It’s been a while. I’m not sure why. Mostly, I just never felt like writing. I would think about you, desire to reach out, but not have anything novel to say. But, life is always changing and even a similar topic has unique nuances based on the situation in the present. We are in a new phase of our life with COVID. For the first time in 14 months, I walked into the grocery store without my mask on. I had been out of town and out of the loop for a bit and didn’t realize the regulations in my town had changed to no longer requiring masks. I have been fully vaccinated and the sign said I didn’t have to wear a mask; I was free to go without one. I did not feel good about that. It was a challenge to tell myself it was ok. I felt anxiety about it. Would I be safe? The store was nearly empty at 7 am on Memorial Day so it really wasn’t a big deal. It’s interesting how we get used to things being a certain way and when that way is changed, we don’t like it, we feel uncomfortable.
I remember tears rising when most of the produce in the grocery store was gone in March 2020. I remember the anxiety that built over our rapidly changing accessibility to freedom, groceries, and toilet paper! We had to adapt to our new way of functioning and many of us did. Now, it’s time to shift to a new place. We are adaptable; it’s called neuroplasticity. It means that our brains are capable of changing long-held beliefs and patterns. We like to say, “This is just how I am” when confronted with the idea of change. Reality is you are saying, “This is how I want to stay. I don’t want to change.”
I wonder what you are confronting today that may require some willingness to change? Is it a relationship, a job, or perhaps a circumstance? Consider the neuroplasticity of your brain. Perhaps it’s time to allow it to happen. It’s not an easy process but it can be done. If you need a resource for this check out my workbook, the Journey Forward Workbook: Daily Steps to Achieve Emotional Balance and Healthier Relationships
Some might disagree with my title. That’s OK. I believe no matter what is happening to or around us, we can choose how we will respond. As we enter into a Presidential election here in the States, it’s easy to allow other’s words or actions dictate our words and actions. You have more power than that.
I like to start with breathing. Slow your breathing down. Let your exhale be longer than your inhale for a few breath cycles. Begin to notice what you are feeling emotionally and physically. Notice your thoughts. Allow the situation to just “be” without having to judge the situation or act on it. Just pause, breathe, and notice.
After a few minutes, consider if there is any action you still want to take. Standing up for something you believe in is healthy but not if it is meant to be intentionally hurtful to another. That’s retaliation. I generally don’t think retaliation comes from a centered, grounded place inside. I think of it as a reactionary way to hurt another because you believe they hurt you. If it’s retaliatory, go back through the breathing, non-judgmental, non-reactive, just be with it place. Give it some time. Perhaps you will change your mind and find a healthier step you choose to take.
This video, by Brene Brown is a quick and creative guide to how you can best show up for a friend in need. Click here and check it out!
We’ve been dealing with this pandemic for about five months. I wonder how you are doing? Are you enlisting self care? Are you giving space for your emotional experience?
When all of this first started it was scary for many of us. Our way of functioning was suddenly changed. We had to first deal with the shock of it. At this point in the journey I’m thinking you have found some stability within this unpredictable time. If you haven’t it might help to talk with a friend or mental health professional.
It might sound odd for me to put those two together: friend or mental health professional. I think our best support is found in stable friends. While I see my profession as valuable, I know friends are sometimes the best support. They are usually accessible 24/7. They don’t drain our bank account. They know us deeply (if we let them). Perhaps they have also walked similar roads and may know first hand the twists, turns and potholes along the way.
Sometimes we need the counsel of a professional. Our friends can guide us in that direction if the material we are dealing with is beyond their capability. Whatever you choose, be good to yourself and reach out to others to help you navigate this challenging road.
My heart is grieved. I see so much hate being thrown around on social media and in the news from Black Lives Matter to Anti-Mask protests and beyond. I’m pretty sure people on all sides of the issues are not stupid, wicked people. I think, for the most part, we are all scared and hurting in some way. Some fear the loss of control, “If I give in to the demand to wear a mask you’re going to just keep taking away my rights.” Some fear culpability, “If I say black lives matter, then I have to admit there is something inside of me that thought they didn’t or perhaps I am some how complicit in their oppression.” Some fear the loss of protection, “If you don’t wear a mask you might infect me.”
I think our hate for those on the other side of an issue comes from fear, anger or sadness. I think the fear, anger or sadness come from wounds from our distant or not so distant past. We were hurt in some way and now we let that hurt spew out on others. We were oppressed by another, we experienced hurt at the intentional or unintentional words or actions of another, we felt misunderstood, unheard, or not good enough to another. Something happened and the hate toward others started to take root and grow into something dark and hurtful inside. Left unhealed, we just repeat what was done to us, only we think we are justified some how. We’re not. We’re just as guilty as the person who hurt us. We are repeating the cycle.
We have this wonderful aspect to our humanity that enables us to change. We can look at ourselves, learn about the hurtful parts of us, heal the pain, and function in a kind, understanding way toward ourselves and others. This takes work. It takes humility and it’s worth it. I don’t say this from an “I’m all that” place but rather from knowing what it’s like to be the one hurting others, doing the hard work with others by my side to delve into the why, and find healing. I’m not always good at it but I try to see the other side. I try to understand where the other is coming from rather than demand I’m right and you’re wrong. It’s freeing, really it is. It feels so much better to put down my arsenal of attacks and listen instead. I don’t have to agree with you to listen and understand your view. Listening to you helps me soften. We might not end the conversation in agreement, but we will still be friends. Try it, you might find freedom if you do. 🙂
When the political, cultural and theological climates are marked with polar opposite views, hate begins spilling out of many of us. We think hate-filled thoughts about people who have different views. People use hate-filled language to express their dissent with another’s opinion. This is not beneficial to anyone. All it does is fuel the hate and does little to create change.
Let’s start with listening and acknowledging. Although this doesn’t necessarily stop the hate immediately, I believe deep and lasting change happens when we are willing to listen to where the other is coming from, when we listen to each other with the intent of hearing them and acknowledging their view. Sometimes we refuse to acknowledge what someone else is saying because we fear we are giving approval. Acknowledgment is not approval or agreement. It simply is saying, “You get to have the view you have. I do not get to decide that for you. I hear what you are saying.”
This is a place to begin bridging the gap whether you are talking about a marriage, a family, a community, a country, or the world. Just start here, “Let’s have a dialogue where you get to tell me your view, I’ll listen, I’ll acknowledge what you are saying and then you will do the same for me.” And that’s it. You may walk away from the conversation unsatisfied since you haven’t reached a solution yet, but that is down the road and can be too big of a goal to start with. You could be setting yourselves up for failure.
Some issues haven’t changed for generations. Although it would be best for all if we could get to some sort of workable agreement soon, that isn’t likely to happen in one conversation. So keep your goal reachable. Just listening to another person is a huge step. Adding the piece of acknowledging what they are saying is a grand goal for now.