Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Feeling, Better

Last week someone came at me. Not like a bear or crazed dog, a person.  And not even physically--though I really should take a self defense class--but verbally.

I looked for angry photos and this emerged and it
was way too funny NOT to use. Plus, in the heat of
the moment, I'm probably about this sane.
If it had been my work life it still would've sucked, but I get paid to deal with the occasional butthead. But this was in my personal life, so no paycheck to comfort me.  With some distance between me and that moment, I can see it wasn't actually about me at all. It was about fear of change
mostly, and a little about wanting to be in charge, both of which I totally understand.

I've been reading Brene Brown in book club. We're on our second, Rising Strong.  Brene is a shame researcher, who discovered early on that people who are able to deal with that emotion are people who embrace vulnerability. She was as excited about that news as I am. (If you haven't watched her TED talk you totally should. It's fascinating, and also if you want to feel pretentious you can name-drop TED in conversation. Here is the link.)

One of the first steps is identifying what you're feeling, acknowledging that, and trying to get down to the root of it. Am I mad, or am I really sad but mad feels safer? Am I embarrassed, and if so, is it because I failed or because I feel like I've been successfully projecting perfection and that image just face-planted on the sidewalk?

The concept is simple, but the action is not. In that moment I got as far as "I'm feeling angry and defensive. My face is hot, my body tensed, and I want to lash out." Then I stopped processing and just got pissy.

It was a few days before I was like, "Ugh, I should probably try to live wholeheartedly. Bleh." And a few more days before I was like, "Fine, fine. I'll explore the emotion" (said with more snark than eagerness.) And a few more days still before I'm finally doing it. These are the questions we're to ask:

What is the story I'm making up in my head about what that person thinks, how they feel, what they're going to do, and why?
What are my emotions?
What is my body feeling?
What am I thinking?
What beliefs about myself and/or others are driving the story/emotions/feelings/thoughts above?
What am I doing with all of it?

See? Not a fun process, but it gets at what the root of those situations is so those lies, or insecurities, or fears can be faced, maybe with a few safe people, instead of stockpiling hurt that never goes away.

It's super not easy, especially when immersed in a torrent of emotion, but yeah, I'd say its worth it. Because to protect myself from hurt would require I insulate from the good emotions too. You can't deaden one without losing the other.

Though sometimes a glass of wine and a good book are way more fun.


  1. Brene Brown's work is big for me. Her TED talk, along with her book The Gifts of Imperfection, were touchstones for me at a turning point in my life. I often used her idea of having a DIG deep button (an acronym!) as I mustered the sustained willpower to move from Atlanta to Seattle. I made the move in search of a living arrangement that allows me to be gentle with myself, which is another notion I picked up from her.

  2. That's awesome, Dan! Good for you. Her research and how she makes it so accessible is amazing

  3. You are delving into truths way beyond your years, bravo! I'm going to look up that TED episode it sounds point on; to deal with it, expose it to the scrutiny you listed, break the power the emotion has over me, and file it under resolved. If only I could remember to do that before I feel like a victim.

  4. Right, Jan? She's got amazing insights! Remembering to do it is the hard part :-)

  5. Also, Jan, the word "here" above is a link to the talk