At a party a dear friend suddenly climbed into me about a topic on which we usually respectfully disagree. I was quite shocked.
At first I tried to engage with him and make him aware of what he was doing – but consciousness evaded him for that moment. I think maybe something had triggered him earlier and he was responding to that. He wasn’t really seeing me.
Sound familiar, parent?
As I sat there preached at and unheard, I flip-flopped through a variety of states. First I was shocked. He was trying to make me conform to his way and telling me I should be doing different because that would ease his discomfort.
Then as his message started to seep in I became uncomfortable, then reeeaally angry. Then I felt overwhelmed and helpless and wanted to cry.
I was sitting while he stood above me and I had to stop myself standing up, puffing up my insecure adolescent self, and getting right in his face with the whole, “$%#*@ you buddy. Who do you think you are?!” routine.
I was SEETHING on that chair but at the same time I was using all I had to stop myself crumpling and wailing loudly, mouth open, snot flowing, like a little girl – I don’t know about you, but I’m not so keen on going that route at a social function.
My wise self was observing all this with a somewhat pleased look, “Watch closely and learn, my dear” she told me. So I sat still and observed the whole inner circus – less because I’m so spiritually advanced and more because there were just so many mixed signals going on inside me that I could only sit there gazing at my oddly-behaving loved one in wonder and confusion.
My man witnessed the whole thing. When the tirade had ended he looked at me with a wry smile. He asked me quietly, “Are you angry?” and a nervous giggle bubbled from him as he saw the fire in my eyes. “You have NO idea the storm I’m holding in right now.” I told him.
I was stirred up. And it stirred and stirred and STIRRED for days.
So the famous questions when you have a big reaction to something:
- Are these feelings familiar?
- How old do I feel in these feelings?
- What memories come up connected to that age and these feelings?
- What did I need then that I can give myself now?
Well, in short, this hooked me at three angles. First the topic we disagree on is emotionally loaded from my childhood. Second, someone important to me was sternly telling me what to do and how to behave. Third, I had a loved one standing tall over me wagging a finger at me and telling me my efforts were not good enough.
“Why would he say it if it wasn’t true?” a child will ask. A child can’t see that it’s not about her. My reactions showed me what I believed when I was small. That I was powerless. That my opinions didn’t matter when they differed from my loved ones’. That it must be true that my best efforts were not good enough.
Now I’m big, I know what they said had more to do with whatever drama was unfolding in their own head than anything about me. Just like my friend the other day.
It’s been a very precious experience to see all this and give myself the reassurance that I’m allowed to have my own opinions even if they differ from my loved ones. That I’m safe and important enough to be heard. And of course, that I am good enough – whatever ‘they’ may say.
I’m so grateful for that huge trigger because it unearthed these deeply held beliefs I had – and now I can do different.
Since then things have happened which used to trigger me, but now they don’t.
We don’t have to live shackled to our past. Now that we are big, we get to choose what we believe.
I believe in love, healing and transformation. How about you?