In how many movie plots does the leading person sit down with their posse and try to work up the courage to SAY THE THING. You know, the…THING!!??? The thing could be any thing, really.
I feel a thing.
I don’t feel a thing.
I did a thing.
I didn’t do a thing.
Sometimes THINGS are hard, and even harder to talk about. We want to feel like grown ass competent adults because we truly freaking are. We do super big brave things on the bloody daily, like running companies and changing diapers and oh I dunno supporting 7 people through a worldwide pandemic. You can sit in a board room and crush it, even with a hangover. You can drag your ass to the gym on three hours of sleep. Some of you can even IRONMAN, which means your very soul is literally made of iron and you may be running a step or two ahead of your chocolate and wine intake. You can bring home the veggie bacon, fry it up in the pan…(here I reference a commercial for a perfume from 1979 when I was but a wee impressionable 11 year old)…but you’ll never ever ever let him forget he’s a man. I know, it was terrible. The “8 hour perfume for the 24 hour woman”. Mommy Boss Sex Object. But men too. Men too had the toxic masculinity model anyway my point, Friends is that all of this competence in the world does not necessarily translate into being a superhero at expressing ourselves. In fact sometimes it’s the opposite.
Not being able to say it out loud, the beads of sweat, the rehearsing, the working up to comes in 2 sizes, small and large. The small version happens when things feel very vulnerable for us and we feel very squirmy about sharing them. The small version can happen to anyone and generally happens to all of us.
Even the bolder communicators have touchy areas, and tender feelings!
I lost my job.
I don’t want kids.
I am poor.
I am rich.
I forgot to do the thing you asked for.
I am secretly involved with the Mafia, FBI, a travelling circus performer, or a member of Fight Club.
I don’t like hockey.
Once in a while we don’t want to tell someone some terrible news because we want to protect them. That does happen.
But most of the time when we struggle to share it is because, here it is, wait for it…
WE FEAR JUDGMENT.
We think that we fear their judgment. What will they think of me, will they still like me, will they look down on me in a way that makes me hurt? Will they think I am an asshole, a loser, or basically anything less than the shiny lovely prize that I was five minutes before I said the thing. But here is the zinger folks;
WE ONLY FEAR ANOTHER’S JUDGMENT WHEN WE ARE JUDGING OURSELVES.
WE ONLY FEEL JUDGED WHEN WE ARE JUDGING OURSELVES.
I lost my job subtext it’s my fault.
I am poor subtext I am not good enough.
I am rich subtext I am entitled or I don’t deserve it.
I forgot the thing subtext I was careless.
I don’t like hockey subtext I am not cool.
And when it comes to the larger size of not speaking up we in the helping professions like to call a pattern of avoidance it’s not situational. Not just about THNGS terrible and small; changes, challenges, conflicts and concerns. When we are ‘avoidant’ we suffer from a chronic challenge to speak the truth, say what we mean, and basically get information across, and the resistance goes up exponentially with the emotional charge of the information and the level of discomfort.
I am going to talk to you today about what happens when we are avoidant and why and what to do if we suffer from avoidant patterns. You’re welcome.
When we are avoidant by pattern we also fear judgment, it’s just that the judgment is larger and it’s usually chronic or deeply seated. It’s me, my fault, I am not enough, I can’t do it, I am shameful, I am failing, I don’t have what it takes are just some of the many underlying and very painful ideas that drive us to avoid. You think we are avoiding you but NOPE, if we were really avoiding you we wouldn’t keep drawing you in or coming back or seeking you out or whatever it is that brings us together in the same room.
Now no one should be left guessing whether someone likes them, intends to see them again, wants to date them, is seeking friendship, is dating others, is not that into them, or likes them but is worried that they like dogs and what will that mean for the relationship so better never speak again. No one should end a relationship by ghosting or letting it die of avoidance. It’s not good for the avoider or the avoidee. And it doesn’t have to be this way, or this hard (wink). Most ghosts are not really ghosts when you peel back the layers. Just sit with that for a time.
Let me give you an example.
I am going to reference a man, but I guarantee you after so many years in the biz avoidance comes in all genders and sizes.
Man is dating woman.
Man has fear that woman expects him to swoop in and marry her and solve all of her problems.
Man is scared of marriage as he didn’t fair well first go round.
Man feels guilty for not being hero. Wants badly to be seen as hero.
Inside head man hears terrible judgments of self; he is not trustworthy; he is a user; he is dun dun dun a player.
Voice is so strong that man does not even know what woman wants.
Man imagines entire imaginary world of woman.
Man sees woman as enemy.
Man also cannot see what HE wants.
Man does not realize that his fear doesn’t equal his want.
Man avoids woman when he feels scared and creeps closer or even swoops in when he is lonely offering her the thing he imagines she wants.
And then the scary FEELINGS come back.
Man hides again.
Woman is left guessing.
Woman does dance.
Eventually woman gives up and bails.
Man is immediately euphoric and bereft.
Mix and match. Repeat.
For many of us it’s easier (in our fear brains) to spend our entire lives alone than to have to say THE THING.
I am scared.
I feel a thing.
I need a thing.
I heard a thing.
Because our feelings are tied in with ideas of our lack of worth and culpability. Somewhere inside we are a screw up.
And time and time again relationships fall through the cracks. One runs into the next. Each becomes a terrifying foray into intimacy that is narrowly escaped.
And it’s all because we don’t have the tools to understand ourselves and our feelings and needs in a loving and compassionate way.
If you think you’re a bad guy for feeling unsure you don’t give yourself the opportunity to progress past fear, to ANSWER IT, which is necessary to get to what it is you are needing.
Fears and all kinds of uncomfortable feelings are resolvable.
You don’t have to hide alone in the cave of your sports den or dressing room. You don’t have to buy into the narrative that you are meant to be alone.
You have done much scarier things out there in The World.
What you need is some support to get to what those scary feelings are ACTUALLY telling you.
To answer them.
To ask for things.
AND to invite some wonderful magical person into that process with you before you toss them into the salvation army bag for eating crackers or having big toes, or whatever projection your fear of being awful manifests as. Before you leave them in the dust like the Tasmanian Devil to guess what they did wrong or how bad their breath/naked body must have been to send you to Siberia without leaving a note.
Let me recap. Self compassion will help you accept your feelings as communication of need rather than fact.
Self compassion will allow you to give and receive companionship and to relax into it without the danger of losing yourself or losing control.
Self compassion will give you the breathing room to sit in an uncomfortable feeling and move through it.
Self compassion will help you feel so much less lonely.
It’s amazing what a compassionate voice in your ear for a solid period of time can do for your sense of joy, your confidence, your understanding, your enthusiasm for showing up.
It can turn another partner from your black list to the one you rejoice with.
The enemy to the love of your life.
And if you’re scared to look deep deep down in there, past the garburator, to the messy mangled bits? Well you can call me up you know. Practice saying it out loud to me.
I’ll bet you it’s not as bad as you think.
I may even find some diamonds in the muck.
Turns out I am good at that.
And if you are the receiving side of avoidance; if you keep dating Julia Roberts as the runaway bride or Ryan Gosling at the first act of Crazy Stupid Love, I’ll be back next week with a how to guide for when to stay the course and when to give up that ghost. Ain’t no thang.
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