All of this talk about self-honesty as being crucial to recovery, and one could easily forget that there is a common blockage to achieving that level of self-knowing: Guilt.
Guilt is not something reserved for when a person does something logically wrong, but it oftentimes is a reaction to when a person does something not “tribe acceptable”. What do I mean by tribe acceptable? Try this exercise:
Your Tribe (a.k.a. close friends, family):
1. Name three people you talk to often (Ideally, at least three times weekly)
2. Name how often you have felt negative feelings around them (anger, boredom, irratation etc)
3. Is the negative feeling/s you listed above something that reoccurs with them at least twice a month?
4. Do you at times feel “put upon”, “used”, “a doormat”, “too nice”, or like you are trying to keep the peace and show you are a good person by being patient with them in spite of your answers to question number 2?
5. Do they seem oblivious that you even have a problem with them, and/or seem not to be doing much to change their behavior?
If you answered yes to ANY of these problems, then let me ask another important set of questions:
1. Do you think insulting/negative things in your head when interacting with them? (ex: “shut up”, “gosh, this is boring”, “does this person ever stop complaining?”, “I should have stayed home”, “I have more fun alone”, “oh, do I have to here about this persons (insert their usual issue) again?”.
2. Do you sometimes find yourself feeling guilty for having the above thoughts, and/or correct yourself upon thinking this thoughts? (Ex: “Yes, she complains a lot, but she is my sister”, “I know cars are boring to me, but my son needs me to show interest”, “Well, he/she listens to me when I have problems, this is the least that I can do”, or even “I should be ashamed of myself for thinking that about him/her”.
If you again find yourself nodding in even partial agreement, then please believe me when I say that GUILT and being passive about your issues with this person does impact your recovery. Negative “hidden” feelings are not truly hidden, and make themselves known in a variety of ways including through EMOTIONAL eating.
So, what is the solution to airing out your “little annoyances” about a person you care about without hurting their feelings? Don’t worry, I am not going to tell you to shout at them carelessly (hurting another is NEVER the real answer). When you love someone the answer is never to hurt them, and last thing you would want to do is lose them over something seemingly “petty”.
I can hear some of you protesting:
“How can I tell my daughter her school gossip stories are boring! she is a pre-teen, and I want to seem like a good mom”.
“I knew my husband loved fishing when I married him, I can’t ask him to stop his hobby forever”.
“My mother is elderly! I can’t tell her that the stories of her childhood bore me to tears, nor that her constant complaining makes me angry—she needs me.”
Well relax! The answer to freeing yourself from experiencing these negative feelings is generally NOT direct confrontation.
The first step is to make a “negative feelings around (insert persons name)” list. Here is how to do it!
Negative Feelings Around (Insert name of loved one here) List:
1. In your journal (*see Journaling entry) write the name of the main 1-2 loved ones who you feel negative feelings around (boredom, anger, annoyance, etc).
2. Write things this person “Always Does” that causes you to feel negative feelings around them. (Ex: talks about quilting, complains about his/her day, asks me rude/nosy questions etc).
3. Write a MINIMUM of three negative ways you feel when the person does the above things. (Ex: bored, angry, annoyed, confused, embarrassed, uneasy etc).
4. Write “Why” you feel the above emotions.
“I feel bored when my husband talks about his lego building. I know no one can hear us, but I feel a bit embarrassed that he still plays with toys in his 50’s. Its annoying how he goes on about finding the perfect piece. I get a bit uneasy that he may lose interest in his real life, and it confuses me how he could love toys so much.”
5. Look at your answers to the negative feelings you have from Step 3, and list areas in YOUR OWN life where you feel these same emotions.
“I feel bored with my job. I feel embarrassed of my emotional eating, finances, and weight. I feel uneasy about finding a new job.”
6. Decide to find answers, take the proper steps, and go after your dreams to alivate your issues from step 5. Most of the time we already know what we should be doing (finding a job, exercising, etc), but we avoid doing them. Well in your case these ignored oppurunities are negatively affecting your health and life—STOP! Do your best in some small way to at least start making the changes you to need to stop feeling negatively about your OWN life.
7. Find a small way to “steer” your conversation and/or interaction with your loved one away from their usual pattern/s.
“Mom your quilting does sound wonderful, but I remember when you also used to bake. Tell me a little about what being a baker was like?”
“Honey, that lego sculpture looks absolutely wonderful! I saw this garden earlier today that reminded me of the lego flowers you made. I have always wanted to learn to garden. Remember when you first built our garden? How did you learn to plan like that?”
“Oh, I do love our movie nights. I miss when we would play boardgames though, would you mind if we did that tonight?”
The key is simply gently remind the person of other topics to talk about, because in generally no one wants to be “boring” nor cause you to feel negative feelings around them. Oftentimes, people are simply talking you about a topic that they love, and are assuming you find interesting since you haven’t steered the conversation anywhere else.
Word of Warning:
Outbursts are NOT the answer! Shouting at someone “Oh Shut Up!” or “Boring” is rude, and solves nothing. It is important to be GENTLE in your conversation, and interaction steering. Nagging a person to “get a new hobby” is not the answer. The goal is to remind the person of past activities they love, current activities they haven’t mentioned in awhile, and/or new activities that it seems they may like. The goal isn’t to change the person, but simply to change the topic occasionally.
Even if steering the conversation doesn’t away to something else doesn’t make the person more interesting, it still sends them a subconscious reminder that you enjoy a little variety in your conversations/interractions.
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