestras and got back into playing my viola. Even though it was a lot of work to overcome my toxic music school experience, it was worth it because I now very much enjoy playing my viola again and I even very much enjoy performing for other people.

Also, I now work at Starbucks and I’m pursuing being a writer. Go me 🙂

Anyway, that was my withhold. Thank you for listening to me and for giving me the opportunity to share myself authentically and vulnerably. I am excited for my future of business, creativity, fun, passion, and wealth, and I will be successful in my life just by being my true and authentic self. I hope that you will decide to honor me, respect me, and support me in all of my future endeavors, regardless of what they may be.

 

Values-Based Decisions

One of the things I have struggled with for pretty much my whole life has been authenticity and strength of will. One reason for this is that I am very open-minded to other people, other ways of life, and other cultures… perhaps too open-minded. In many of my travels, I have encountered people and ways of life that I learned from; then, I have adopted many conflicting beliefs and values into my life as a result. This resulted in a gargantuan amount of confusion that I have been trying to sort out for the past year or so.

The other reason is that for most of my life, I have felt pressured to change myself to please other people. Even to this day, I struggle with sharing myself, my beliefs, and my opinions with others. I’m afraid that other people will laugh at me, tell me that I’m stupid, and say that I’m completely wrong and that in order to be valid, I have to switch over and agree with them/their method/their viewpoint. Therefore for most of my life, I have changed myself, my personality, and my beliefs/values to fit in and be accepted by others.

In one of my online courses, I am studying the chakras and learning how to balance them. This past week, we defined our top values, so as to balance our solar plexus chakras. I had a really hard time with this exercise, based on my past, but I came up with the following for my top values:

1) Individuality/Uniqueness

I believe strongly in the individual. I believe that everyone should have the opportunity to be different, be authentic, be themselves, and be accepted for doing so. People should be honest about their truths and share themselves vulnerably with others, so as to receive emotional support back.

2) Intelligence

I really enjoy both the learning and the application parts of knowledge. Researching, studying new information, looking deep within myself, and then growing myself. I also enjoy using the new information to do critical thinking, problem solving, and planning. Change means making a smart decision and then taking action!

3) Creativity/Fun

I am a very creative person because I play two instruments and write. Not only that, but I love coming up with creative ideas and solutions to think outside of the box.

4) Love of all people

Not only do I love all people based on their individuality and uniqueness, as well as their special skillsets and talents, but also I advocate for equal rights of all people and equality in friendships/relationships. I believe that friendship is the best kind of relationship because it is equal in definition.

Furthermore, I am a very loyal friend. I will stick by anyone who does me a kind favor, especially when I am having a very rough time. I will also pay it forward and do my best to help others whenever I can.

5) Personal Accomplishment

I have many dreams and ambitions, both personal and professional. To me, success means accomplishing my goals, achieving some measure of financial success in my businesses, and working hard with grit and endurance.

6) Health and Self-Care

I am very much into healthy living and self-care in all areas (physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, financial, and tasks/chores/responsibilities). I want to be successful in my life at the same time as taking good care of myself. Never sacrificing one for the other.

 

So the secret to having a strong will is to live completely by your values system. Every decision that you make should be made by your values.

Here are some decisions I’ve made recently:

  1. Leaving my old business to build my new business
  2. “Getting back together” with my mentor

I decided to leave my old business opportunity because I didn’t feel that it was authentic to me. Now, I can clearly see why. In that business model, uniformity was valued so that you could “duplicate” your business into a large-scale model. That meant that there was no room for individuality, uniqueness, or creativity. Not only that, but they were big on “submission” and “following the established process,” which meant that neither intelligence nor equal relationships were valued. Finally, many people who built that business to a successful level did so by sacrificing their health, as well as other important things like family and relationships. The only thing that I did value that they valued also was in the area of personal accomplishment, but even that was not entirely the same because I want to be personally accomplished specifically in the fields of writing and music.

So, leaving the business was the right decision, though it was a very hard decision to make. I now know that I am better off on my new path of online teaching and course creation. My new pathway agrees with all of my values. My offering is unique and showcases my individuality. The process involves me using both my intelligence and creativity to make my online course. I can love on all types of people with my product, as well as be personally accomplished. I can still prioritize my health and self-care as I am becoming successful, and there is nobody there to pressure me into feeling bad about that decision.

Now, clearly from my last two posts, I was struggling hard-core with leaving my mentor. I just was not happy with that decision and I didn’t know why. I actually have a really good understanding of it now though. I couldn’t, in good conscience, leave a really good person who had been there to help me during one of the lowest points in my life. Someone who had invested so much time into me and helped me completely recalibrate my life and my relationships. Someone who had poured belief into me even when nobody else did. I just couldn’t do it. It felt very disloyal and against my values.

Luckily, he and I were able to chat about what had happened. Turns out, there was a pretty large miscommunication and we were able to sort everything out to be friends. We have talked pretty much every day from the time we made that decision, and I literally feel so much better and so much more at ease.

He doesn’t know this yet, but I’m planning a way to give back to him in the future to show my loyalty and gratitude for what he has done for me and my life. I don’t have all the details sorted out yet, but I’m hoping it will make him really happy. Because that’s all I want.

I Deserve Better

In the past couple of days, I have made great strides in overcoming my “breakup.” I have to say “breakup,” with quotation marks, because this was not a romantic relationship. Rather, I’m referring to my relationship with my former mentor. Even though there was no romantic interest or romance involved, I found the end to this relationship to be even more devastating than the end to any of my previous romantic relationships. Here’s why.

Before, I had talked about how I felt like I didn’t fit into the culture of my old organization, nor did I feel like the business model was right for me. All of this was true. However, even though I felt that way, I couldn’t bring myself to leave the organization because of my mentor.

For the majority of my life, I had prayed to meet someone who would want to listen to me talk about my feelings, thoughts, and ideas all the time. I prayed for someone who would not only eagerly listen to me, but who would then go on to support me, comfort me, and offer me sage advice that I could then use to improve my life.

My mentor was that person for me.

Not only that, but I truly enjoyed his company. We both shared a love of music, writing, and creativity. We both shared the same sense of humor and jokes. We both cared about overcoming, healing, and making a difference in our own lives so that we could go out there and make a difference in the lives of others. We both wanted to do something great with our lives and achieve lasting greatness, legacy, and impact.

But mainly, I enjoyed his spirit. I have never met anyone who was more giving, selfless, and kind. I have never met anyone who was more gentle, caring, and understanding. I have never met anyone whose presence was so calming, soothing, and peaceful. And I have certainly never met anyone with so many great relationships across the board (spouse, children, family, friends, mentors, mentees).

Yet I didn’t want to stay in the organization, and I knew it. But I also knew that if I left, that would change everything about the relationship. Because I was dealing with re-establishing myself in the music scene in MA, growing my music studio and my monthly income, as well as becoming aware of deep trauma that had occurred in my early childhood, at the time I was not prepared to lose the one source of stability that I had in my life.

I had already lost the other source of stability I had in my life – his wife. To be fair, I had tried very hard to become great friends with her. One of my strengths is that I am very skilled at building new relationships with others, but she was always resistant and unreceptive to building a good relationship with me. She didn’t like my method of building relationships, but when I asked her for feedback, she was unable to provide me with a different way. She always discouraged me to share myself with her, didn’t want to share herself back with me, and didn’t want to help me through any of my struggles. Eventually, she told me that she just didn’t want to communicate with me until I had completely resolved my struggles. So she turned out to be a Fair Weather Friend who had abandoned me in my time of need, not a Hard Times Friend who stuck it out, and therefore I lost the motivation to work on our relationship.

Anyway, for many months I struggled through all of the multifarious issues that I faced at the time. I had a lot on my plate, and I was unable to take on any more. I needed to remove something, stat. Yet due to the magnitude and scope of everything I was dealing with, my difficulty managing negative emotions in conflicts, and my propensity towards an aggressive, rather than assertive communication style, much of my anger and overwhelmed feelings were projected onto my mentor. Not only that, but I was constantly being triggered back into scarcity mindset because I feared that leaving the organization meant losing the relationship; also, I was triggered because the submissive style of the mentor/mentee relationship reminded me of the toxic and abusive relationships from my past.

Yet despite my anger, attacks, and demands, most of which I was unaware of doing (in scarcity mindset, that’s a normal way of talking when you’re upset), he did not tell me that I was hurting him and/or draining him of energy every time I was triggered and slipped back into scarcity mindset. Instead, what happened was that I kept calling meetings that were designed to discuss something that would remove an item from my emotional plate and free up my capacity, for example my thoughts about whether or not to leave the organization. Then, he would derail the meeting to try to teach me about handling conflict correctly in relationships, or tell me that it was my responsibility to make a decision to abruptly change my mindset from scarcity back into abundance (It’s not possible to make a decision like that in scarcity – that’s an abundance trait. Changing the mindset back from scarcity to abundance takes a LOT of effort and work). I would become annoyed that my meeting was being derailed and my time wasted, because with his hectic schedule, meetings don’t grow on trees. Then I would have to wait another week or two for another meeting, where the same thing would happen, so I was getting very frustrated and annoyed that no progress was being made over months. This only served to worsen my anxiety about the relationship.

Eventually, I figured out that he kept derailing the meetings because I was hurting him. Once I asked him if this was true, then he started being more forthcoming about how he felt. Yet, as part of the mentor/mentee relationship setup, mentors are discouraged from sharing their emotions and hurt feelings with their mentees. Yet, I would have responded QUITE differently to him if he had just told me the truth. The last thing I wanted was to hurt the person I cared about most, so I would have done anything to make amends and fix it.

After awhile, he got tired of our unproductive meetings, as well. But instead of having an honest conversation with me about it and working with me to fix the problem, he just avoided scheduling any more meetings with me and did not explain to me what was going on. Again, this only served to worsen my anxiety.

Around this time, I had made a decision to leave the organization. I was working on extricating myself from the different forums, events, etc. and had scheduled my membership cancellations. I was starting to research alternative methods of achieving my business goals.

At this point, I felt that the relationship with my mentor was in serious jeopardy, but he blew off every single request I made for a meeting. Not only that, but he responded to my messages way less frequently, as well as reneged on his promise to help me with my anxiety and emotional struggles. He started classifying my mindset every time I spoke to him and put me into an “abundance” bucket vs “scarcity” bucket; from there, he would refuse to take me seriously whenever I was in scarcity. He started saying, just like his wife had, that it wasn’t his role to help me with transitioning my scarcity mindset back into abundance mindset and that I needed to go to therapy before we could have a good relationship. Yet whenever I called him out that he was also abandoning me in my time of emotional need, just like his wife had, then he would get defensive and say that I was being “unfair,” and that that was not what was happening.

For awhile, we were trying to repurpose our relationship from mentor/mentee into friend/friend. However, we were advised from multiple people who had tried to help us that it would never work. I wanted friendship, equality, and emotional support, and he wanted to push me hard to overcome my past and become successful to share my story onstage. Even though I had told him that I was leaving the organization and had no plans to return, he thought I just “didn’t understand” his perspective and that I would “change my mind” later on. Yet I did understand, and he didn’t accept or acknowledge that.

Finally, a few weeks ago, he stopped responding to my messages completely. Like his wife, he had made the decision to become a Fair Weather Friend. Unlike his wife, he had not made his position clear. For someone who had always told me that my communication was not very good, his was quite lacking as well. At least I made an effort to clearly state what I needed and where I was at with the relationship, which he did not.

For weeks (months), I have been mourning what I knew was the inevitable loss of this relationship. I have been eating chocolate, buying the huge cookies at Barnes and Noble, watching romantic comedies, and singing/playing breakup songs. But yesterday something dawned on me that would completely change my focus:

I deserve better.

That’s right! I deserve better. Even though my former mentor is a wonderful person who did so much to help me, and who wanted so badly to see me succeed, I deserve to be treated with love and respect ALL of the time, not just some of the time.

This is what I deserve:

1. I deserve to be treated as an equal in a relationship.

I am not a fan of the mentor/mentee submissive type of relationship, and I never will be. I deserve equality. I deserve to be involved in making decisions about the relationship, not kept in the dark about decisions that he made by himself that affect me. Not only that, but my opinions and ideas should not be rejected merely because I lack the exact same 20 years of experience in the field. Everyone’s opinions and ideas deserve respect, because not everyone knows everything and people have different skill sets, talents, and perspectives that they bring to the table. Finally, my healing journey is my business and mine alone. I don’t have to take anyone’s suggestions that I go to therapy, because I have my own healing method that I prefer (and which works better for me than therapy).

2. I deserve to be loved and accepted for where I’m at.

It is inappropriate, not to mention unrealistic, to expect that you can just “hand someone over” to a therapist and immediately have a mindset problem “fixed.” Healing takes time, and therapy is not for everyone. With this attitude, he and his wife made me feel like there was something eternally wrong with me, that I was damaged goods, and that I was unworthy of associating with them. They made me feel like I had to “fix myself” before I would be worthy of their relationship.

Not only that, but they completely disregarded and did not recognize any of the growth or progress that I made in overcoming negative emotions and handling conflict. They kept telling me to change, work on, and improve those things, but then they didn’t even notice when I did.

3. I deserve to be respected for where I’m at.

Even if I slip back into scarcity mindset temporarily, I still deserve respect. People should not be classifying me into a “scarcity” vs “abundance” buckets and then deciding whether or not to take me, and the things I say, seriously.

4. I deserve Hard Times Friends, not Fair Weather Friends.

Part of friendship means helping people when they are not strong, not abandoning them until they are “fixed” or “healed.”

5. I deserve someone who wold prioritize an important phone call in their busy schedule when our relationship is in jeopardy.

Enough said.

6. I deserve someone who would take responsibility and ownership for the things that he did to contribute to the problem, instead of completely blaming the problem on me, my shortcomings, and my circumstances.

I tried many times to explain to him the things that he did that caused me anxiety, but he didn’t take me seriously and accused me of blaming him for my anxiety. The things that he did included, but were not limited to: sparse and inconsistent responses to my messages, taking a long time (or refusing) to set up meetings, derailing my meetings, not taking action to solve our relationship problems, not treating me like an equal, not respecting me while in scarcity mindset, and not being honest with me about his feelings.

I deserve a relationship where the other person is equally invested in fixing the problems. Someone who would understand and see his part of the problem, think of solutions, and work to compromise and correct the issue. Someone who would apologize for what he did wrong and then work to make amends with me.

7. I deserve someone who is able to be vulnerable enough to tell me that I’ve hurt him, or that I’ve drained him of energy, and tells me directly what he needs from me.

I’m not a mind reader. I can get pretty close to mind-reading when I talk to someone on the phone or in person, but it is damned near impossible via text or online. I constantly felt like he expected me to read his mind and understand what he was thinking and feeling, instead of doing the work himself, being vulnerable, and sharing his heart. Instead of just simply sharing his point of view, I always felt like I had to complete a full-on scavenger hunt through his messages for clues, and then spend hours piecing it all together into a point of view that I didn’t even know whether or not would be accurate. This was not something I even had the ability to do when I was in the depths of limited capacity and scarcity mindset.

 

So that’s it! I deserve better, and I am looking forward to finding better in the future.

 

Presence

The other day, I was walking through Barnes and Noble when I felt a Spiritual Intuition. I followed the feeling, letting it guide me around the store, not sure where it was taking me. Suddenly, I found myself standing in front of the journals section.

I picked up journal after journal, trying to figure out what I was supposed to do, see, or find. At last, I found it: the Mindfulness Journal.

Intrigued, I picked it up and brought it home with me. I am so glad I did!

For some time now, I have felt unable to be present in The Moment. My mind always seems to be preoccupied with something or other, whether it’s planning for the future, thinking about the past, thinking about current issues, etc. I find that I am often too distracted, too weighed down, and too overwhelmed by life’s demands in the Big Picture, to have fun and be present in The Moment.

This might seem a bit strange, because for those of you who have known me awhile, you’ll remember that I used to be extremely present in The Moment. I used to be very present, very able to enjoy myself, very spontaneous, and very able to relax.

All of that changed once I finished school and needed to find a job. Suddenly, I had to worry about long-term and short-term finances, errands, chores, to-do lists, cleaning, and administrative work. I had to worry about being early, commuting, and traffic patterns. I had to worry about eating healthy and meal-prepping. Not to mention, I had to worry about all the components of proper self-care, including physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health.

As someone who eternally struggled with time management and planning, I really did not like this aspect of adult life. Yet I realized that my poor time management skills and poor planning skills needed to change, because they resulted in me being eternally late for every appointment and they resulted in tasks continually falling through the cracks because I couldn’t do everything by myself.

These days, I am proud to say that I have Become a Master of Time Management. Yet in spite of that, I feel that I need to elevate my standard of mastery in this area even higher. I need to master time management even further, such that I can both take care of myself and my responsibilities, as well as relax and enjoy the moment.

This insight came directly from following the prompts in the Mindfulness Journal. The first exercise it had me do was to turn off my phone (!) and other devices (!!) for 1 hour. Then I had to write down everything I had observed.

The results were so startling!! I took a walk in my neighborhood. I noticed businesses, shops, and boutiques that I had never seen before (despite passing by them literally every day). Without my iPod on, I noticed the sounds of the birds chirping and the cars whizzing past. When I went to CVS, I actually browsed the store and saw what was there, aside from the item that I needed. I even was present while I was waiting in the checkout line.

Takeaway #1: Technology is VERY distracting. I am going to start putting my devices on airplane mode in the morning until I actually need to interact with other people.

Next, the Mindfulness Journal told me to observe and describe a moment that I was fully present. I chose to do this at my last orchestra concert.

Again, I was only “mindful” for about 1 hour for the first half of the concert. I was again very startled at the results of this experiment.

This time, I didn’t just notice things like the fact that I was extremely focused in playing my part of the music, that I was actually playing to the audience, that I was actually enjoying how the whole thing sounded overall, and that my concentration was so much better that it had reduced 98% of my playing errors. This time, I noticed and was aware every time my mind started to wander.

What did I think about in that hour? A whole wide range of topics:

  • How I didn’t have work the next day so I didn’t need to think about preparing for that.
  • The chores I needed to do this weekend.
  • Summer finances.
  • My recent “breakup.”
  • My life in Nevada (my old apartment, sunshine, warmth, my friends there, Trader Joe’s) (??? wtf lol)
  • How I “suck” at time management and how I don’t respect myself because I don’t follow my own schedules.
  • How maybe I should be more In The Moment, because I do want to be fun, creative, and carefree, and words really do matter. Do I really need to focus on body language as much??
  • If I change myself again (change myself back), then I don’t know what personality type my future husband will have.

!!! Wow. That’s all I have to say.

Takeaway #2: I don’t think I even knew that I spent so much time thinking about all these different things, but apparently things like that run through my head all the time and I don’t even notice.

No wonder my ear lost its hearing.

Anyway, after that experiment was over, I had a weekend of very deep thought and planning. I did my grocery shopping at Trader Joe’s instead of Wegman’s, and I discovered that it’s a lot less expensive and it has my fruits and nuts mixture that I realized I had missed. I tweaked my schedule to include more flexibility and relaxation time. One of the main reasons I didn’t like following my own schedules is that by nature, I’m a spontaneous person, and I don’t like feeling over-structured. I decided to have my morning and work routine be structured, but then have my evenings always be relaxed and spontaneous. I also added time on the weekends to plan for variances in my schedule in the coming week, so I can accommodate for them and not have things fall through the cracks. Finally, I added time each day where I can just think about my feelings and emotions. Maybe now, with better planning and strategy, I will be able to be more present.

Managing Negative Emotions: A Breakthrough and A Realization

Guys, today was a super important day in my life. Not only did I just have a HUGE breakthrough, but I also had a really important realization as well.

The Breakthrough
For many months now, I have been working on the way that I process and manage negative emotions. I have been trying to learn how to do it in a more effective manner. Due to my personality type (bossy controlling impatient domineering choleric, efficient, and leading), I have always had trouble maintaining mutual respect in disagreements. With my ability to be frank, direct, and to-the-point, I would immediately enter into attack mode in a disagreement and give the other person a piece of my mind whenever I felt hurt, unloved, disrespected, attacked, and/or criticized. Unfortunately, the anger and the emotional haze I felt would frequently result in very harsh feedback that would sound hurtful, unloving, disrespectful, attacking, and criticizing to the recipient. (Interestingly, I subconsciously made the other person feel as terrible as I felt in the conflict).

I always wondered why we were never taught in school how to manage negative emotions correctly. Along with “Money 101: The Skinny on Budgeting and Finances,” “How to Avoid Getting Scammed in Legal Contract Writing,” and “How to Actually Earn Money in this Sh*t Economy,” the courses titled “Loving People Through Conflict” and “Managing Negative Emotions Correctly” were noticeably absent from the curriculum. If these topics were actually taught to people in school, there would be a lot less A) alcoholics, B) drug addicts, C) people who eat their feelings, D) people who don’t eat their feelings, and E) people who don’t f*ck up all their relationships from needing to release their anger. Among other things.

Not only were we not taught how to manage negative emotions correctly in school, but it didn’t seem like anyone else knew how to do it either. Until I met my mentors in my former program, I didn’t know a single person who could actually manage their negative emotions correctly or who could love someone else through a conflict.

In my research on this subject, including some books and online courses, I have already learned some invaluable information about how to overcome these negative emotions.

Step #1: Release the emotion

For me, I have thought of several ways to do this that do not involve lashing out in anger at an actual person:

  • The best way is definitely critical thinking, if you have time to do it. This process can take anywhere from 30 minute to 2 hours depending on the complexity of the emotions involved. More often than not, it’s just not feasible to exit a conversation for that long.
  • For smaller amounts of time, depending on if you can, you can do some strength training, power walking, yoga, etc. Again, this is not always feasible due to your location and weather, as well as timing.
  • Another location-dependent one for me is playing piano. This one really helps me (but, I need a piano handy).
  • If you can take a 5-15 minute breather from the conversation, what works best is to b*tch it out by yourself. Either speak into thin air or write it down, but let the person have it (although, they will not be there to receive it).
  • For on-the-spot treatment, I’ve found the best way is to carry squishy desk ornaments in my purse. It feels GREAT to dig my nails into them when I’m pissed off. If I’m at home, I then start using my Chinese stress balls to relax. This can be done mid-conversation if necessary. Then I take some deep breaths, work to calm my facial muscles, calm my throat, and try to have empathy.

Step #2: Understand the Emotion

  • Again, critical thinking is by far the best. I would marry it if I could.
  • Have index cards handy that have your patterns laid out in front of you. Instead of becoming angry, demanding, and controlling next, what do you really want? What need are you trying to have met? How else can you meet it?

For me, when I become angry, demanding, and controlling, usually it’s because I feel unloved and I need emotional attention. I can meet that need myself by 1) talking to God and the Universe, or 2) writing in this blog (which do you think I picked today? lol).

  • Just think about it. Why are you so upset right now? What is this triggering? What does this remind you of from your past?

 

Today, I am very proud of myself for what I accomplished. I was having a conversation over text where I became upset. Because I was at home, I practiced piano and released my anger. As I was practicing, I started thinking my way through the emotion. I started asking myself, “Ok. WHY am I so upset right now? What is this reminding me of?”

And then I had my answer. I responded to the person in a very calm and respectful way. Then I filled my own love tank by writing in this blog 🙂

My whole processing time for the negative emotions and the response was 30 minutes. Progress over perfection! This small victory only added on to my really important realization earlier in the day.

The Realization
Not only did I not know how to process and manage my negative emotions in the context of conflict situations, but also I would have the same problem when I would deal with very strong emotions by myself in dealing with anxiety and panic.

As mentioned above, my primary need to fill my love tank is emotional attention. What I would do in the past was just dump my emotional load on anybody and everybody who would listen, with no warning or no consideration for what they were doing. All I could think about was that I FELT horrible, and I just needed someone else to listen to me so that I would feel better.

Understandably, most people became so tired of this that they stopped talking to me and stopped offering to give me emotional support. I drew the conclusion that all people sucked, didn’t want to give emotional support, and didn’t value vulnerability and authenticity in relationships.

The issue with this was not that I wanted to share myself with others. It was not that I was being vulnerable and authentic. It was just that I was sharing myself with no consideration for others, therefore making others feel like I was using them for emotional attention.

I have since learned not to use people as an emotional dumping ground. Now, I see emotional sharing as a negative deposit in the relationship, because it is something that I want to gain from the relationship instead of something that I am giving to the relationship. The only way to have a good relationship is to give more than you receive back. I have begun investing more of myself in my relationships in general to really show people that I care about them. The emotional sharing conversation itself has to be built in a mutual manner to the point where the timing is right and the other person will be receptive to hearing about the emotional pain. This is the right way to go about emotional sharing and support.

Not only that, but I have realized that most people actually DO value vulnerability and authenticity in a relationship. In fact, most people PREFER their friends and family to be vulnerable and authentic. It’s just, the sharing has to be done in the right way for it to work.

I no longer have to stay silent on issues that bother me or hurt me so as not to offend or disrespect anybody. I no longer have to feel isolated and alone. I no longer have to pretend that I’m ok when I’m totally not. I am SO GLAD that I had this realization.