The hardest lesson that I had to learn as a parent was this:
I love you, and I feel for you, and your journey is not mine.
It took a LOT of practice – and the universe sent me a relentless series of opportunities to learn it, but it finally stuck.
I’m offering this to you as we move into winter holidays, when families gather, and we have fantastical visions of sugarplums and homecomings full of laughter and such.
The most reliable way that you can actually enjoy your loved ones is to be very clear that your empathy is a gift, but your frantic intrusion into problems in order to ‘fix’ them is not.
Yes, you may disappoint people who are dear to you. But, if you are clear about what IS your business, and you take good care to follow the wisdom of ‘you be you,’ then you may just be the best gift EVER to your family, friends, loved ones.
You are not on this earth to take others’ tasks away from them. Instead, you are here to inspire them.
At Blue Star Ranch, we invite visitors into the arena to do groundwork with horses. The horses do what horses will do – sometimes they mosey along at a slow pace, sometimes they run around, sometimes they jump and play.
If you’re not familiar with horses, all this can be a little bewildering. But with plenty of coaches around, we offer support and instruction and a linked-arm technique for teaching you how to calm your horse, or how to invite your horse to match your energy level.
And, ALWAYS, the very first lesson is this:
When you are worried, or distracted, or unsure — Go to the center of the arena, and breathe.
When you breathe, deeply and from a ‘centered’ place, it’s amazing to watch your horse’s response. He slows, he looks your way, and he may even approach for a gentle nuzzle.
This lesson is a perfect metaphor for the variety of reasons that people come to the Ranch: It works with parenting. It works with leadership, team building, communication, relationships, trauma recovery, and grief.
Today, find the center of your ‘arena,’ the place where you bring your talents and energy to make something happen. Settle into your imaginary arena with deep breaths and a solid, steady weight on your heels. Let your shoulders drop. Stand straight and strong.
Now, you’re ready to bring your whole self to your work, your relationships, your life. When you take care of yourself first, then your interactions with others come from a place of integrity, rather than from fear or distress.
As we say at the Ranch, ‘Be the energy that you wish to see in your horse.’ And that goes for your humans, too!
Are you dancing as fast as you can, doing the ballet of soothing ruffled feathers, doling out tough love when it’s time, and lending a listening ear while you’re mentally tallying your To Do list?
Here are 3 most common reasons why you get trapped on this merry-go-round: 1. “Because I said I would.”
This trap is an insidious one, and it only works to trap conscientious, kind, concerned people (like you). You want to be consistent, reliable, and trustworthy because these are your values. You know what it feels like when someone lets you down. BUT, your values become a trap when you are rigidly following a commitment that you truly never should have made in the first place. Interestingly, people from dysfunctional families of origin are particularly susceptible to this trap, perhaps because they grew up trying to exert some kind of order in the midst of chaos….
Your way out of this trap? Repeat after me: “It is OK to change my mind. It is OK to change my mind. It is more than OK – it’s imperative!”
2. “If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself.”
This is what I call a Power Ploy. It’s a way to control by pretending to be helpful. It’s a trap, my dear, and it will “wear you out,” as we say around here. And, people will probably just let you keep wearing yourself out, because you don’t really want help – you want control. You’re just going to have to let this go.
Your way out of this trap? Repeat after me: “Done “is better than perfect. And ‘done’ by someone else is better than just about anything….”
3. “I don’t want to hurt their feelings….”
This one stops fully grown men and women in their tracks. I’ve seen it. You’ll go to extraordinary lengths to avoid conflict or friction, rearranging schedules, priorities, travel, and personal desires in order to keep others from feeling hurt. The more you do this, the more internal conflict and “hurt” you’ll experience. And, the more likely it is that your relationships are not authentic; they’re play-acting for the sake of appearances, or for the sake of the matriarch, or for the sake of the big boss’s illusions.
Your way out of this trap? Repeat after me: “I can’t be responsible for others’ feelings. I can’t be responsible for others’ feelings. I can be responsible for my own integrity and joy. When I do that, then joy spreads….”
Questions? Drop me a line at info@TrishRing.com. Get out of the traps you’ve set for yourself.
I coached a teacher who was furious with her student’s father. “He’s an emotional bully,” the teacher said to me. “He pushes me around just like he pushes his daughter around, and I’m so angry that I can’t think straight.”
Good insight. This teacher – let’s call her, Sue – is probably feeling the same anger that the child feels, but perhaps can’t express.
Why was Sue so angry? Because the dad had stormed into a year-end parent – teacher conference, saying, “My daughter is not making good grades and it’s your fault for not teaching her what she needs to know.”
Outrageous. Rude. Out of line. Wrong.
I asked Sue,“Now that you’ve had some time to retreat from the crazy drama, what do you wish you could say to this father?”
“I wish I could say, ‘You’re crazy!’”
We laughed. That would be fun to say, but not terribly professional. Nor, necessarily, accurate.
But here’s the thing – what you yearn to say? That gem of outspoken, frank, heartfelt push-back? There’s a germ of truth in there that needs to be mined and SAID.
So, Sue needed to find the germ of truth. And she needed to say it. Here’s what she came up with: “Instead of telling him that he’s crazy,” Sue told me, “I really need to tell him that his expectations are unrealistic. That I’m an experienced teacher, that I have a perspective that’s valuable, and that his demands are simply not realistic.”
Sounds true. Solid. Right.
And, I’m betting that that’s exactly what this dad needs to hear. And, I’m betting that that’s exactly what this daughter will say to him when she finds her voice.
Sue reported back – the follow-up conference went well enough. No great breakthroughs for the dad, but a huge breakthrough for Sue.
The next time you think you can’t say what you mean, follow these steps:
Calm yourself & let go of that judgy part of you that wants to lash out.
Find the simple truth that needs to be said.
Say it with quiet confidence.
Let go of convincing anyone of anything, but stand in your truth.
Feel the freedom of knowing what you know, and saying it.
Let others in your life see what happens when you tell the truth.
Have you ever noticed how other people can pressure you to put your energy toward their needs, rather than toward your own priorities? Some people are sneaky and manipulative, which can actually make it easier to resist. Or rebel later.
Some people are just plain needy. You might feel sorry for them, and want to help. Interestingly, though, experience shows that pity is a poor substitute for good boundaries. Pity is patronizing. It’s dis-empowering.
Some people in your life may be very demanding. Whatever pressure you’re experiencing, you have the right to set a boundary. Don’t collude in pressuring yourself to measure up to other people’s expectations.
You might be juggling a lot of balls right now. Take a look at where they came from. Are they really yours? Or are you being pressured to be good, helpful, pleasing?
Are you even interested in playing this game?
If not, you don’t have to return the ball. Or volley it, catch it, run after it, or even notice it.
It’s not your ball. It’s not your game.
Play by your own rules, and your generosity towards others will come from the heart. Heart-felt generosity is effortless, and it makes magic happen in relationships.