A friend helped me out yesterday by calling me a bitch.
Well, kind of. I hadn't seen her in several months. She presented her observations from the vantage point of her interactions with me several months ago. She observed my communication style as harsh, abrupt, and erratic. Instead of saying those words, she used the term bitchy. In the past, her description would have ignited a bit of anger inside of me. I may have jumped to defensive words or [I don't like to admit this] agreed with her. This time, I handled the situation with a different method.
I paraphrased what she said. She said many words to me and expressed her emotions in the ways with which she was familiar. I summarized her words, named the emotions I thought she was describing to me, and then said I could understand her perspective. My alternative method took the personal out of her observation. It made it her observation instead of something I saw as necessary to accept about myself, to internalize. [This is a big distinction to me.] I used to think that when someone said stuff about me, I needed to really think it over. If I heard it over and over again, then I should really consider it! This kept me stuck in a pattern of abuse. I didn't know it as that when it was happening. I had to learn some new skills before I'd be able to see that about my choices. Some of these new skills involved EMDR.
One concept in EMDR is visual imagery. It helps relieve stress. A complex system makes this visual imagery effective and simple.
Instead of letting my friend's words incite me into anger time, I focused on my breath and listened to her. I held strong images in my mind as she said somewhat misogynistic, inaccurate, and judgmental comments to me. She couched things in terms similar to "we all need to get along" and "maybe you should really look at yourself." Sometimes I cut her off because she kept talking and didn't appear to be coming to a stopping point. Sometimes she'd cut me off. Sometimes I'd bring us back to a point that we covered earlier or she'd start talking about something I saw as tangential. I voiced reasons for my actions. It was kind of a confusing time, and my imagery helped me remain calm.
In days past, I may have spent a while in a state of anxiety after speaking with her. I didn't feel comfortable speaking about myself at length. I couldn't define an emotion. Our previous relationship consisted of me mostly listening and agreeing with her. That, or helping her with her ideas for life. I didn't utilize my voice much in my relationship with her except to support and nurture her or describe my life to her. If she offered advice, I'd say ok even if I knew inside that her advice wouldn't work in my situation.
Yesterday, I voiced myself. I allowed myself to notice my anger. It was there. Her word choice pricked it. I breathed through it, and then I spoke about understanding and my personal logic routine. I didn't realize people liked to know how I came to a decision until I read a numerology book related to the workplace. Apparently, keeping all decision making logic internal appears glassy, standoffish, and unfriendly to some other people. This, in turn, may cause them to feel as if I am alienating them. At first I didn't see why it mattered whether someone else felt alienated. (I felt alienated most of the time. Didn't everyone else?) As I learned a bit more about connection and trust and why both are necessary for living an enriching life, I put together the reason for caring about someone else's feelings. My mind needed a solid reason for it before it could enforce consistent action.
The reason to care is because it makes life rich. Caring about someone else's feelings means listening; speaking up; and participating. We're all responsible to each other and ourselves. Each of us in accountable to the other. If I don't like what you said, it's my responsibility to say that I don't like it. Maybe there's a heated debate. Maybe a feeling is hurt or an ego gets bruised. Healthy relationships experience conflict and discuss through it. My partner once told me that "caring is the natural human instinct, in most humans." The concept was new to me. Caring.Pfft. That got you nowhere. It made you a pushover.
Then I learned how caring and strength can coincide in an assertive human. Someone showed me how to act confident, strong, and vulnerable at the same time. She and I discuss problems, and she shows me how to see alternative solutions. I disagree with her sometimes and she displays healthy conflict resolution skills. I used some of those skills yesterday when my friend and I processed conflict together. [I don't know if she and I will be close. I thought we were before, but how could we have been close if I wasn't expressing myself? What was that if it wasn't what I thought it was? Was it still that that I thought because that's what I thought of it at that time?] All I can do at this point is keep piecing together this process.
Well hello there.