A friend and colleague of mine is currently enrolled in an online class with me, and we are sharing our experiences back and forth through voice messages on WhatsApp.
The other day she sent me a long (10 minute) message about her experience with the work that day, and seeing it’s length I put in my headphones and listened while I washed the lunch dishes.
It was a beautiful and vulnerable share, so I found a quiet corner from which I could respond, leaving, in turn, a 5 minute message celebrating her discoveries, expanding on them, and sharing some other ideas.
Right before going to sleep I received another message from her and felt excited to listen to it. That excitement dropped from my throat into a pit in my stomach and a clenching in my chest after the first 30 seconds. It turns out that my message wasn’t received as intended.
What an icky feeling. I sat with it for awhile and it eventually turned into numbness.
I hate conflict (as do most people), and I also hate when I have the feeling that I have “done something wrong” (as do most people.)
I sat in reflection for awhile, asking myself questions like: Do I need to apologize? What exactly did I do wrong? Did I do something wrong? What are my values? What is the nature of our relationships? Did I do something that doesn’t align with that?
I tried to call her, but there was no answer. I sat on the edge of my bed contemplating my next step. I didn’t want to continue the back-and-forth “argument” over voice messages and I also didn’t want to go to bed without giving voice to my own feelings.
I opened WhatsApp again, held my thumb over the microphone icon, took a breath, and pressed it.
I started with talking about the sensations in my body. I talked about how I didn’t think that I needed to apologize because my intention wasn’t to hurt her. I pondered out loud if it was what I had said, or what she had heard. I recounted a recent conversation between us about how it’s okay to piss people off, and it we haven’t, we haven’t really done our “job.” I ended by requesting that we talk further about it in the morning.
I struggled to go to sleep that night, and found myself returning again to it in the middle of the night when I was awakened by my daughter.
The next morning I woke to another voice message. I hesitated. I didn’t want to listen to it. I put it off saying that it wasn’t the “right time.” I got myself ready for the day, got my kids off to school, did my meditation and exercise, and finally sat down to listen.
What I realize is that I was postponing shame.
I was postponing what I considered the “inevitable.”
I was postponing the feeling of not just doing something wrong, but of being wrong.
Though, at the same time, I know that my friend would never “shame me.” Instead, I was re-creating a feeling from my past and putting it directly in my present. I was procrastinating because of my past experiences with doing something “wrong” and either being directly shamed through the words of another, or feeling shame because of my interpretation of their words. (Sometimes we end up shaming ourselves...that is another topic though.)
Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale. I pressed PLAY.
I was relieved to discover a light heartedness to her tone and the reassurance that she was not expecting an apology. LONG EXHALE. The tension in my body released and I was back to feeling connected to my enoughness and to her.
Here are 3 big lessons I have re-learned from this experience:
1) The importance of stepping into your values and knowing that just because someone doesn’t like what you did or said, it doesn’t mean that you did something wrong, or are wrong.
2) That our present negative feelings are often not attributed to the present moment, but are often rooted in a past--a past that we CO-CREATED. (Also known as transference.)
3) That trust and connection are built through vulnerability and the speaking of our truth, no matter how hard it might feel, or how worried we are of “ruining the relationship.”
I am happy to say that my friend and I feel even more connected than ever after encountering this speed bump.
Is it possible that you are postponing something? Disappointment? Conflict? Shame? Failure?
Would you like to leave the past in the past and created a new possibility instead? If so, let's connect to talk about how I can support you.
Courage. Compassion. Connection.