Recently a colleague made an insightful suggestion about my running practice. She suggested I run to deflect feeling emotional pain. My first instinct was to strongly deny her suggestion. I am a highly trained, self-aware person, familiar with exploring all facets of my personality! Surely, I know myself best!
And then I stopped that movie. Huh. How might I be using something so seemingly healthy as an avoidance tactic? And yet, the more I sat with this uncomfortable feeling, the more I realized she might just be correct. Especially as I looked at how my running has evolved over the years.
Instead of being a runner who wants to improve her pace, I am all about distance and logging the miles. I realized there was a correlation between the emotionally turbulent periods of my life and the number of miles I was running during these times. The greater my emotional distress, the more miles I tended to run.
This is a good example of how something can have both positive and negative qualities. We are so conditioned in our Western culture to be dualistic. We think in terms of either/or. Running (insert any other word here) is either good for you or bad for you, depending upon your perspective.
What if we looked at it from a different place? What if the things we think of as all good, or all bad, might actually be a bit of both? My running was good for me at the time, because it provided a healthy outlet for emotions I did not understand, could not, or would not express. Running was perhaps bad also, for precisely that reason. I deflected emotional pain by enduring physical pain. Emotional pain meted out in every pounding, pre-dawn 10-mile run.
So the next time you want to categorize something as either “bad” or “good,” think again. Could it be both?
I’d love to hear about your experience of looking at things from a different place. How has this worked (or not) for you? Send me an email or comment below.
I have been thinking lately about the words I speak. Do I say too many? Do I say the truth? Do I say enough? Why am I saying this? I also pay attention to the effect my words have on others, and to the outcome I desire when I say my words. Sometimes I don’t know the effect my words have on others, but if I slow down, I can consider my motivation for what I say.
Sometimes I want validation for the feelings I am experiencing. Sometimes I want attention from the person I am speaking to. Sometimes my words ask someone to agree with me. So all of these reasons have an expectation attached to the speaking.
I am experimenting with slowing down, considering my words carefully, and saying less. As I say less, I have time to consider my motivation for the words I speak, and to drop my expectation about the other person’s response.
A few years ago, I took a series of meditation courses in the Shambhala tradition. A wise teacher once asked we students to consider the following about our speech:
Is it kind? Is it true? Is it necessary?
These are the suggestions I am taking on again before I speak. I am interested to know about how you might want to say less. Comment below or send me an email.
Last Sunday, in the New York Times, the column Modern Love addressed the issue of falling in love. Is it something that happens to us, or something we choose? I want to write about this, because the topic captured my interest, and apparently, many other’s as well.
I’ve made clear in previous posts, that I believe love is a choice. And I write from the context of people already in my life, who sometimes challenge my willingness to love them completely. In this sense, love for me, is a choice. I choose love, despite the discomfort and the unknown.
But how does love happen? One aspect of falling in love involves developing interpersonal closeness by revealing deeper and generally less apparent parts of ourselves. This is also known as intimacy. When we feel safe revealing our true self, and that true self is met with compassion and reciprocal revelations (meaning the other person shares their shit too), intimacy and trust can develop.
Psychologist Arthur Aron wanted to know if two strangers could generate interpersonal closeness by answering 36 questions, each designed to reveal more and more about the participant’s innermost feelings. The interest in these questions has been so great, that there is now an app, complete with the 36 questions and directions for conducting your own experiment.
Do you think it’s possible for two strangers to fall in love after answering 36 questions? How much intimacy is there in your own close relationships? Would you be interested in answering the 36 questions with your current or long term partner? I know I am.
I would enjoy hearing about any experimenting you do with the 36 questions. Comment below or shoot me an email.
When I was five years old, a neighborhood dog escaped his yard and chased me, jumping up on me, in what was probably a friendly attempt to play. I was traumatized and fearful of dogs for many years after this.
Today, during my early morning run, a dog out of his yard, barked at me and moved in my direction. I looked at him and said, “good morning!” At that moment, his owner called and the dog turned away from me. This incident reminded me of how far I’ve come in my reaction to unknown dogs (and unknown incidents).
Two thoughts came to mind about this. First, early childhood events profoundly affect how we make contact with the world in adulthood. These events are usually buried deep in our subconscious and often do not surface until we intentionally work on self-awareness. Second, that my fear of dogs was a metaphor for many fears. The root of my fear was not the dog itself, but what might happen with the dog.
In Gestalt therapy, we call that place of uncertainty, between the known and unknown, the fertile void. It is the chasm we cross when we leave behind what is certain and safe, but perhaps not always productive. The fertile void is the creative possibility for something different and potentially powerful.
It is the willingness not to know. The dog might bite me, yes. He might be friendly and lick my hand. Crossing the chasm is done with choicefulness and the understanding that risk is involved. I don’t want anyone to be stricken with rabies because they reached out to an unknown dog who bit them!
And, I am advocating a visit to the chasm. To entertain the possibilities of the unknown. To be okay with not knowing.
Worry about the future often involves other people. Think about it. If you are worrying about something, it might be because you want someone to behave in a certain manner. When I worry about my adult children and their wellbeing, I often realize I have this expectation about what they should be doing. Instead of letting go of that expectation, I hold on tight, and worry.
When I worry about asking my boss for a raise, I am worried about her reaction, her possible rejection. I am not worried about my behavior, because I know I deserve that raise. So increasing our awareness of what and who we worry about can ease worry as we recognize we cannot control other people’s behavior, only our own.
When we form an expectation about behavior we are usually attached to outcome. Do you expect your partner, child, friend, whoever, to do something, say something, or behave in a certain way? Can you step back, and realize how invested you are in this expectation? Do you have an attachment to it? Does worry comes up if you think your expectations won’t be met?
To drop worry, let go expectation and attachment to other people’s behavior. Not easy. Try it, just once, to start. Ultimately, each person enacts their own behavior and is responsible for it and the consequences afterward. If we stop to think about it, we really have no control over our partners, our (adult) child, or our friends’ behaviors. Even though we would like to think we do…
I would love to hear your thoughts on worry, expectations, and attachments. Comment below, Facebook me, or shoot me an email.