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A Lightbulb Moment

Posted by Lauren Roberts, MS, LPC, Assistant Clinical Director & Therapist at Cascades on October 07, 2019

LaurenAbout a month ago I attended a conference and while there I was part of a panel presentation. During the presentation, an audience member vulnerably shared her experience on the topic. Several people in the room took what she had to say personally, assumed it was directed towards them, and experienced some of their own guilt. She expressed her frustration in not being fully heard and shared that it was not personal. As the presentation unfolded, it slowly hit me that in taking what she had to say personally the focus was no longer on her experience and her vulnerability. This concept resonated for me in a way that it had not before.

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I quickly began to think of the many times the codependent part of myself has asked my husband if he is mad or frustrated with me. Typically, having asked that question is what actually creates the frustration or anger towards me. I am now recognizing that the invitation for me is to step outside of myself and see what is going on for him, even if it is about me. To allow him the space to feel his feelings, be in his feelings, and truly empathize with his feelings without my experience getting in the way of that.

There are two different pieces to dissect here. The first is that often what we take personally is not ours to take personally. “Personal importance, or taking things personally, is the maximum expression of selfishness because we make the assumption that everything is about me.” – Mark Angel Ruiz. There is a huge value in being able to step out of our own “stuff” so that we can allow another person to be in their “stuff”. In order to achieve this we have to do our own work to identify our triggers and have greater self-awareness. Meta awareness is a term derived from the work of developmental psychologist, John Flavell, who coined the term “metacognition” to describe a phenomenon where a person has cognition about cognition or, stated another way, thinking about thinking. Often these more difficult conversations require a level of meta awareness or the ability to be noticing and thinking about how we are showing up in the conversation. We begin to notice what might be coming up for us internally while having the conversation. This is a skill that requires practice and enables one to be responsive versus reactive.

The second piece is that sometimes it is about us. The person sitting across from us might be giving us feedback that is hard to hear. I am not sure anyone actually enjoys hearing constructive feedback. However, the invitation on how to best respond is incredibly similar to how we would respond in the above scenario. It is incredibly difficult to not defend ourselves or justify our actions. It is incredibly powerful to table our reasons for our actions and to just listen, acknowledge and validate the other person’s experience whether we agree with them or not. Right now this is ultimately about them, not you. If we can calm our ego and really truly listen with our heart we might be able to understand and empathize with their experience. The goal is not to seek the “truth” because there is not one truth. The goal is not to discover the truth but to create safety, trust, and connection.

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