This is a post about ownership.
Ownership of the life you experience.
Ownership of your pain.
Ownership of your regrets.
Ultimately, ownership of your capacity to be truly well.
This past Saturday, I co-facilitated a Lifestyle Management and Emotional Wellness workshop with a fellow Big Giver, Carolyn Hartfield of Lifestyle Management, LLC.
We were amidst a group of women who attended the health and wellness conference entitled, Behind the Scenes, “I Am Still A Woman”. The free community event, hosted by the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services Office on Women’s Health, Region IV (HHS OWH), and the Medical Network for Education and Research, Inc, was held in celebration of National Women’s Health Week.
During our workshop, Carolyn and I met a woman who told us as soon as she entered our room that she came to our workshop to get some feedback and ideas for how to be stronger, and how to regain what she called her “freedom”. Let’s call her “Barbara.”
Barbara shared some personal struggles with which she was currently wrestling. She had a potent cocktail of resentment, anger, frustration, and disappointment stemming from some decisions a close family member had recently made.
Barbara resented a particular family member for “not living up to the life that was prepared for her”.
Barbara was angry that her family member had made such poor choices, despite Barbara’s best efforts, and that “because of her family member’s choices”, Barbara no longer got to enjoy her freedom.
Barbara was frustrated with constantly having to “rescue” her particular family member from their drama.
Barbara was terribly disappointed and extremely embarrassed that her family member had caused the family to be viewed as “flawed”.
I’m sure you know a thing or two about every single one of those emotions Barbara shared with Carolyn and me. I’m sure you’ve poured time, love, money, and hope into people who’ve dropped you on your head. Hard. I’m certain you’ve “said and done all the right things” just to have someone or something go damn-near irreparably WRONG. Right?
Me too. But in all the pain, hurt, disappointment, horrible surprises, and all around Suck-tivity, you and I always have the option to shift our attention to one thing:
OUR CAPACITY TO CHOOSE.
When we choose ourselves—not to spite or hide from others, but to nurture our relationships with ourselves and our loved ones—we walk the path of emotional wellness.
But it’s not always the easiest path to walk, is it? It can feel like a sudden brick wall against our faces when we get dished heaping piles of dirt from people we’ve showered with love.
But there is something you can do to work through that in a healthy way. As a matter of fact…
Here are 4 Things To Do (and why you should do them) When Folks Dish You Dirt
TIP # 1 – Back up and love them from a distance. Learn how to practice the art of getting what you need in any given moment. Getting them out of your daily flow (even though they may still be in your thoughts) helps you get well.
TIP # 2 – Risk Expression for you. If you’re thinking you can give them that powerful insight or that reality check to bring them back on track, you’re probably WRONG. When you express your emotional response that person’s actions, do it not for change, but for the value and catharsis that often accompanies outward expression. They might not change a single thing after your noble outpour of truth, but it gets the feelings out of you, off your chest, and that helps you get well.
TIP # 3 – DO: See yourself as separate from them and their experiences. Yes, their decisions affect you, but to what extent? If you are not dependent upon that person for food, shelter, or medical care, recognize that you CAN CHOOSE to acknowledge that their decisions will always be theirs (not yours!) to make, and that just as you can support the decisions that make sense to you, you can separate yourself from the decisions with which you don’t agree. If you view your experience as separate from every other adult in your life (including adult children, your spouse, partner, colleague, or friend), then you release some of the burden that comes with the consequences of their decisions, and that helps you get well.
TIP # 4 – DON’T: Keep viewing the person as separate from their decisions. Work hard to forgive if you can, but remember that if this person has shown a pattern of ill-made decisions, then that is their life, their energy, their experience, and if you stay with them (in whatever capacity), it will trickle over into your life. It has no choice, since you’ve placed yourself in its path. That might hurt to hear, but if someone repeatedly shows you what they choose, then you too CAN CHOOSE to revisit Tip #1, and take care of YOU.
If you’re like Barbara, reeling from the onslaught of negative emotions, remember your responsibility to yourself. Think about what it’s costing you to hold on to the feelings, then decide if it’s worth holding on to. If it isn’t, then practice using my emotional wellness tips to take care of the ONLY person who can keep you emotionally unwell—YOU.