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newstasis :: a blog about improving wellness » Toxic People

Archive for the 'Toxic People' Category

Responding To Criticism

There is a saying “to escape criticism, do nothing, say nothing, be nothing,” but I have a feeling that you’ll still have your critics because people are outstanding at taking their critical eye off of themselves and casting their judgmental gaze upon others. It’s what a lot of people do.

There are a number of different approaches when it comes to these people shelling out their opinion but how you engage their words will be basically the same. You hear what is said, you consider the words without allowing the tone to taint your understanding, consider the information that is being given to you and the actions it helps you take or avoid, you then consider the source of the criticism to determine the amount of value their words should be given and then you make whatever changes you need to based on the merit of the criticism. And if you don’t know what to do or what you think, you simply just wait until you do know what to do.

This approach is effective because it makes the initial assumption that what the person is saying *may be* valid so you do not waste good feedback because of the source; good advice or criticism is good regardless of who says it. Don’t miss out on a gem of wisdom simply because it came out of the mouth of someone who doesn’t like you.

Some examples:

“You are a complete asshole” - this type of criticism isn’t helpful because it reveals nothing about WHY the sayer believes you to be an asshole. There are no clear actions to come out of it. They are likely trying to hurt you for something or number of things they believe you have done. It doesn’t matter who says this, it’s not worth engaging. Probably the best reply is “thanks, I’m lots of things!”

“When you raised your voice, I thought you were going to hurt me” - this is very helpful because it reveals the emotional state of the sayer (fear) and it introduces the catalyst for their emotional state (your action of raising your voice). It is reasonable, regardless of who says this to you, that you can avoid this person becoming fearful by not raising your voice. It reveals a lot about their past, likely that they’ve been exposed to yelling in a caring environment that was supposed to be safe and nurturing.

“When I was with you, you never knew what you wanted” - this isn’t very helpful or actionable because it reveals opinion and it is passively blaming. This isn’t the type of criticism that is very useful on it’s own and, given that it is reports about something in the past, it isn’t actionable. Your options here are to engage the person in a conversation to find out what they are trying to say or just thank them for their opinion and move on. It may be worth considering off-line, but if they are in your past consider just leaving them there.

“Well, I wouldn’t have done X if you didn’t do Y” - this is fantastic criticism because it reveals a lot about the sayer and it provides you with the framework for preventing X in the future by avoiding Y. All is well until we consider the source, then it should be rather scary. If you doing Y makes someone do X, you have a surprising amount of control over them; you don’t actually so there’s a very good chance that you are talking to someone who doesn’t want to take responsibility for their actions.

Now, the best part about criticism is that when you have some for someone else, you can be very confident that you have the same criticism of yourself.

My LandMark Forum Part 4 - Day Two, Part One

I did not sleep well, which is to say, I had the most magnificent dreams and was so excited and glowy all night that I didn’t really get more than 30 minutes of sleep in a row. The alarm when off and sprang-up, showered, got dressed, did more of my homework, made lunch, went shopping for food and drove into Toronto.

I was tired, but not drained. The truth is, I had found a source of energy that I couldn’t adequately explain. It was a contained, calm but focused energy that hasn’t left me and that I have come to describe as the vitality of living in the moment - I get very little sleep now yet have this same energy when I am in the moment and feel as tired as I am when I’m off purpose or out of the moment.

Admittedly I was a little cocky. I felt fantastic and completely connected to most of the people. I was beaming, smiling and saying hi to people and, with each person who said hi back I felt more alive and with each one that didn’t I instantly saw their past, the life they had lived and the fact that I was either scary, dangerous, both or they were afraid. I cared enough to feel sad that they were not as happy as I was, but knew that I could help them if they were open to it. I said hi to the leader asked him a question which is answered with one word and turned away.

I felt sick, put right off. “What the hell was that?” I thought. It was kind of rude and since my cheque had cleared I had been anticipating something different. “I really don’t like that guy at all” was my thought as I took my seat.

Things began and I honestly have very little recollection of what was going on for the first part of it. I had been gamed or something and was wildly unsettled. We reviewed our homework and it was about making peace with someone in our past with whom we had allowed our lack of authenticity or a racket to leave things incomplete. At it turns out, most of the people in the room had issues with their parents or an ex. Okay, that’s bull crap, they had issues with themselves, specifically their lack of responsibility and their need to blame others for their place in life. This was a decent section for me, I had made peace with everyone in my life and all but one person had accepted my apology and given me forgiveness. Des has encouraged me to consider steps 8 and 9 of AA Twelve Step Program at the beginning of March to help me move on from an slightly tangled past. I accepted that rejecting forgiveness is a keen way to say locked in the past and made the decision to leave them there.

The sharing during this portion was me thinking stuff that was almost completely over the top. Still ringing in my head was the “I don’t want to make you feel better, I want to set you free” comment from the night before. I listened openly to what the people were saying an instantly heard the child in each of them. It was sickening the lack of responsibility that some of these people were taking for their own lives. This is common so the leader asked everyone who was 23 or younger to stand-up. There rest of us were then asked to look at them and, as we did, the leader said “this is what most of your parents looked like when you were born.” I broke-down. I’m almost 20 years older than my mom was when she became a mom, am 15 years older than my dad was, and I have been a complete asshole in some of the things I have thought about my parents. A complete judgmental asshole. I’ve had the luxury of spending 15 years reading, learning, and living life while my folks would have been raising Des and me. He sealed the moment with “if you are here it is because your parents were successful. Their job is to keep you alive until you are an adult.”

The sharing with partners began and I listened to someone bitch about their mother and younger sister for 2 minutes, when it was my turn I asked her to continue, which they did and, with about 30 seconds left I said “can I tell you want I’m hearing?” With their permission I unloaded the truth and did not make someone feel better. I told them that ignoring her mother for 3 months is the best way to let a parent know that they did a shittie job, that her younger sibling mistreating her mother was likely learned from the older sibling (her) and that, if she really wanted to feel good about herself that maybe she should call her mom, and apologize for acting like ungrateful child, poisoning the families sense of love and having the nerve to blame it on her. “You’ll be free the very minute you ask her for forgiveness, say I have no idea what it would be like to have your oldest daughter ignore you and then listen to her tell you what it was like. You’ve screwed up pretty bad here and if your first call at lunch isn’t to your mother it’s now on you because this is the way the world is.”

At lunch I called my mom and asked her when was the last time I told her that she and my father had done a great job with me and my brother. “The other morning” was her reply. We were both smiling and she told me she loved me and hoped I was having a good weekend. I didn’t call my old friend because I had already talked to her and didn’t see any value in repeating myself.

Transactional Analysis - Part 2 - The Games We Play

In Transactional Analysis - Part 1 - Laymans Introduction we covered the social and ego / psychological states - those of child, parent and adult, and Child, Parent and Adult - that we learn through observation and which then become hardwired into our brains. The interplay between these social and psychological states occurs during social interactions (transactions) involves the currency of strokes. The end goal of TA therapy is to coach the client into engaging others and themselves with their Adult psychological and social states.

Stable interaction occur when all parties are interacting in complementary states e.g. one is Parent, the other is child, both are Adult, or both are Child in a state of play. Unstable interactions occur when both parties are NOT transacting in complementary states - one is Parent and the other is Adult - or when the social and psychological states do not match.

Now the most important part of it from an analysis / therapeutic point of view, the games we play.

In general, games are needed because life is a social thing. Most of the games don’t really matter as they are just ways of filling time. Many men and some women will play the game “the sports” were they interact with each other taking turns taking about their team, their QB, their whatever. No one lives or dies because of these transactions and nothing really happens. It’s a bit of fun allowing for some chirping, trash talk and a general discourse about something that doesn’t have much impact on the world. The social and ego states of this game tends to be complementary.

A similar game, but one with actual consequences is “politics.” This game is a little more insidious as those who play it tend to hold a particular position of rightness (they judge their opponents) and will usually alter their ego state during the conversation to in an attempt to win or prove a point. The transactions are mixed such that the adult social comment “it is important for the liberals to understand who is paying for everything” is actually a Parent comment directed towards their opponent implying the liberals are not wise enough to realize the money comes from all the tax payers. When their debate partner replies with “it seems like conservatives don’t have a very good understanding of how enlightened liberally minded thinkers are” it is presented as Adult, but it’s a Child-like rebuttal of “you’re stupid.”

So those are two simple games that people pay. Not really a big deal given that most people don’t spend a lot of time talking politics with people they are attempting to foster high quality relationships with.

Given that the goal of TA is to help coach the client to engage others as both a social and psychological Adult, knowledge of these games and ones role within them is critical in correcting their maladaptive behavior. And this is where the challenge begins given that the Child and Parent states are biologically hardwired and can be triggered very easily simply by having someone engage you in one of the complementary states. For example, your boss makes the Adult statement “have you completed the report?” and this triggers a latent feeling from your childhood when a teacher asked the same question. Instead of saying “yes” and handing it over, the reply is “why don’t you ever think I’ll anything you ask me to do?” a Child reply. Effective bosses will reply with an Adult statement like “I just need the report so I can secure the funding for the budget” ignoring their Child like reply and not altering their ego state to match the shift that just occurred when their employee reacted like a child.

So that’s how the games work. There’s a formula for which people end-up winning and it’s a pathological mess when the dynamic becomes obvious.

Here are a few of the games that I find to be the most damaging:

“Now I’ve got you, you SOB” - A wants something, to end a relationship with B for example. B wants something, to spend time with A. B asks A to go out somewhere and A agrees. Adult : Adult on a social level, but something else on the psychological level. Upon arrival, A notices a car in the parking lot that looks like one that belongs to a friend of B. A realizes that they now have the evidence they need to “legitimately” end the relationship because B didn’t want to go out, they wanted to hangout with someone else. The switch occurs when A engages B from Parent and B responded as Child. In this case, A says “you weren’t honest with me about why you wanted to go out, just asked me for a ride so you could spend time with someone else” with B replying “no I didn’t.” This cross-up leaves B disoriented because they didn’t anticipate the switch and if they had real feelings towards A, they realize that they have been played. The payoff for A is feeling justified in their actions dumps B and moves forward from a superior position.

This is a very common one in dead relationships or marriages were one party will ask the other questions saying “I won’t be upset, I just need to know what’s going on.” Once B replies, the switch occurs and A attacks B for their lack of morals, lack of character, etc…. B feels stupid because they’ve been had again and A feels justified in their negative feelings. This likely is related to Negative Love Syndrome in that A has created an environment by with compassionate love is used against their partner.

This game is run aggressively and in many cases, the decision to feel a particular way has NOTHING at all to do with B. A just has some reason for not being an Adult and makes the decision to manipulate so they don’t have to be up front about it. In a lot of cases, it has seemingly decent people doing things that are horrible, but the reality is, A isn’t an Adult and is locked in their Child ego state.

“If it wasn’t for you….” Many people seek out of relationships with people who they view as controlling and will facilitate the behaviors by which B will begin to act like a parent or offer coaching as an Adult. Once these behaviors begin to be displayed, A will then feel and claim that B is trying to control them and act like a child and say “if it wasn’t for you I would be doing …..” the notion is that B is preventing A from achieving what they want. The irony is, B is helping A achieve what they want - which is the feeling of being controlled.

This games sucks because A doesn’t have the awareness to see that their actions are creating the response in B. For example, A tells B that they bounced a check or couldn’t buy something that was needed because they didn’t have enough money. B compassionately tries to offer some help - points out ways to save some money, suggests a budget, or something similar. What B didn’t know was that A wanted to bounce the check or not have the money so there could be some social gain; possible a feeling of being unfairly done by or a reason to complain. The switch occurs when A proceeds to tell B that they are trying to control them and that their help is uninvited and unwelcome; possibly going so far as to say that B doesn’t even follow the same advice. The gain for A is the creation of bad feeling towards B, a superior position and likely the end of a relationship / friendship. B just feels stupid for being gamed.

There are many games like this, check out Eric Berne — “The Games People Play - The Psychology Of Human Relationships” for a startling list of the ways people will manipulate others. I regard this book as a user manual for ruining other peoples lives and creating toxic relationships with people who are prone to being worked over. As a general rule however, reading it and noticing the way people engage you, and being aware of how the switching from Adult to parent / child feels will disarm even the most skilled manipulators. Once you feel it happening, point it out to them and watch them squirm.

Let’s be fair though, all of this is possible because people feel compassion, which is a great thing when it isn’t being used as a weapon.

Why We Don’t Ask For Help

Was having a chat with a teacher friend a few weeks ago and I asked her what she was grateful for that day. Her reply “I asked my VP for help on a project.” “Cool” said I, then “is that something you would normally have trouble doing?” She’s really driven so I knew the answer and was just fishing, she indulged me with “yeah, a lot of people don’t like asking for help.” “Why do you think that is?”

“Because they are afraid they won’t get it.”

I think I levitated, as one would when they get a solid kick to their understanding.

A few things registered with me. First, she’s a teacher, so she coaches, teaches and helps for a living; help and guidance are the currency of her profession. I’ve asked her for help and she always gives it. She doesn’t solve the problem or fix anything, she just provides some info or whatever is needed and lets me take care of it myself. When she asks me for help, she gets the same from me. It’s symbiotic so I was shocked at her answer.

Next, the fact that she was so relieved was astounding to me. It is her boss and they have a vested interest in helping her be more successful. What must have happened in her past to believe that she wouldn’t get the help she needed? We didn’t talk about this, I was just too floored at her answer to be of much use. I was still floating.

The final thing I thought was “do I think that?” I’m not sure I do, but I’m not sure I don’t either. I’ll ask for help from people I know can offer it. Sometimes they’ll give it to me, more and more often I get coaching to help me help myself.

It’s an interesting topic that has shifted recently for me because of the intensity in which I engage people. If someone asks for help or tells me that they want something, a switch flips in my head and I set out making it a reality. Things get cloudy for me only when the nature of the request isn’t completely understood. If someone is truly asking for help nothing goes wrong. But if they are looking for someone to agree with them about something being too hard, unfair, is someone else’s fault or is simply looking to have someone listen to their complaint, I tend to misunderstand the nature of these interactions. They are looking for a child child transaction and I unconsciously switch it to parent child then quickly to adult adult without getting the agreement from the other person.

I do this automatically now because I have a really tough time listening to people complain about their position in life without taking responsibility for it. There are very few cases when someone is really a victim and even fewer when making them feel better is a better course of action than setting them free.

I’ll add something to my teacher friends comment - people don’t ask for help for two reasons, the first is that they are afraid they won’t get it, the second is that they are afraid that they WILL get it but don’t actually want it.

My LandMark Forum Part 3 - Day One, Part One

There were a few really big moments during the weekend that rocked me hard. A lot of them were unconscious at the time, but revealed a lot of information that I was not able to flush out in the moment.

The first was immediately upon getting off the elevator. I was there to learn and the staff was there to guide me. My cheque cleared so the roles were very clear to me. I was an authentic student with an open mind and gave into the notion that they were authentic coaches / teachers / guides. Most of them were distant, guarded and lacked something that those who suggested I would gain from attending possess in abundance - authentic fearlessness. Frankly, I got the sense that most of the staff was scared crapless of me and I couldn’t push away the feeling that I was actually there for them.

In the waiting room I chatted with some people and asked them what they were hoping to get out of being there. The participants were nice, some were complete phoneys that made my skin crawl, some seemed to be missing a critical piece of the puzzle and it was evident that many were guarded. I did what I do which is effectively be different from everyone else. I turned and opened up and started mining people for their stories.

We all went into the large room and I took my seat in the front row and engaged the two people who were on either side of me. It is impossible to include everyone when you are in a line so I sat on the stage to form a triangle (a circle that just happens to have 3 straight lines forced into it). The group therapy had begun. It’s easy to notice that no other line of people was doing this. The three of us were special. The leader walks in and the session begins.

After some introduction stuff, the leader asks “when someone gives advice to a group, who do you think they are giving to?” There were three answers, silence, “other people” and mine “me.”

Hmmmm….. if I hadn’t yelled “me” I wouldn’t have thought much about it, but there I was, a student who was there to milk the hell out of whatever anyone was going to say or offer. Alone, fearless and authentic. I started to levitate and a lot of what the weekend was about transformed in that instant (not accurate, but for all practical purposes how it was).

People asked some question and when the leader was asked about himself and I got up and left. At the moment I thought it was because I had to go to the bathroom and possibly eat something, but as I walked out of the room I realized it was because I didn’t really care to listen to his answers. It really didn’t matter to me. While some may consider that rude, knowing too much about a possible flash bulb mentor can weaken their position. He had effectively told us that his entire presence was contrived so what’s the point in listening to someone continue to manufacture context?

So, the first thing I realized that I wasn’t being the same as most of the other people there. I was being me, manipulative, controlling, and authentically consuming whatever anyone was willing to give me.

First break and I head across the street to get my lunch out of my car and find somewhere to eat it. There’s a grocery store with some chairs in it and I see a bunch of my fellow participants. All of the tables are being used so I sit on my cooler and begin to use a free chair as my table. A guy says “hey, you want to sit here” pointing to the empty spot at his table. I do. We start the small talk and it turns out he’s one of us, both in terms of a participant and outlier. He leaves and after a few minutes I notice that his jacket is still on the chair. After I finish my lunch I bring the jacket up to the room and go outside to put away my lunch. I see him and say “hey, did you leave your jacket?” and he says kind of avoidantly, “yeah, it’s upstairs.” And I say “it is now, you left it at lunch. It’s under the table where we leave our drinks.” He doesn’t believe me but says “thanks” to a lair who is trying to get credit for doing something they didn’t do. I smile and float away having read his mind.

I get a decaf coffee and head back. As soon as I get into the room, he walks up and I point to under the table where his jacket is, he’s just come from his chair where his jacket isn’t. There’s a look in his eyes that wasn’t there before, the guard is down and he is not afraid of me anymore. He says thank you and sort of outlines the consequences of what would have happened if it was lost because he didn’t remember wearing it when he left for lunch. I say “no, thank you for leaving it. Normally I would have just left it there for the person to come back for. You have given me a gift by providing me the possibility for a different future and then for me to make that different future.” I hug him and he hugs back - two strangers, men in their almost 40’s hugging because of a shared sense of gratitude seeing the gift the other has given to them.

I found my seat for the next session and sat behind one of the greatest people I have ever know. A member of the unawakened walking dead. That’s when things really began to get interesting….

NOTE - any one I mention in these series of blogs has given me permission to talk about our experiences.

Negative Love Syndrome - Revisited

A few weeks ago I blogged Negative Love Syndrome - It Can Stop Here. If you didn’t read it give it a read now, and the Hoffman .pdf. I’ll wait for you to do that before I continue.

Great, now we’re on the same page.

Okay, I don’t disagree with the article or the concept of Negative Love Syndrome (NLS) but if you’re reading a self-improvement / self-awareness blog it’s pretty clear that the concept isn’t flushed out. I had a feeling there was an emptiness to it when I read it the first batch of times but didn’t figure it out until this weekend while I was at the Landmark Forum.

Here’s the deal with it:

Your parents create you and those who surround you are the ones who teach you most of what it is to be alive - survival skills, the skills of intimacy, and how to engage others. Good, bad, whatever. For example, if a mother used alcohol to cope with missing her family overseas, the child may learn to avoid getting close to other people to prevent what they judge to be a wrong type of behavior. If a father yelled because he never learned how to express his emotions his children may learn to avoid saying no or try and avoid disappointing people by never expressing their organic feelings. This makes sense. While not the same thing, both are a manifestation of a lack of authenticity which is the origin of negative love.

The concept is complete only when the individual identifies and addressed their responsibility in the existence of their NLS. Believing that your parents or caregivers did something wrong is a compelling slap to their face. Occasionally someone will do a horrible thing, but in many of the cases the parents were just people doing the best job they could, the only way they knew how. It’s nice to blame them for not doing what you believe would have been a better job, but chances are that they were younger than you are now when they did the things that shaped your NLS. If you are an adult and still blame your parents you are still a child. If you are a parent and still blame your parents you are lowering the potential for unlimited success and joy in the life of your children because you are a child raising children.

A parents role it to keep you alive until you are able to be independent. That’s it. Take responsibility for your place in life, your decision to transfer blame for your life onto them and others and get out of the past. Thank your parents for a job well done and ask your parents for forgiveness for being judgmental for their actions. If you don’t you are going to remain exactly the same as them.

Make no mistake about it, they feel it and believe that they have failed as a parent. Man-up, and let them know just how successful they were because you are alive. Let yourself be beautiful, vibrant and joyful. You don’t just owe them that, you owe them EVERYTHING.

My LandMark Forum Part 2

I’m an analytical manipulator with an empathetic kind heart. It’s good to know this because my jobs all make sense now. Goodness, my entire life makes sense from the seemingly random series of relationships to the self loathing and escapist behavior. When someone tries to sell me something or tries to manipulated me, I feel it in my stomach. I finally realized this fact this weekend. I’ve been hating myself because I am the very thing I hate. Except for one critical thing, I’m now incapable of lying to serve my own selfish ends so now that I see that I can make people think and feel things, I don’t make myself sick anymore.

The sharing session were me turning to my partner and saying “tell me about you” and when the leader said switch I’d say “no, we’ve got great flow here, we need to keep going, it feels like you are onto something”. A few of the people I talked to had never had anyone tell them the actual truth before in a way that made them see it, realize that they had created it and that there was a very simple course of action to a better life.

Over the last few weeks I’ve come to realize that am the architect and engineer of everything in my own life so nothing is in it or out of it by chance. You can imagine the sense liberation and power this information has made me feel - accepting that when I am just being, my manipulation is going to be honest and empathetic. I don’t feel any shame for this anymore, and it’s part of why I haven’t ever really felt like most other people. I’m not like most people. I’m out for humanity not for myself. I can’t lie to people. And I can get them to think and feel things.

The biggest impact on my life has been that I DESPISE manipulative people, so I’ve spend a lot of time hating myself. It’s silly really because I’m not the type person who takes from others. I see or hear someone say they want something and I set out fixing it. The only people it ends up hurting are the ones who were lying about what they want and they hurt because they feel I’ve run a game on them. And they should hurt because they haven’t been feeling bad about running the game on other people. They’re not necessarily assholes, they’re just may not be self-aware enough to realize they want to bitch and I can’t help but try and fix them. That isn’t evil, it’s actually kind of nothing.

I’m A Performance Coach - It Isn’t Personal, It’s About Your Potential

Shamelessly I will push people towards what they say they want. Sadly some will walk away from me because they don’t want what they say they want. This is not my fault, my problem or my issue. Being authentic is our own responsibility so if you tell me you want something and I push you towards it, don’t try to blame me for your discomfort. It isn’t about manipulation unless you really didn’t mean what you said. Just be honest with yourself, you might already have achieved all of the potential you want.

Change is not easy, it requires effort, introspection and likely a lot of tears. You are sweeping your past away in order to see and accept your decisions and then to forgive yourself for them. You wouldn’t need someone like me in your life is you were doing this on your own.

My performance coach team obliterates my understanding of the world constantly because I have forgotten what it means to act with accountability to myself. That is their role. They aren’t my friend when they are my coach, they are there to guide me towards a truth that I have been fighting the acceptance of. They aren’t my parent either, my folks did their job and became friends with me so they didn’t have battle my childishness anymore.

What I see is different from what a lot of people see. When I observe people, listen or experience them, it is from a place of perfection, THEIR perfection. Each of us is perfect already, we were born perfect, even if we are not like others, we are perfect at birth. I know this because I am a human being and compassionate people see the potential of others. They do not see themselves in others, they do not see their own past in others and they do not see the mistakes of life in them. We see perfect thoughts, actions, patterns and an existence that is good and pure.

The role of a performance coach is to help the person see the fog of unworkability that is layered over the beauty and order that exists already. We help them peel away each shell of action / behavior / thought, leaving only that which already exists within them. Once the stuff that doesn’t work is gone, the individual is left stripped naked, perfect, uninhibited and free.

Some in our field work hard to change people, I work hard to keep them the same. Each of us have the answer to all of our questions, they are just waiting for us to be able to hear them. The noise of life, the mind, implied obligations and antiquate ways of being sit as rot on human potential. A performance coach, therapist, or good bar tender understands that some of the most effective medicine comes from mold and will help their clients / patrons use it to cleanse their life.

Like a world class athlete who has had every less than ideal movement trained out of them, each of us has the same potential for perfection. We achieve this by stopping all of the things that aren’t working effectively. When we’re out of things that don’t work, the universe is yours.

Again, no one has to accept this fact and are free to see only the things that aren’t working for them as all that they are.

“You Have Never Even….”

There are somethings that I don’t like listening to but really love not reacting to. Like people screaming and blaming me for stuff they did to themselves.

The other day I was chatting with an old friend about the future. It was an interesting conversation because I thought they know me fairly well. The conversation drifted towards children and the prospects of me ending up with someone who has children already - in the grand scheme of things, this isn’t so far from a possibility given that I’m fairly old and that a lot of the women who are close to my age already have children.

They made a really odd comment that initially stung until I realized it didn’t actually mean anything to me. “You have never even baby sat or changed a diaper.” Not entirely true, I changed a diaper when I was 6 and I baby sat a few times as a teenage to make some money for chocolate bars and new grips for my BMX bike. I didn’t say this, there seemed to be some satisfaction in the words so I wasn’t going to rod them of it. The point seemed to have more to do with the big difference between us and I didn’t feel like mentioning that it was only because they’ve done something more times that I had. There didn’t seem to be anything to gain from reminding them that I can ride a bike better simply because I have done it more. Intelligent people know skills are acquired through practice. Intelligent people who *forget* this point are saying something else entirely.

I have never been married and I don’t have children so I didn’t get to practice changing diapers or baby sitting. With every girl friend I have ever had, we talked about having kids one day and I ultimately decided that I didn’t want to have any. Marrying the right person was more important to me than procreating. Kids grow old and move out and before they do, they are children for a long time. A home without my real partner didn’t really stack-up in my view.

Every task that I know how to do, I learned how to do it. That means driving, cutting bread, reading, playing, washing my clothes, creative writing, playing guitar, showering, etc…. Every task that I presently do not know how to do I can learn how to do. I wanted to become a cycling instructor, no one told me that I had never done it, they told me that I could learn. I wasn’t a personal trainer and no one told me that I had never done it, they encouraged me to study and make it my craft and I was able to do it. I was, in my time, a very effective and successful trainer and I got there fairly quickly. This occurred because I wanted to be very good at it and I put the time in to figure-out the best way to make it happen.

In fact, their comment was very helpful because it sounded like something I would say to myself as a justification for not putting in the hard work to learn how to do something.

I just heard their words, considered them, realized that it was the same dismissive tone that I have attacked myself with for a very long time - you’ve never done blank before so why would you think you could do it? The comment made me very happy actually. They were right, I haven’t done the same things they have done. There are many paths through life and ours were just two. But to be maligned for not doing something that wasn’t right for me, my girl friend or any potential offspring is not anything that I need to be a part of. It’s hardly a bad thing to not marry someone I wasn’t completely compatible with. In fact, most of my old girl friends are married, some have started families and the others are partnered-up with people they really care about.

Imagine if, as a group fitness instructor I asked the question at the start of class “is this anyone’s first class?” and when someone replies yes, I say “well you shouldn’t even try because you have never done it before”. Three things happen, 1) I get fired or written-up, 2) I would need at accept that my comment was attempting to say something else to them or imply something about me and 3) people will very quickly see me as a toxic influence who has no interest in creating order in others.

I considered what I heard and just assume it was a throw away comment and made the decision to not receive it as fact. Gifts and insults are like that, if you don’t receive them, they still below to the other person.

“I Can’t Make Your Feel Anything”

I was chatting with Leigh, an old girlfriend from university a few weeks ago at my fathers service, and the topic moved towards what did we learn from each other that carried with us? I try to mine smart people for gems of information and wasn’t expecting her to say anything other than “I was young once and didn’t mind wasting time having fun” but she floored me with something that I had forgotten I had said.

I had done something that she found really frustrating - I have no idea what it was and it probably doesn’t matter much. She said “you are making me feel so angry” to which I replied “I can’t make you feel anything.”

What struck me as profound about her mentioning this is that Leigh has three degrees, works as a educational psychologist and she said that she has given this piece of information out to a number of people though out the years. She never mentioned that it was to any of her clients so I’ll assume that it was just her friends and people in a non-therapeutic setting. I, however, have and will say this to my coaching clients and basically anyone who needs to see themselves as the source of their own emotional state of mind vs. holding other people responsible for their pain.

As I turn the corner and close off my Childhood I see and feel the truth of this statement made 17 years ago. My grudges are my creation. If I’m annoyed that someone didn’t live-up to an expectation that I created and pushed onto them, that’s my choice. I could have created smaller expectations or none at all. Even if I mentioned the expectation to them and they agreed to abide by it, my disappointment in their decision to look after themselves first is my choice. They can’t make me feel anything.

It is my love, my hate, my compassion, my sense of abandonment, my everything. Adults understand and live by this. They establish boundaries and let others in WISE to the fact that with them inside, the potential to hurt grows. But we own our emotions and our emotional responses to our subjective interpretation of reality. I have too much love to go to waste, BUT I realize, understand and accept that I risk emotional pain by reaching out and partnering with another human being. My responsibility is to look after myself and my interests; to direct this love to me first and then to others. Until I have children, I am responsible for just me. My family, girlfriends, friends, co-workers and peers need to look after themselves and their children / interests.

The only power others have over us is the power we give them. And even then, we choose our thoughts which in turn shape our state of mind and emotional reactions. It’s fine to give love away, but if you cannot handle not getting it back, you aren’t giving out love. You are sharing something dark and sinister.

It was a timely refresher from an old and dear friend. Thanks Leigh!