I was pondering the struggle of a butterfly as it makes its way out of a chrysalis. I was thinking about the word for that and catharsis came into mind. That isn’t exactly the right fit but I was considering how important it is not to stop a person from releasing deep emotion; just like the butterfly who struggles to get out of the chrysalis. If we snip the chrysalis and free the butterfly it will drop to the ground, its wings useless. The struggle is what strengthens its wings and enables it to fly, a critical component to a butterfly’s life. If we do the same to a person, pluck them out of their internal struggle, they may not strengthen necessary parts within.
Catharsis involves a process to free oneself of profound emotion. If I say, “Oh you’re fine, just move on” or “Look at the bright side of life”, the person is being encouraged to ignore or push down his real emotional experience. There is power and freedom in allowing our emotions to rise to the surface and spill or even gush out of us. If we can do that with others who are willing to hold that emotion with us, the healing is exponential. The job of the holder is to be there, which communicates, “Yes, I see your pain. I will not ignore it. I will not tell you to ignore it. I’ll sit with you as you feel it. I’m here. You are seen and not alone.”
Sometimes people need words, some need silence. Some people need physical comfort, some don’t. As one who sits alongside another in her pain, ask how you can best support her in her pain. She will likely tell you. “Just be here with me.” “I need a hug.” “Tell me it’s ok to be so sad.”
Stay away from moving her to fix or solve her problem. She will either get there on her own as she allows her pain to be felt or she will ask for your help in what to do about the situation. If she doesn’t, at some point, after lots of tears, you may ask, “Would you like help figuring out what to do about this?” If the answer is no, accept the no and don’t press the issue. You can say, “If you ever want to talk about the pain or solutions, I’m here. Just ask.” If the answer is yes, search together for solutions. Avoid having all the answers. Let her explore, too. Even the searching for the next step is part of strengthening her wings.
For some, simply the experience of purging the emotion and being literally or figuratively held in that space is all he needs for healing. Some pain doesn’t need a solution or a next step, some simply needs to be felt and released. And sometimes that same pain comes back again, and needs to be released, again. It’s all a part of the healing process.
Sitting with someone in their pain is not easy. That’s why many of us avoid it or try to smooth it over so the person doesn’t make us uncomfortable. Press into that. What’s that about you that you avoid emotional pain? Maybe you have your own catharsis to experience!
Are there people in your life you wish knew what you were thinking so you didn’t have to tell them? You know, the annoying co-worker who talks incessantly while you are trying to get work done. You want him to be self-aware and know his behavior is not acceptable because you don’t want to have to be the one to tell him. Maybe you smile at him to his face and act interested in his monologue. He likely has no idea how you really feel or what you are thinking. You are sending a mixed message.
Being honest is so hard because it feels mean. So, instead of being honest we harbor resentments against people because we are afraid of their negative perception of us. We start to resent the person and this begins to eat at us. The resentment starts to fester and begins to leak out in passive-aggressive behavior: a nasty look, a yawn, not making eye contact. We don’t want to tell the person directly what is going on inside of us but somehow we accept these unkind acts to avoid being direct. This behavior doesn’t make sense.
The best action to take is to kindly tell the person what our experience is. With the annoying co-worker, tell him in a gentle tone that you need to get your work done and do not have time to listen to him. I cannot promise he won’t be hurt but he will likely stop talking and head back to his desk. He might not talk to you again, ever. He might send mixed or passive-aggressive messages to you. He might talk badly behind your back. Those are common responses that come from unhealthy places in him, not you. You did nothing hurtful or wrong by being honest.
We live in a culture that disagrees with my view. We live in a largely passive-aggressive, mixed-messages culture. I think we need to change this. Resentment does harm to our bodies and sucks out precious energy. Honesty brings freedom and you might just get your work done!
If you want to be truly free, you must let go of any attachment you have to how others respond to you. What?! Yes! If you do things in order to receive accolades, approval or acceptance, you are setting yourself up for an unhealthy bondage. You will never please others all the time. Your opinions and theirs don’t always match up. Your execution might not be what someone out there was thinking it should be. If other’s approval is your goal, you are doomed.
I’m not saying just go about your life doing whatever the hell you want without regard for how you might be affecting people around you. That’s called selfishness and I am not talking about that. I am talking about the part inside of us that is crushed when we don’t get any likes on our Facebook post, the part that gets gloomy because no one noticed the trendy outfit we’re wearing or our manicured lawn.
Many of us are motivated to do something so others will notice and that is misplaced motivation. It’s extrinsic. Healthy motivation comes from within. Sure, it feels good when others give us a compliment but that cannot be our marker for our achievement.
Set goals for yourself because it will feel good to you to achieve them. Wear the outfit because you feel awesome in it. Care for your lawn because that’s how you like it. When you notice you are doing something for the stamp of approval from others, stop. Pause for a moment. Recognize what you are doing. Remind yourself you are putting your sense of accomplishment into the hands of others. That is a place it was never meant to be. Take it back.
Just like you, I need to fill up my tanks. I need to enlist self care. Part of my self care is receiving encouragement and guidance from others. For the past few years I have been learning from Molly Mahar. She is a coach who offers a variety of online trainings. I appreciate her honest approach to life and tapping into all the amazing abilities we have. I could keep this to myself but I want to spread the word about Molly.
So often in our culture we hoard info and stuff for ourselves, fearful that if we share, someone might pass us on the ladder to success. I believe there’s lots of room on that ladder. We all have something to offer the world and I’m not going to stand in the way of another’s steps up the rungs. In fact, I’m going to help, even if it’s for someone who is farther ahead than I am or will pass me.
Oh sure! there’s a selfish part inside of me who wants to keep people down, but I don’t want to feed that part. That part is mean, self-centered and greedy. So I’m pushing past that and feeding the part that wants to embrace and share and love! There was a bit of bait from Molly: a contest for the ones who get the most people to sign up for her course. I’m more motivated by the desire to share Molly’s wisdom than winning a contest 🙂
I signed up for Molly’s Courage Council. If you’re interested in tackling your blocks to moving forward, take a look at Molly’s course. It starts September 11. Click here to find out more!
If you are like most of us, you have unhealthy relational skills. You learned them when you were little. You learned by observing others and maybe got some instruction from your parents and care givers; however, most of what you learned or figured out isn’t healthy. Think about the time your friend or spouse wouldn’t give you something you wanted. You were hurt by them, you shut down and stopped talking to them. This is the adult version of, “Fine! You can’t come to my Birthday party.” It may look different and sound different, but it’s still a five year old’s response to being disappointed or hurt by a friend.
Some things we learned are ultra damaging to ourselves and others. We may have learned to make everyone around us happy. We may have learned it’s our fault when they aren’t. As an adult you are now in relationships where you believe you can’t stand up for yourself or draw healthy boundaries because those actions will be mean to the other person. This belief is not accurate nor is it conducive to healthy relationships.
Take a look at how you function in relationships. If you’re honest, chances are you will see yourself taking some young and unhealthy actions. Get involved in a relationship skills class, read books on the subject or get help from a counselor. Life is too short to stumble along using immature skills in the most important part of life, relationships!
My favorite authors on healthy relationship skills are Drs John Townsend and Henry Cloud. They have a multitude of books, videos and workshops to help you grow up 🙂