When my little guy was three, I took him to get his hair cut and he was holding it together until they sat him in the chair and tried to strike up a conversation with him. In doing so, he turned to me, as he began to cry uncontrollably, and pummeled me with his little fists in a fit of rage. The stylist assumed he was scared of getting his hair cut, so she tried to distract him with more questions and try to make him laugh, etc. And I can only assume that ever onlooker (especially those that weren’t current parents of small children) was thinking, “What a hellish child, why can’t she control him? Such a bad kid.” All the time, I’m trying to soften the blows, coax him out of his rage, and fumble with an explanation to the stylist that he’s really shy. So while he looked like a completely out of control child, he was really communicating to her “Please oh please, do not talk to me! Do NOT look at me!” And in trying to hurt me, was saying to me, “Please make her stop, why aren’t you protecting me!” This reaction had become the common reaction to every scary situation for him from potty training to bumble bees.
How many times have we said, or heard said, “Use your words!”
If only it were that easy.
I recently developed a workshop entitled “Own Your Story” and it’s based on the premise that everything that we experience in our lives weaves together to make our story. Some of it is awesome, and some of it causes us pain, even if we might not recognize it as that. Through the exercises we work to tease out the stories that are impacting you most today, and then turn them upside down to take some of their power away. In the end, the intent of the workshop is to make a conscious decision on where you want your story to continue and to begin to write the next chapters.
But I recently was listening to an interview between Oprah and Glennon Doyle, who is a philanthropist, blogger, mom, activist, that added an extra level of understanding for me on story telling. In her reference to her fight with addiction, she believes that everyone is inherently a truth teller. Some people tell tell their truths in words, but so many more can not. Like Glennon, as a high schooler, she could not speak her truth, so she turned to bulimia and then drugs and alcohol to dull her pain and express her story.
They may be like my little guy who does not have the wherewithal (yet) to put his fears and pain into words, so he has to rely on his actions in his fight or flight state as protection. Or they can’t reconcile their inside selves with their outside selves.
How often have you encountered someone a bit off putting and later followed up with a mutual friend and asked, “So what’s their story?”
That’s the crux of it. Our behavior and actions are dictated by the story of our life and our ability to communicate the truth of the story and its affect on us.
So when someone turns to food, substances, shopping, and/or exercising in excess they are likely dulling the pain or finding comfort from their truths. The “perfect” people you know that are working so very extra hard to keep up appearances, are likely trying to keep you at bay so you don’t see their monsters in the corners. Think of those around you and the seemingly “annoying” things they do–how they work through stress, how they need to always be right, how then never speak or never speak up, etc.
They are all speaking volumes if we only listen to them.
Of course, it’s much easier to see this in others–and it’s a great trait to have as you will spend a lot less time being frustrated with people when you look beyond the behavior–but can you turn the mirror on yourself? When you lash out–where is it coming from? When you make poor choices–is there a pain you are trying to dull? Are you living a transparent life with your inside self reconciled with your outside one. In other words, you know your shortcomings, your strengths, your weaknesses and your demons that make up your truth–and you embrace them. You talk candidly about them. You have no secrets. What you see is in fact what you get.
I think we are all a work in progress when it comes to our truths and story telling, which is good as we have many many more chapters to write and we don’t want to peak too early! But wouldn’t there be a huge weight lifted if we stopped trying to push down the inside fears to make it look like we are “fine”.
What impact would it make to use the words that are so hard to conjure to let those around us know how we are really feeling. And/or begin to do the work around those feelings to understand where they are coming from, and how we might be able to alleviate them.
You absolutely deserve a life of balance. One where your outside self walks side by side with your inside self letting our truth flags fly!
Where can you start that journey?