Our experiences

We’ve all heard the old adage “there’s three sides to any story, your side, my side and the truth”. This is true because of how we move through experiences, and what we look for as we move through them. When this becomes exceptionally difficult is when our experience differs from that of someone that we truly care about.

Take a mother and a daughter. The daughter says, “I feel like the middle child”. The mother has worked vigorously to make all of her children’s experiences different than her own, especially to make them all feel loved and worthy. When mom hears this she feels a kaleidoscope of failure, betrayal, and hurt feelings. So the mom says, “I don’t know why you would feel that way”. This seems like such a simple statement. “I don’t know why you would feel that way”. Unfortunately it isn’t that simple. The reason it isn’t that simple is it steals the daughter’s experience. Without asking “what is going on that you feel that way?” (notice I didn’t use the word Why), it is automatically assumed that there is no justifiable reason to feel that way, because in the mom’s experience she has worked tooth and nail to make sure her children have had an amazing childhood that is completely different from her own traumatic experience. When the children aren’t falling over themselves with gratitude that they haven’t been traumatized and abused, mom struggles to understand their lack of loving kindness.

The big difference is that the kids have never experienced the trauma or difficulties mom experienced, so they don’t know what they are missing to be grateful for. While daughter’s experience may be mountains better than mom’s, she has never experienced the difficulty mom went through, so she has no reference point. Different experiences, different points of view.

I have discussed before viewing the world through the lenses of our experiences. This means that I can see a view that you can’t because you’ve never experienced life through my eyes. What this also means though, is that you don’t get to take my experience from me. What I see, what I go through in the moment, goes through the lens of my experience. If is truly mine, and mine only. You may be able to give me an alternative view-point and different experience, but you aren’t able to take my experience from me.

In arguments I have personally learned to use the words “that wasn’t my experience”. Instead of saying “You’re wrong, that wasn’t what happened” I change it to “that wasn’t what happened through my eyes”. I didn’t see the event that way. When I change they way I discuss the difference I am no longer stealing the other person’s experience of the moment. They are allowed to have the event through their own eyes. I am given a new way to see the moment, and they are as well. If I choose to not change the way I experienced the moment, then that is my choice. If they don’t, well I didn’t change my experience either.

I am a very opinionated person. I have views on the world that come from my experiences as a Social Worker, as a therapist, and from my childhood. Those experiences color my world in a very specific color when it comes to very controversial topics such as abortion, the death penalty, gun control, welfare, and politics, . People may guess what I believe on the above topics based on blogs, on sessions with me and even based on our relationships, but until you ask me “What have you experienced that leads you to you believe what you believe?”, you won’t know what I think or why. There are reasons the above are very controversial. Each of us has had experiences that have led us to have an opinion. The difficulty is when we close ourselves off to other’s opinions, or treat those that may not have the knowledge that we have as idiots. That leads to defensiveness and lack of knowledge exchange. Instead we need to ask not only ourselves but others “what leads you to that belief?”.

We all have very good reasons for our beliefs. Telling another that their experience is wrong will probably get you some very dirty looks at the least. The person may stop arguing just to get you to shut-up, but they won’t change their mind. Instead ask “What is going on that leads you to that experience”. You don’t have to like their answer, but at least listen.

 

 

redbook

Time to decide

I look back historically at some of the best and the worst of humanity, and I wonder what role I would play. Would I step out of comfort and risk myself for others, or would I watch from the comfort of my life as others suffer? Would I actively hurt other human beings in order to curry my own favor as some French and Germans in WW2 did by turning in their Jewish friends and neighbors?

I would like to think I would stand up and protect my fellow humans. I would like to think I would put myself out there and stand up for humanity. What about you? Where do you think you would stand up for inequity and suffering caused by fellow man, where would you find fear and run, and at what point would you actively participate?

I hear you thinking; “Not me, I could never!” History has proven you wrong. We are capable of some of the greatest acts of kindness and love and decency. And we are capable of some of the basest most inhumane acts. In the Milgram Experiment we studied how far a person would go; violating their own personal ethics, values and morals if an authority figure told them to. The answer was that we would go pretty far. In the Stanford Prison Experiment mentally and emotionally healthy students were taken and divided in to groups of guards and prisoners. The outcome was so unexpected and drastic they had to cease the experiment only a couple of days as it was found exactly how far people were willing to go under certain circumstances, especially under the group mentality.

If I had been a soldier at Abu Ghraib (article and pictures may be disturbing and contain nudity) would I have stood up to my fellow soldiers, risking emotional and physical abuse from fellow soldiers; would I have watched but not participated; or would I have joined in. Would I have participated unwillingly just to avoid not fitting in, or would I have jumped on the bandwagon. I know what I would like to believe I would do, which is stand up to the others.

Our test has actually started today. Anger and hate has started to be spread, not just around our country but around the world. People fleeing persecution and threat of starvation and death are being named terrorists. Extremists from a religion are being pointed at as representing the whole religion. Regular people are choosing sides along political lines, starting with criticism and contempt but moving to setting fires to Planned Parenthoods and places of worship.  People are being hated for their color, their place of birth, and their beliefs.  A politician has even gone as far as to encourage registering people based on their religious beliefs, rewinding time to WW2.

All around us there are little moments and sometimes big moments when we have the chance to go against the stream to do what is right.  In France and Germany in WW2 people risked their lives and hid others in their homes and formed underground rescues to save complete strangers.  In the Milgram experiment some of the subjects stood up to the testers and said no, I won’t hurt someone.  We are capable of great acts in times of stress.  We need to remember to stay true to our values even when the situation makes it difficult.  It takes true courage to stand in the fact of what is popular or powerful to do what is right.  I know what I want to do in these situations, what would you do?
Harriet Beecher Stowe
by Paul Laurence Dunbar
in response to Uncle Tom’s Cabin
1898

She told the story, and the whole world wept
At wrongs and cruelties it had not known
But for this fearless woman’s voice alone.
She spoke to consciences that long had slept:
Her message, Freedom’s clear reveille, swept
From heedless hovel to complacent throne.
Command and prophecy were in the tone,
And from its sheath the sword of justice leapt.
Around two peoples swelled a fiery wave,
But both came forth transfigured from the flame.
Blessed be the hand that dared be strong to save,
And blessed be she who in our weakness came–
Prophet and priestess!
At one stroke she gave
A race to freedom, and herself to fame.

 

 

Climbing our own mountains

It is not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves. Edmund Hillary

 

 

 

In case you don’t know who Edmund Hillary is, he is the first non-Nepalese / Tibetan man to summit Mt. Everest. He climbed one of the hardest mountains to climb and didn’t die, yet he is saying that he didn’t need to conquer the mountain. The biggest fight wasn’t with the mountain, but with himself. This is common when we set ourselves a large goal. No matter if the goal is losing weight, moving for a new job, letting go of a relationship, going back to school, running a race, or climbing a mountain, the hardest hurdle is getting past our own ego.

The ego is the part of the self that regards itself as real. It says what we can and can’t do. It also says what embarrasses us and what causes us shame. The majority of the roadblocks we have to get over are the ones our ego sets for ourselves. It starts with “I can’t”, and moves to “these are the reasons you shouldn’t do this” and “these are the reasons you can’t do this”.

Yes, there are sometimes legitimate reasons that we can’t climb our metaphorical or real mountain. If I were to decide I am interested in climbing Mt. Everest, there are physical and financial reasons that would be limiting. And at the same time, a man with 2 artificial legs reached the summit of the mountain. If it were really, truly important to me I would work with physical therapists, and find ways to raise funds. If it were truly important, I would find a way. First, I would have to get over my fears and my “I can’t” moments.

The next thing that needs to happen is pushing through the walls. I’ve previously spoken about hitting the wall. This is a term mostly used in marathons in which you hit a point in which you don’t want to go on. The days you just want to curl up with a book, or a drink, and don’t want to work toward your goal. The days when your tired, or your friends call, or you just don’t want to get up in the morning. It isn’t the mountain you have to conquer at that moment, it is yourself.

We all have a long-term brain and a short-term brain. The long-term thinks about what it what it wants in the future and what it needs to do to get you there. The short-term brain is thinking about right now. This moment. Right now, I want a Twix bar. It sounds delicious, and it would make the chocolate cravings go away. Long-term, I want to be healthy and to lose weight. The fight is now with myself, not the weight I want to lose.

It is easy to blame the mountain; it’s beyond challenging and difficult. The mountain is rarely the problem though. Our own fears and beliefs are often the greater challenge to overcome. Understanding this and working to conquer ourselves makes the mountain a little less insurmountable.

Kindness in 2016

Kindness – Naomi, Shihab Nye

Before you know what kindness really is

you must lose things.

Feel the future dissolve in a moment

like salt in a weakened broth.

What you held in your hand,

What you counted and carefully saved,

all this must go so you know

how desolate the landscape can be

between the regions of kindness.

How you ride and ride

thinking the bus will never stop,

the passengers eating maize and chicken

will stare out the window forever.

Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,

you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho

lies dead by the side of the road.

You must see how this could be you,

how he was too was someone

who journeyed through the night with plans

and the simple breath that kept him alive.

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,

you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.

You must wake up with sorrow,

You must speak to it till your voice

catches the thread of all sorrows

and you see the size of the cloth.

Then it is only kindness that makes any sense anymore,

only kindness that ties your shoes

and sends you out into the day to mail letters and purchase bread,

only kindness that raises its head

from the crowd of the world to say

it is I you have been looking for,

and then goes with you everywhere

like a shadow or a friend.

We have forgotten what kindness is in this world, as our news works to show us only suffering.  We forget that we are deserving of kindness, and those around us are doing the same thing we are; working to move through the world.  Today, find to places where you can be kind to yourself and two places where you can be kind to others.  Make this your habit every day, kindness toward yourself and toward others.  The world needs a little more kindness.

Manning up for the New Year

Welcome to the New Year! How many of you have created resolutions? To be healthier, to be happier, to exercise more, to be nicer? We spend so much time wanting life to be better.  We want a different ending to our story.  We want life to be different; we want to weigh less, make more money, have a bigger house, have a better relationship, be in better shape, etc etc.  With the New Year we often use it is a marker of when to start. The gyms fill up, diets are started. People jump in to their goals.

And then we come up with so many excuses to not get there.  We are all great at find excuses.  I see clients find every excuse in the book to keep from moving to where they want to go.  “No one supports me.” “I don’t have the time.”  “I don’t have the money.” “He/She won’t change and so I can’t change”.  What is even more difficult is when clients don’t even see the excuses they use.  We make decisions every day to do the correct thing, to do the healthy or un-healthy thing in life.  And then when our decisions don’t turn out the way we want (eg. I sit on the couch all day and I don’t lose weight) we often turn to someone else and either just complain or place blame.

It is finally time to man up and take accountability for our own decisions and the outcomes.  In real life nothing comes for free.  I will not make a million dollars without working, I will not lose weight without putting effort in to exercise and eating correctly, and I won’t have healthy positive relationships without putting in some work on myself.

We spend so much time looking for an easy fix.  We look to others to make decisions for us, to do work for us.  We think taking Acai berry (or whatever the craze is today) to lose weight, as if a pill is going to do all the work for us.  We have to get past wanting the easy fix, and just admit that we are going to have to put in the work.

I tend to fall off the wagon.  Regularly, especially when it comes to working out.  I will create a goal, meet the goal, and then not work out for several months.  Then when I need to start again I think of where I was, and getting going again, and I find it difficult to get started.  I then remember the silly saying “a journey of 1000 miles starts with a single step”.  I read somewhere that the problem with clichés how often they are true.

We truly don’t have to wait for a specific marker to get started. The New Year, the new week, our birthday, for whatever reason we set markers and say “I will start after this date”. It is better to just start when you decide to create the goal. You are more likely to binge in the time before the new goal starts if you wait. You will eat all the food, drink all the alcohol, watch all the TV, or do whatever else bad habit you are working to get rid of in excess instead of just starting the journey. For whatever reason we want to say goodbye to what we are giving up. Even though today is the first day of the New Year and many of you will start your goals today, when you do fall off the wagon don’t wait for the New Year again. Start the journey the day you decide to take it again, not when the marker tells you to.

We all have things in life that we want to be different.  We have goals and aspirations.  There is nothing to do when you have a goal but to get started.  Break it down in to smaller parts and get started on any one of them.  You can use as many excuses as you want, or you can begin to work toward your goals. It really is time to man (or woman) up.

 

Oh the tangled webs we weave

Oh the tangled webs we weave when we first practice to deceive….ourselves.

Some of the biggest deceptions are the ones we tell ourselves.  These deceptions can come in all shapes and sizes, from the little ones of “This bite of candy won’t hurt me” (after the 10th piece of candy), or “I’m fine” that we tell to the person asking how we are, to the big ones of “I don’t have a problem”.  So how can you tell if you are lying to yourself?  The first thing to look for is guilt or shame.  Reminder:  Guilt is knowing you’ve done something bad or wrong, and shame is believing that you, all of you, is bad or wrong.  If you are working to get rid of any kind of guilt or shame, there is a possibility that you are lying to yourself.  When you tell yourself that that one piece of candy won’t hurt you, but you know that once you eat it you will probably eat 10 more and you feel that little pang of guilt; you’re lying to yourself.  When you say those words of “just one more”, you’re probably lying to yourself.

The difficulty with guilt and shame is that they can be tricky as lie detectors.  Many of us have been conditioned to feel guilty when we cause discomfort to others, even when they need it.  So we feel guilty when we set limits with a friend or a partner, and wonder if we are doing the right thing.  We feel guilty when we punish or set limits for our kids that they don’t like, even when it is what is best for them.  But even then there are lies we tell ourselves.  We tell ourselves we can be fine if we don’t set the limit with our partner, we will be fine if we don’t tell them what is bothering us.  This is a pretty big lie.  We think that our kids will be fine if we let them go to the dance after they’ve been grounded, they’ll see that they are our friends and shape up.  Huge lie.

Another detector is when we have multiple people, in multiple parts of our lives telling us the same thing.  We wonder, “why does everyone think this when it isn’t true?”  Well, it is probably true, we just don’t want to admit it to ourselves, so we lie and say things like “if they really knew me” or “if they knew what my life was like”, or “They’re all just crazy” to ourselves and others.  The hard truth is that if multiple people in multiple parts of our lives are saying the same thing, then it is true no matter how much we want to believe it isn’t.

The final things to look for are the “buts”.  When we start saying to others and ourselves the word but a lot, then we may be lying to ourselves or to them.  The word but is used for justification of a behavior.  “But I have these reasons for what I did?”  The big question always is “does that make the behavior OK”?  Often when we are using the word but, we are digging a hole for ourselves.  We tell ourselves and others “but I had a reason for what I did!”. Others may or may not nod their head, but often in the back of their mind they see the liar as crazy and frustrating.  These lies often make situations worse.  Those of you that have kids just need to look to your children to know this is true.  You see them dig holes deeper every time they try to use a lie to get out of trouble and won’t back away from the lie once caught.

We use lies to feel better about our lives and the things we do. We tell ourselves harmless little lies that we don’t believe like “broken cookies have no calories”.  And we tell ourselves big lies like “No one understands this, if they did they none of them would act the way they do”.  The lies we tell others are often small, little lies such as “I’m fine”, or “It doesn’t matter”.  Sometimes they are bigger.  But often the biggest lies we tell are the ones we tell to ourselves.  We think we are doing it to make things better.  We think that we will keep the peace, or that we can fool ourselves in to believing the lies.  And sometimes our conscious does believe them.  But a part of us always knows the truth.  And the part of us that knows the truth is miserable, and often angry.  It can create resentment in others, low self-esteem, anger, and even hatred.  The truth will set you free.  We’ve heard that so many times in our lives.  It may not make us happy, and at the same time when we quit lying to ourselves we are more free.  We are free to be clear in the choices we make, we are more free to be honest with others, and often we quit digging holes for ourselves.

Finding our awesome!

I want to be one of the awesome ones.  I know at times I’m not.  I want people to get their come-uppance, and at times I want to show people that I see as ignorant and hateful exactly how small they really are.  And at the same time, I want to live in a world with awesome people.

Every day we get to make choices.  We get to decide how we interact with the world around us, and how we respond to the love we see in the world, along with how we respond to the anger and the hatred we see in the world.  Every day, in big and in little ways we get to either add to the love, or we get to add to the hate.

In the video you’re watching a hockey game where they have a tradition of having people throw out teddy-bears after the second home-team goal of the game.  You watch an outpouring of love and kindness that is literally overwhelming.  At one point you can see the players rolling in the bears like one would in fall leaves.  I can guarantee that there were many faiths, beliefs, wants, wishes, hurts, angers and class levels at that game. And for about 15 minutes they were all one in kindness and giving.  They were all one together enough so that they broke a world record and collected over 28,000 teddy-bears.  The sight brings me to tears.

It reminds me that we all pretty much have the same wants and needs.  The want to be loved, to be accepted, and to be seen as acceptable.  We all have the want to be seen as enough and worthy.  There are times that we can do very kind and loving things to get these needs met.  When we are showering an ice rink with teddy-bears, we know that we are giving and kind, and that we are doing something to make someone’s life better.

The first step to being awesome instead of horrible is working to find the common ground.  The other person has the same wants you have; to feel lovable, worthy, and enough.  Their fears and anxieties aren’t the exact same because they aren’t the same person.  They are do come from a similar place of just wanting to belong.  When we are able to humanize the people around us we are less likely to be nasty or ugly to them.  We go back to the golden rule : treat others as we wish to be treated.

The best moments are the ones that we all come together to create something awesome. These moments are amazing and remind me that underneath it all, we are good, kind, loving people.

I know that I want to be seen as competent, lovable, intelligent and worthy.  I also know that when something comes along that challenges me being seen as lovable, competent, intelligent and worthy there is a strong instinct to lash out.  In general, we all will have an instinct to make the person that challenges our worthiness, or our intelligence, or our value look as small as we feel.  There is documented research that says almost all of us try to make others look small when we feel small.  I know this isn’t how I want to live my life.  I don’t want to live my life trying to make people look small because I feel small.  I want to find the place inside of myself that knows I am competent, lovable, intelligent and worthy so others can’t pull me off center.  I want to keep from needing to pull others off center.  I want to shower the world with teddy-bears and kindness.

Dream another dream

Hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die, life is like a broken-winged bird that cannot fly.”—Langston Hughes

 

What do you think the difference between a fantasy and a dream are? How I define the difference is the possibility of one coming true while the other won’t.   I have a dream of going to Angkor Wat in Cambodia one day. I believe that is an accomplishable goal. I dream about what my retirement will be like. I have a fantasy that I will win the lottery. The last one is highly improbable.

I think some of the most heartbreaking things are when people let go of their dreams. I watch people let go of the dream of a better job, the dream of finding love, the dream of finding peace in their life. Often with basic dreams that are realistic and achievable, people get frustrated and disheartened by roadblocks, seeming failures, and nay-sayers. Even more heartbreaking are those that give up on dreams because fighting for them will make someone, either themselves or someone close to them, uncomfortable.

Dreams are worth fighting for. Dreams give us hope and direction and drive. We want to keep in touch without dreams. They can shift, and adjust to the times if necessary, and we need to keep a hold of dreams.

Fantasy on the other hand is a killer. Another level of heartbreaking is when people hold on to fantasy. I see people hold on to the belief that a relationship can work, when it has shown time after time that the relationship is toxic. People that hold on to hope that a miracle can happen when the odds are slim to none that it will happen. Those that hope lightening will strike and they will win the lottery at the same time.

The trick is figuring out the difference. Shame will tell us that our dreams are just fantasy and shame will work to kill the dreams. Shame wants to avoid more shame, which means avoiding failure. Anytime we go after something important to us we risk failing, the key to remember though is failure is required for success. Failure builds muscle and breeds innovation. Failure is part of the process, and shame is required to get out of the way to let us try.

Our dreams keep us moving. They keep hope alive when sometimes we feel as though we have nothing left. Share your dreams with others, they can help hold you accountable for the dreams and they can be your bell-weather on if you are just holding on to a fantasy. Just don’t let-go or give up.

My own worst critic

No matter who you are, there are parts of yourself that you wish were different.  Suzie Q wishes she were thinner, Johnnie wishes he could run faster, Bettie wishes she could speak in public better, Billy Joe wishes he were better in bed.  We all have something, that sometimes we have a hard time even admitting to ourselves that we wish were better, different, bigger, smaller, etc.  We move through our daily lives doing the best we can, but always wishing
we could be or do better.

We also project a belief that everyone else in the world believes the same thing.  That we need to be thinner, run faster, speak in public better, or be better in bed.  In our heads,
we know for a fact that our partners, friends, co-workers, teachers and bosses believe the same thing we do.  So when someone utters a comment that hits on our self-critique, we become easily angry and resentful.  We are hurt that the other person’ couldn’t just keep their judgment to themselves.  Or if the friends say something that counters our image of ourselves we are unable to take their statement at face value.

Often though our judgment of our-self is overly harsh and critical.  The majority of my teenage clients have body-image issues.  Every girl that I work with is either at a healthy weight, or underweight, though they believe they are fat. These criticisms of ourselves lead to depression,
anger and resentment.  The majority of the adults I work with see their perceived flaws instead of their strengths as well.  I hear “I wish I were more outgoing”, “I think I’m too much of a push-over”, “I’m not organized enough”.  Though these may or may not be true, focusing on the weakness instead of focusing on building the strength ultimately creates difficulties.

It is important when we find that we are in a harsh, critical phase of our lives that we re-evaluate.  That we work to move our thoughts away from how horrible we are and more toward who we want to be.  Pain and trauma are not good motivators for change.  Often when we look at ourselves and see that we are too fat, too stupid, too whatever it drags
us down instead of pushing us forward. Yoga is something that I have been practicing for several years.  It is also something that I continue to struggle with as my body moves through states of doing well and doing poorly.  When I am doing poorly  I start slinging arrows at myself;  I’m not flexible enough, I don’t have enough endurance, my body doesn’t look good in the poses…etc etc etc.  What this does is take  me away from the practice, take me away from my breathing, and takes away from many of the benefits of the practice.  Accepting that my body is where it is and allow it the time to learn the movements and the poses and gain the endurance will ultimately strengthen me and allow me to move forward more quickly.

It is a balance between accepting ourselves for where we are at, and still wanting to make progress and grow at the same time.  Growth will always happen faster when we can allow our critiquing self to quite down some.  It is OK to wish for growth.  It is unhealthy to never be able to see the beauty in yourself. 

The nasti-gram – What they’re really saying

We’ve all done it. We’ve all sat down at our computer and started to type something akin to “you suckity suck head. You should know you really suck, and this is why.” I know, your nasti-gram was significantly more articulate than that, but when it boils down to it that’s what you’re saying. In fact I wrote one about a month ago. I was articulate, focused and directed in what I wanted to say. And looking back the letter said “Hey you stupid suckhead. This is how much you suck, why you suck, and how stupid you are.”

I had attending a meeting in which I felt I was not listened to. I was trying to advocate for a client and not only was the caseworker seemingly deaf to what I had to say, but her attorney was as well. I went home and stewed. I knew I was meditating on my anger, I knew I was on the crazy train, and I just couldn’t get off. So I wrote an email “advocating” for my client. I wrote several drafts until I had one that I felt was acceptable enough to run through my filter (my husband) to see if it was professional and acceptable. And I did what any professional should do; I called a colleague to triple check myself. And of course she told me what I needed to hear; knock it off. We’re here to teach clients to advocate for themselves, not fight their battles for them.

Looking back at the email that I did not send, it was professional and made the point I wanted to make. It also was meant to make the attorney feel small ignorant, and unprofessional. When the above meeting was over I felt small, inarticulate, and powerless. These are some of my major shame triggers. I don’t have the trigger of not feeling smart enough; I know I’m intelligent. Because of my childhood where sometimes no matter what I said someone was going to be pissed, I struggle to feel articulate. Because of that same childhood I frequently felt powerless and helpless. I felt powerless in that meeting and watched a client feel helpless, where even her attorney wasn’t helping her. I wanted to make him feel ignorant, and small, and stupid. It was a very professional nasti-gram.

When we sit down at our keyboard to write our nasti-gram we are trying to make the other person feel as small, as ignorant, as hurt, as powerless or hopeless as we feel. We are trying to take the shame we feel and throw it on to them, instead of calling what we feel what it really is. I even struggled to write this blog, to call my shame what it was and speak it out loud. It is especially difficult to speak it here as I know several of my clients read this. But speaking our shame out-loud lessens its power.

How you want to make other’s feel when writing the nasti-gram, or when trolling, is how you really feel in the moment. The hateful angry email may help you feel more powerful. It also helps you meditate on your anger, and what we meditate on affects us on a cellular level. Anger increases cortisol and adrenalin, and makes your body thing you’re in life-or-death situations. It doesn’t do nice things.

When I hear the shame stories of friends and colleagues I am usually shocked. What triggers their shame is usually something that I see they excel at, and have no idea why they would be ashamed. I’m pretty sure that some of those that know me and have read my shame story are shaking your heads as well. Our shame triggers come from our past, they are our “baggage”. The difficult thing with shame triggers is that usually other’s don’t know what they are. Unless you are in a very unhealthy relationship (or have children) no one is trying to intentionally trigger your shame gremlins. No one is trying to make us feel that way, and we all have triggers that will be hit. In general there are common triggers for women and common triggers for men, and at the same time our history is always going to give us unique triggers.

When we are hurting our first instinct is to lash out and make the people that hurt us feel the same way we do. It is not healthy, and leads to the “eye for an eye” concept. This was one of the most quoted parts of the bible I heard when I was a child, and then when I was older I learned that that was only part of the quote. “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind” is the whole quote. It is actually OK to write that email. In Word, or whatever word-processing program you use, not on your phone or your email. It keeps you from accidentally sending it! Then if you find that you need to or are required to for some reason respond, start running the response through your filters. Through your own filters, and through the filters of those you respect to help you write appropriate emails (not the friends that are going to help you skewer the other person!). Getting the nasty draft out does help. Sending it does not. Start your meditation on how to communicate, even if it is to yourself what trigger was hit, what your needs are, and what your wants are. Ultimately it reminds you that your trigger is your trigger. It is yours to feel and yours to manage, not the other persons.

We all have triggers, and we all have those moments when we want to send that nasti-gram. They don’t help. Let yourself see your nasti-gram without sending it, and identify what trigger was hit. Then take a moment to recognize that it is your trigger. Don’t send the first email and do double check, triple check, and maybe even quadruple check yourself. Nasti-grams may be fun, but they don’t make things better. Making someone else feel small and stupid never makes anything better.