I grew up in an era that encouraged women to be thin, nice, and quiet. Men, in turn, were expected to be protective, invested in work, and speak for the women in their lives. I am SO glad that times have changed. But have they? How much do we still attempt to people-please instead of have the courage and freedom to stand for what we actually feel to be real and true?
How much can we ride on our desire to live authentically? My life is about being authentic, or so I think, but in fact it is a process and not a decision. Deeper rivers of discontent so easily break through to reveal a side of me that I would rather not show others. For example, when I am extremely fatigued, or feeling dis-respected for any reason. Then a disquieting resentment comes through loud and clear.
It is not because I want to be resentful, but because I have a feeling that somewhere I have decided that it is not OK to have the feeling, and yet the deeper emotion emerges. I know how it feels in my body; angry, uptight, quiet...but that is not what I would wish to express in a perfect world. Instead I have shut down and shut off the authenticity of my experience along with the willingness to speak it.
Often our negative voices are self-sabotaging. We don't feel safe to speak in the moment, but then the inner critic grows stronger. Or worse, we start to believe that the problem lies with us instead of the relationship that stirred our discontent.
The answer? There is no easy answer, but a good start would be to notice how, when we don't speak up about how we feel (my example of needing appreciation but receiving criticism) in the body. what is happening in the present to close off the breath, tighten the diaphragm, go inward with that scowl upon the brow, and make a decision to recognize the impact this has. The body is speaking to you if you would only listen, and this inner listening is and opportunity to respond in a less reactive way. We could then choose to do something really dangerous to the protected ego, and share how it feels to receive the criticism.
The profound work of Marshall Rosenberg (Non-Violent Communication) is hands-down the best work I have ever done on learning to be more self-compassionate and empathetic. It begins with the awareness of how we so quickly go into a mental thought and evaluation of the communication that has just transpired, and to instead find a way to listen to the feeling and the unmet need that was hanging in the air. A need for appreciation and to be heard is a far better choice than to feel "dis-respected (an evaluation) and then to internalize that whole affair in our resultant silence. The true vulnerability here is to acknowledge the unmet need, and offer it to ourselves if the other person cannot get there quite yet.
Go out and buy Non-Violent Communication, and maybe start a group where you go through the material together. I worked with six other people for more than two years, and the work slowly and consistently changed the way I process the more emotional aspects of my life. Then the body psychology can remain congruent with what I want, and in flow, a high value of mine.
I hope you liked this post. Please leave a comment and tell me what this brought up for you!