The other day in my morning batch of Emotional Intelligence workshop, I met a middle-aged lady who was serving in a senior position of the company for which I was conducting the session. She had come to deal with her constant feeling of getting hurt which had now turned to resentment towards every person in her life. Most of her relationships were suffering and she was in grave pain. She had lost her cheerful and easy side, her lips were always pursed tightly, she sat with a straight face, listening to the lectures and maintaining silence in the interactive part of the session, she would control her reactions and her sentences would always carry modal operators, “Must” “Should” “Ought To”. I stopped her in mid-sentences to break the pattern and make her aware of the limitations in her language, as if she is creating a wall around her with the words.
She also got into denial, switched off her video, took smoking breaks and skipped few breakthrough activities, I understood this was part of her coping mechanism and control strategies.
Often when we start losing control over situations we have a tendency to avoid or distract ourselves or skirt around any self-development work despite knowing we need it and we enrolled for it.
These are rackets we play because the issue we are having is giving us some secondary benefit. Maybe being in the stance of the victim is freeing us from certain responsibilities. Maybe zoning out from the core issue helps us in coping up. Maybe working with our emotions is like opening a box of worms and some of our own flaws may come to light and we aren’t prepared to forgive ourselves for the part we played. May be blaming is far more convenient than owning up to our mistakes. Think about it.
This morning she had a breakthrough as we started to discuss what is the payoff when we live as a victim dismissing ourselves and others because we set high standards of expectations. What is it costing us? Why do we need to have control over everything that is happening? Can we be more mindful of things that we are doing in order to keep up with our doleful stories. Why are we throwing our own pity parties? What do we truly value in our life, being right which is highly subjective or being together and peaceful.
When we try to control every emotion and uncomfortable feeling we are simply wasting our time and energy by trying to go against the wind. We feel weak-minded no matter how much we pretend to stay strong. The strategies that decrease the unpleasant feelings in the short-term lower our quality of life in the long run. We become more and more inauthentic.
According to psychologists, “Experiential avoidance means the tendency to keep trying to avoid, change, or get rid of your unwanted thoughts and feelings, even when doing so is harmful, costly, useless, or destructive. It is a major cause of depression, anxiety, drug and alcohol addictions, eating disorders and a vast number of other psychological problems.”
By increasing self-awareness we can get rid of this trap. Notice all the things you do to blot out the negative emotion.
The more we fight difficult emotions, the more mighty is its comeback. The first thing to understand is, emotions are like weather, they come and go. Sometimes feeling the emotion completely and taking the message from it becomes important. Judgements are baseless as each person has a different model of the world. So, remember to pause and observe your feelings, listen to the stories your mind is creating and step out of them to see the big picture. Take deep breaths to align your scattered ego and accept what is, connect with your higher values and priorities of life and create a constructive choice and take the necessary action. Stay open to forgiving yourself and others. Stay open to opening or drawing boundaries where necessary.
Move and flow freely in this world where everything is transient. Carry a lighter baggage as you explore the worldly existence. Remember that feelings are not set in stone and you have the choice to change and evolve anytime.
We did a mindfulness meditation where they had to visualise putting all the things that they were carrying on a table in front of them be it anger, remorse, love, joy, resentment, likings and so on. For a moment they had to become empty of everything they carried. Breathe into this emptiness and notice if something was hidden within the deepest layers, stories , people, memories, incidents and keep them also on the table in front of them and then finally they were given a choice to pick only those things that they wanted to carry with them to lead a meaningful and happy life as per their life’s purpose.
A smile came on the face of each participant while their eyes were closed, they picked up what was important, joyful and serene, they picked up their talents, the playful memories, their potentials and dreams. When they finally opened their eyes, the smile was reflected in them. I felt the energy of acceptance and choice filling the room.
Finally, the sharing from the woman made my day. She had left behind her ego games, hatred and bitterness at the table and picked up love, acceptance and forgiveness. She was ready to not just let her be at ease but make sure to empathise with others and free them from blames too.
We celebrated giving up control and knowing that we have a choice.