Hope

3 min read

The current world situation is disturbing to say the least.  The pandemic, climate change, social justice, war.  It seems that every time I look at the news or social media there is another disaster or disheartening situation happening.  I’ve been finding it hard to keep my eyes and ears open and not get sucked down into despair.

Late last year I watched an online summit called Activating Hope.  The opening talk was by Jane Goodall, co-author of The Book of Hope: A Survival Guide for Trying Times.  She began by going over all the problems we currently face.  She covered everything I was concerned about and added in a few new ones that I hadn’t even thought of!

Then over the next four days, speaker after speaker began to offer hope by sharing stories about the projects they were working on.  Learning about so many positive initiatives going on around the world really helped lift my spirits. 

But this year continues to be extremely challenging.  The division in Canada highlighted by the convoys.  The Russian invasion of Ukraine.  Once again, it’s hard not to spiral down into despair and apathy.  Despair when I think about what’s going on in the world and apathy when I don’t think about it – neither of which is a good thing.

I’m currently reading a book where the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu share how they stay positive, and actually joyful, during trying times.  They reminded me that “often what we think is reality is only part of the picture.  We look at one of the calamities in our world … and then we look again, and we see all those who are helping to heal those who have been harmed.” 1 It’s true.  I see this every day in the news and social media.  Beautiful stories of humanity at its best.  Encouraging, hope-giving stories that help me stay connected to the world without falling into despair about the future.

Also helping me are two of the messages I took away from Activating Hope – get involved in change and have a regular spiritual practice.

I know the regular spiritual practice part is key for me.  I need to get out in nature for a walk, meditate, read, and connect with others.  These are all part of my spiritual practice. 

But how to get involved in change when it comes to conflict in the world?  I’ve started attending online group meditations for peace and healing.  This feels really helpful.  I had been sending love and peace to areas of conflict as part of my personal practice but being part of a group feels much more powerful. 

And according to some studies, lifting my mood affects more than just me, “your current state of mind carries an intention that has an effect on life around you.  The mind continues affecting its surroundings whether or not we are consciously sending an intention.  To think is to affect.”2 

I know I don’t want to bring more fear into the world by only focusing on the bad things that are happening and then imagining a bleak future.  So, I’ll keep the Dalai Lama’s words in mind when I hear the news, “if you let your imagination run wild, then you exacerbate the situation further and then bring more fear.”  I’ll do my best to adopt “the wider perspective” and see that “there are many more positive things happening in our world.”1

And, I’ll keep taking action in the small ways that I can … meditating, writing letters, signing petitions, and supporting worthwhile organizations.  Because as Jane Goodall says, “The antidote to depression and lack of hope is taking action.”3

1 – The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu with Douglas Abrams

2 – The Intention Experiment by Lynne McTaggart

3 – Jane Goodall, https://www.bbc.com/travel/article/20210318-why-jane-goodall-is-hopeful-in-2021

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Releasing Trapped Emotions

3 min read

Last year I read a book1 about releasing trapped emotions.  I’d heard of ‘emotional baggage’ but never really thought about how much I might be carrying or that I could release it. 

We all have emotions, big and little, all the time, and if for some reason we don’t process our emotions fully, they get stuck or trapped.  We move on, but our bodies hold that unprocessed emotion. 

The whole concept of releasing trapped emotions really resonated with me and I’ve been working with it ever since.  I recently cleared a trapped emotion of ‘Taken for Granted’.  During the process, which for me is like a meditation, I could feel the sense of being taken for granted come up, the resentment – why doesn’t anyone ever see me, see what I do, appreciate me, acknowledge my contribution?  I don’t know exactly where it came from, not from anything I was currently experiencing, but it felt big.

And then it dawned on me … I don’t appreciate me.  I take me for granted.  I often discount my contribution and dismiss my inner wisdom.  How could anyone else appreciate me if I didn’t appreciate myself?  Good question.

Rebecca Campbell2 writes, “In order for other people to acknowledge us, first we need to acknowledge ourselves.  The people in our lives are merely mirrors reflecting back to us what we believe about the Universe and ourselves.  … What am I not seeing in myself that longs to be seen?”

I saw that the only way to stop feeling taken for granted by others is to stop taking myself for granted.  Once I came to that realization and apologized to myself, I could feel the trapped emotion releasing.  My body relaxed and when it felt like the emotion was completely released, I mentally filled every cell in my body with love and appreciation.

Martha Beck3 describes that when you get “in touch with the deep sense of truth” that she calls your ‘Inner Teacher’ … you can feel it in all aspects of your being (body/mind/heart/soul) at once.”

She explains that the “body’s reaction to recognizing truth is relaxation, a literal, involuntary release of muscle tension”.  Check, I definitely felt that. 

“When our minds recognize truth, we experience that invisible cartoon light bulb going on in our heads, the feeling of a riddle being solved.  … All the puzzle pieces fit.  The math works.  Everything makes logical sense.”  Yep, total light bulb moment.

“To our heart, the ring of truth feels like a flower opening up … we’re completely available to all emotion: overwhelming love, deep grief, terrible anger, sharp fear.”  Again, a big yes.  I completely felt the emotion I was releasing and lots of other ones too – ending with a big flow of love, compassion, and gratitude. 

Finally, “The emotional pain of a hard truth is eased by our soul’s response to aligning with reality.  Around and beyond mere emotion, we feel a sense of freedom, a vast openness that includes all aspects of our experience.”  Thanks Martha, that pretty much sums it up. 

Releasing this particular trapped emotion made me realize how much I need to appreciate myself more, love myself more, and to listen to my inner voice more.  Basically, to give myself everything I would like to receive from others.  I’m looking forward to seeing what that reflects back to me in life. 

  1. The Emotion Code by Dr. Bradley Nelson
  2. Light is the New Black: A Guide to Answering your Soul’s Callings and Working Your Light by Rebecca Campbell
  3. The Way of Integrity: Finding the Path to Your True Self by Martha Beck
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Assumptions

2 min. read

Lately I’ve been reminded of really good writing advice that I heard years ago – avoid the assumption that your readers know what you know.  Your characters are in your head, so you know what they are thinking and doing – the reader doesn’t.  You have to tell the story from the beginning to the end without missing any of the important details in the middle or you risk leaving the reader in the dark. 

Makes sense and sounds easy but I’ve messed this up, not only in writing, but in life too.  I can remember too many times in my work life where I was working diligently on fixing a problem.  So diligently in fact that I didn’t take the time to inform all the parties involved that I was aware of the problem and working to resolve it. 

Not only that, I would get annoyed if someone got in touch to let me know about the problem and ask questions.  Geesh, can’t you just give me some space and let me fix the problem!  Oh wait, I didn’t tell you I was fixing the problem!  Oops.

I was recently involved in a similar type of situation where I felt like I was the one in the dark.   After a couple of uncomfortable interactions with a friend they explained something that made me say, “but you didn’t tell me that!” 

We were in communication and on the same page at the beginning of the story but then we stopped communicating and continued the story in our own heads.

We both made assumptions and as Don Miguel Ruiz1 says, “The problem with making assumptions is that we believe they are the truth.  We could swear they are real.  We make assumptions about what others are doing or thinking – we take it personally – then we blame them and react by sending emotional poison with our word.  That is why whenever we make assumptions, we’re asking for problems.”

Unsurprisingly, when my friend and I met up again closer to the end of our story, we were nowhere near on the same page.  The story lines in our heads had taken us in completely different directions.

Fortunately, we were eventually able to get back to the same page, but it took a really frank conversation to mend the hurt feelings. 

If we hadn’t kept each other in the dark, if we had shared the really important middle bits of the story, if we had asked questions, we could have avoided the assumptions and the hurt feelings altogether. 

I hope in the future, rather than leaving myself and other people in the dark to make assumptions, I remember Don Miguel Ruiz’s advice and “Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness, and drama.”

As always, communication is key.

Wishing you Insight, Clarity, and Growth in the new year as well as Peace, Joy, and Love.

1 – Don Miguel Ruiz, The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom

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Anger

3 min. read

There is a lot of anger in the world right now.  Some over-the-top-crazy stuff like road rage and shootings, and lots of low-level simmering frustration.  Nearly every time I look at social media there is some kind of disagreement going on.  Politics, public health issues, personal choices … you name it and people are disagreeing about it. 

I too recently got into a heated debate.  Two very different opinions and neither of us willing to see the validity of the other side.  No resolution. No meeting of minds.  And even days after it was over, I continued to get heated whenever I thought about it … and I thought about it quite often. 

It took me a while to step back and see the interaction from a more neutral perspective.  There really was no difference between us at all.  Neither of us was truly listening to the other.  I was just as infuriating as they were – only keeping quiet until I could counter with my “right” opinion.  Not surprisingly, that only succeeded in getting them to try harder to convince me of theirs.  As Terri Cole says, “debating doesn’t allow us to listen with the intention of understanding.  How can you listen when you’re simply trying to crush another person’s perspective with your airtight argument?”1

And that’s exactly what I was doing.  I thought that I could convince them to come around to my way of thinking and I got frustrated when they didn’t.  It was enlightening to later read that self-righteousness “immediately repels those you hope to persuade or inspire.”2

Wow.  That’s the total opposite of what I was trying to achieve.  In hindsight, I could see how I was turning them off with my “rightness” as much as they were turning me off with theirs.  All I’d really succeeded in doing was getting all worked up and angry.

Once I’d more clearly and accurately seen my part in the interaction, I looked back at some reading I’d done on anger and realized that I had done pretty much everything opposite to psychologist Harriet Lerner’s3 wise counsel.

I had forgotten that everyone has a right to everything they think and feel, just like I do.  I had forgotten that “there are as many ways of seeing the world as there are people in it”.  I stated my thoughts and feelings clearly, but I forgot that it is not my job to make another person think and feel the way I do or the way I want them to.  Boy, did I forget that one.  That was my whole goal – to make them think and feel the way I wanted them to.

It’s easy to see now how impossible the situation was.  Both sides trying to make the other side think and feel the same as them.  Futile. 

So, what’s a better way?  As hard as it may be in the heat of the moment, recognize that I am participating in an intellectual argument that is going nowhere and will never go anywhere.  Stop spinning my wheels trying to convince others of the “rightness” of my position and getting angry when that inevitably doesn’t work.

And here’s the really hard part.  Disengage.  Take a breath and end the argument by taking Dr. Lerner’s advice and simply saying, “Well, it may sound crazy to you, but this is how I feel.”  Or, “I understand that you disagree, but I guess we see it differently.”  And move on to another subject knowing that everyone’s right to their thoughts and feelings has been respected.

  1. Boundary Boss: The Essential Guide to Talk True, Be Seen, and (Finally) Live Free by Terri Cole
  2. The Hope: A Guide to Sacred Activism by Andrew Harvey
  3. The Dance of Anger: A Woman’s Guide to Changing the Patterns of Intimate Relationships by Harriet Lerner, Ph.D.

Posted in Behaviour, Communication, Life, Perspective | Tagged , , , , , | 6 Comments

What I Know for Sure

2 min. read

When I was much younger and new to the work world, I met many opinionated people.  At the time, I associated having very strong opinions with being smart.  I assumed that they must be very knowledgeable to be so sure. 

I wasn’t that knowledgeable.  I would hear one side of an argument and be totally convinced.  That is, until I heard the other side of the argument and was totally convinced again.  It seemed that my opinion was solely based on the last piece of information I received.

I thought this made me wishy-washy and easily swayed.  Seriously, for years I thought that if I were smarter, I would be capable of discerning which piece of information was absolutely right and sticking with it – no swaying.

I’ve slowly come to realize that having a flexible and open mind is not wishy-washy at all.  In fact, being willing to refine what you think you know is what the scientific method is based on.  It’s how knowledge is advanced.

The current Dalai Lama discarded the traditional Buddhist teachings that describe a flat earth because “one fundamental attitude shared by Buddhism and science is the commitment to keep searching for reality by empirical means and to be willing to discard accepted or long-held positions if our search finds that the truth is different.”

Years ago, I cut out an article about the distinguished University of Toronto political science professor, Richard Simeon, because I loved that his students would sometimes call him “professor-on-the-one-hand and professor-on-the-other.”2   I loved that as one of Canada’s leading political scientists, Professor Simeon wasn’t described as wishy-washy, he was described as “fair, inclusive, curious and tolerant.”    

So, do I still think that if I were smarter, I would know what was absolutely right?  No.  Now I tend to side more with Bertrand Russell when he said “in the modern world the stupid are cocksure while the intelligent are full of doubt.”3    

1 The Universe in a Single Atom: The Convergence of Science and Spirituality, His Holiness the Dalai Lama

2 Magazine.UToronto.ca – Spring 2014

3 The Triumph of Stupidity, Bertrand Russell

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Help

3 min. read

Picture of an angel statue

Lately I’ve been seeing a lot in the media about how it’s okay to ask for help.  I found a rough version of my own story about asking for help.  I’d filed it away.  Now seems like a good time to share it.

A few years ago, our daughter was very ill and it took over a month to get to the cause of the problem and get the treatment she needed. Needless to say, it was a very stressful time for our family. 

We were doing everything we could from a medical perspective and it wasn’t getting us anywhere.  It was such a rollercoaster ride.  One doctor after another with a possible diagnosis and treatment … and then no improvement and sometimes even worse symptoms.  It was extremely hard seeing my beautiful daughter suffer so much.  Pain and tears almost every day and nothing I could do! 

It wasn’t easy to ask for help but I felt so helpless.  Just typing “Request for Help” in the subject line of the emails was hard.  I don’t know what I expected – people to say please don’t bother me with your problems.  But that’s not what I got.

I reached out to some energy healers I knew and they connected me to a Therapeutic Touch distance healing group.  It doesn’t matter whether or not you believe in the power of prayer or energy, there was something beautiful about total strangers sending love and support to my daughter.  All of a sudden I wasn’t helpless.  I knew lots of people were sending love and positive energy to us.  I can’t even begin to tell you how comforting and supporting that was. 

Several people who received the distance healing emails contacted me directly because they recognized Kathryn’s name.  One person knocked on our door to say hello and see how she was doing.  Others offered to come and give Kathryn in-person treatments.  The love and support was amazing.  It helped me get through Kathryn’s illness, eventual surgery, and difficult recovery.

After Kathryn’s recovery and return to school, I went out to a women’s networking meeting.  I had been part of this group for over 15 years but that night I felt very out of place when I got there.  Like I didn’t belong there.  Other women talking about business and life as usual when I had just been through a nasty ordeal.  I was tempted to just smile and say “I’m fine” when asked, and keep my story to myself.  However, I decided to open up about my experience and I was glad I did.  Once again, the love and support were amazing.

In talking about “Communicating from the Heart”, Pema Chödrön1 describes how “Everything you say can further polarize the situation and convince you of how separate you are.  On the other hand, everything you say and do and think can support your desire to communicate, to move closer and step out of this myth of isolation and separateness that we’re all caught in.”  I realized that by sharing my story I let go of the isolation and separateness.  I communicated from the heart and I received heartfelt communication back.  I felt part of the group again. 

As Brené Brown2 says, “Connection is why we’re here; it is what gives purpose and meaning to our lives.”  I was brought to tears with gratitude and appreciation many times throughout this experience.  There is so much love out there.  People care and they want to help.  I am so glad I opened myself up and allowed them to help me.    

1 Comfortable with Uncertainty: 108 Teachings on Cultivating Fearlessness and Compassion by Pema Chödrön

2 https://brenebrown.com/the-research/

Posted in Communication, Life | Tagged , , , | 12 Comments

Comparison Envy

3 min. read

Picture of a lake

I’ve sometimes been riding what feels like an emotional roller-coaster this last year or so.  Super up one day and then plummeting the next, or sometimes even later that same day.

One thing that can bring me down is seeing happy, shiny social media posts of people doing fun and exciting things when the highlight of my week has been grocery shopping. I don’t want them to stop doing the cool stuff they’re doing; I just want to be doing something cool too. 

Comparing my grocery shopping day to someone’s fun, vacation day can be a ticket into a downward spiral of feeling sorry for myself and dissatisfaction with my boring life.  It can feel like everyone else is doing cool, fun stuff and I’m not doing anything.  I don’t like that feeling.  It sucks the joy out of life.  Comparison, as someone smart once said, is an instant recipe for unhappiness. Yup!

Sometimes I think that avoiding social media is the answer.  I wouldn’t be comparing myself to others if I wasn’t seeing what they’re doing.  But unfortunately, “Avoiding your triggers isn’t healing.  Healing happens when you’re triggered and you’re able to move through the pain, the pattern, and the story – and walk your way to a different ending.”1  

So how to change the pattern and get to a different ending?  I heard Caroline Myss2 say about a similar situation that “this moment is not about my life path, it’s about their life path.”  That really helped put things in perspective for me.  Often, I’ve been perfectly happy with my day until I saw what someone else was doing and, bam, instant recipe for unhappiness.

Caroline also said that we are “better served to bless what’s happening to them rather than resent it.”  So, I’ve been working on strengthening my empathic joy muscle, the ability to share “the thrill of another’s achievements and happiness.”3  

I recently heard news of someone starting out on an exciting adventure and even though I wasn’t doing anything remotely exciting at the time, I reminded myself that this was their life path and sent them love.  Just doing those two small things helped me create a different ending.  Instead of being brought down by resentment because their life looked better at that moment, I was able to feel joy for them and it actually lifted my happiness level.

Cool.  An instant recipe for happiness.  I like that ending much better.

1 Vienna Pharaon, www.newyorkcouplescounseling.com

2 Caroline Myss, www.myss.com

3 Aware: The Science and Practice of Presence by Daniel J. Siegel, MD

Posted in Life, mindfulness, Perspective | Tagged , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Curious

3 min read

I haven’t been journaling lately, but last month I had no choice.  I felt like I was going to explode.  Or maybe implode.  I’m not sure which, and it really doesn’t matter, because according to a quick Google search, the results of both are bad and will leave you “equally unhappy with your lot in life.”  Yep, that’s how I felt, unhappy with my lot in life.

What was I so unhappy with?  Let me quote my journal, “I feel like I’ve aged 20+ years in the last two.  I feel ancient.  I feel decrepit … yoga poses I used to like and do fairly well now hurt and look pathetic.  I hate this!”  I think you get the picture.

After a page of ranting, I remembered what I’ve been reading in Tara Brach’s Radical Compassion.  She describes a tool for practicing mindfulness and compassion when challenging feelings arise.  I was definitely having challenging feelings arise.  Could I explore the four steps of Tara’s RAIN meditation?

  • “Recognize what is happening;
  • Allow the experience to be there, just as it is;
  • Investigate with interest and care;
  • Nurture with self-compassion.”

My journaling helped me to recognize what was happening and be with the experience.  It didn’t feel good.  I’m having some physical issues right now and I’m grieving the loss of how my body used to be.  I want my pain-free, stronger, more flexible body back, and that “wanting” is causing more suffering.  Tara refers to this as the second arrow.  The actual physical discomfort is the first arrow and the wanting it to be another way is the second arrow.  Suffering on top of suffering.  Fun!

Okay, step three, investigate with interest and care.  Be curious.  Instead of cursing because I can’t move the way I want to, could I look at what is available to me right now with playful curiosity?  Like in Harry Potter when he is shopping for his wand.  The first wand he tries blows a whole wall of boxes onto the floor.  “Apparently not” Mr. Ollivander calmly observes and chooses a second wand.  “Perhaps this” he wonders before Harry blows up a vase and flower.  “No, no, definitely not – no matter.”  He chooses the third and final wand saying “I wonder.”

Could I bring that same kind of gentle curiosity to my body?  If trying to move a certain way isn’t possible, could I calmly think “apparently not, no matter” and modify the movement to what is available to me – no judgement – no anger – no second arrow? 

And step four, nurture with self-compassion.  Could I just be with what it feels like in this body with its current limited range of motion?  Experience that.  Not in sorrow for what is no longer available, but in joy for what is currently available.  Love that.  Nurture what is with self-compassion.  The same as I would for someone dear to me.  I wouldn’t push them to do more or condemn them for what they couldn’t do.  I’d offer them love and support, not a second arrow.  

So, my knees and my shoulder still often hurt.  And my yoga poses are still sometimes limited.  But my spirit feels much better after working through RAIN.  I feel more hopeful about the physical therapy and exercises I’m doing.  And living in playful curiosity about what my body can do in this moment is much more enjoyable than living in judgement and anger about what it can’t. I wonder …

Posted in Behaviour, Communication, Life, mindfulness | Tagged , , , , , | 10 Comments

I Would Never Do That!

3 min read

I recently read Untamed by Glennon Doyle.  When I finished her story called rules, I shook my head and said to myself “Sad, I would never do that!”  Right – I would never do that – code words for STOP, LOOK AGAIN, you totally do that!

Glennon’s story was about a friend who was told by the instructor at her first hot yoga class that no matter how hot she got or how she began to feel, she could not leave the room.  She suffered through the 90-minute class feeling so terrible that she threw up as soon as it was over.  See, aren’t you shaking your head and saying “Sad, I would never do that”? 

I smugly thought that I would have listened to my body and left the room when I started to feel ill. However, a few days later I was participating in an online meditation retreat.  I had a comfortable set-up on the floor and I was fine when the 45-minute meditation began.  But then my knees started to ache. I knew that part of mindfulness practice is to not move if you feel a sensation.  Rather, investigate the sensation or feeling and watch it change and eventually pass.  It’s part of training the mind that everything is temporary – this itch, this ache, they will pass just like thoughts will pass.  I don’t have to react to every fleeting thing.

The problem was, the ache in my knees was not passing.  It was getting worse.  I knew there was a comfortable chair just a few feet behind me.  When I opened my eyes, I could see it in the reflection on my computer screen.  I really wanted to change positions and sit in that comfortable chair for the rest of the meditation.  But I didn’t, because the general rule is to not move during meditation practice.

And then it hit me, I WAS that woman almost passing out in the hot yoga room.  I wasn’t listening to my body at all.  So, I mindfully got up and shifted to the chair to relieve the pain in my knees and continued with the meditation.  No one cared.  No one even knew – they all had their eyes closed!  And I got the benefit of the meditation without constantly being drawn to the pain in my knees.

This experience was important to me for two reasons.  First, it reminded me to take a closer look whenever I find myself having a strong reaction to something.  “I would never do that” is often a subconscious warning that I do some version of that very thing, and I know that it’s not good, and I want to pretend to myself that I don’t do it, so I don’t have to address it, and I can feel really good about myself, because “I would never do that!”.   Denial.  You get the picture.

It also reminded me to be kind to myself and listen to my body.  As my yoga instructor said today, “do what you need to do, not what I’m telling you to do.”  Her other phrase that I love is “if that is available to you today.”  Not all poses are available to every body, every day.    

So, I will practice mindfully listening to my body when it screams NO to see what it needs and investigating my mind when it screams NO to see what it may be trying to hide. 

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From Rescuer to Coach

4 min read

I recently listened to a podcast called the Antidote to the Drama Cycle1 and it brought to mind an incident with my daughter.  It was snowing and an accident had closed a portion of Hwy. 401.  That’s huge.  A major highway closed.  I’ve been stuck for hours on a closed highway and it’s not fun.  My then 20-year-old daughter was planning to take a bus from Toronto to Waterloo via the 401 – at least a two-hour journey at the best of times. 

I went into mommy mode.  I told her about the accident and suggested that she cancel her plans to travel that night.  She, in turn, went into obstinate child mode – “I don’t want to cancel, the road should be open by now” and my personal favourite, “people are stupid and shouldn’t get in accidents.”  I didn’t feel confident that she was using her adult brain and fully understanding what she was getting herself into. 

However, in trying to help, I overstepped and tried to take control of a situation that wasn’t mine to control.  While I was on the phone to GO Transit and hearing that it was likely best to stay home if possible, she had already taken the subway to the bus station.  The situation turned out all right.  The bus driver took a slightly longer alternate route and she got to Waterloo safely.

The podcast discussed a model of social interaction and conflict called The Drama Triangle2.  The triangle is made up of three roles: persecutor, victim, and rescuer.  At times we can each take on a different role.  This time I took on the role of the rescuer and tried to put my daughter in the victim role.  I acted as if she was not capable of helping herself and tried to rescue her. 

Fortunately, there is an alternative social interaction model called The Empowerment Dynamic3.  This triangle is made up of three, in my opinion, healthier roles: challenger instead of persecutor, creator instead of victim, and coach instead of rescuer.

A rescuer, the podcast explained, is attached to the outcome (wanting my daughter to be safe) and they think they know what is best for the other person (staying at home).  A coach, however, sees the other person as resourceful and totally capable of navigating their own journey.  Rather than telling us what we should do, a coach asks questions when they see behaviour incongruent with what we say we want for ourselves.  Coaches hold us accountable to ourselves and help us find our own wisdom through questions, not advice. 

So, does that mean that I can never give my adult daughter my opinion or advice?  Dr. Harriet Lerner4 writes that “There is nothing wrong with giving another person advice (“This is what I think . . .” or, “In my experience, this has worked for me”) as long as we recognize that we are stating an opinion that may or may not fit for the other person.  We start to overfunction, however, when we assume that we know what’s best for the other person and we want them to do it our way.”

I overfunctioned in this interaction and my daughter was justifiably not happy with me.  Fortunately, I had some time to think about it and came up with a three-part apology:

  1. I apologized for overstepping my bounds and trying to take over when my help was not welcome and ultimately not needed.
  2. I explained that the reason I overstepped was that her initial childish response did not give me a great deal of confidence in her ability to safely navigate the situation.
  3. I asked her how I could handle a similar situation in the future.

We decided that I will give her whatever information I have and ask if she wants help with anything.  And then the situation is hers to do with as she pleases.  I walk away from it knowing that she is a totally capable and resourceful adult who will ask for help if she needs it.  We agreed that she will remind me when I overstep, remembering that I only want what is best for her and that I am adjusting to my new role as the mother of an adult.

Dr. Lerner5 says “We all do better in life when we can stay reasonably connected to important others; when we can listen to them without trying to change, convince, or fix; and when we can make calm statements about how we see things, based on thinking, rather than reacting.”  That’s what I’m hoping for in all my relationships – a coach when needed to help find our own wisdom and no one being afraid to discuss what’s on their mind.

~~

1 Podcast series “Relationships By Design” with Dan and Carol Ohler – Episode 9: Antidote to the Drama Cycle

2 Drama Triangle

3 The Empowerment Dynamic

4 The Dance of Anger: A Woman’s Guide to Changing the Patterns of Intimate Relationships by Harriet Lerner, Ph.D.

5 The Dance of Intimacy: A Woman’s Guide to Courageous Acts of Change in Key Relationships by Harriet Lerner, Ph.D.

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