Spring Cleaning out your life.

Spring is coming (here in the north we’re expecting it in less than 4 months) and it’s time to clean out your house.   And for every action in your house or apartment, there’s even more important work to do on your heart and soul.

We call the eyes windows to the soul, a place we see out, and others have a chance to see in.  But have you looked at your windows lately?  If you haven’t cleaned them in a while, you’re not seeing the world clearly and people may have a distorted view of you.

A few items we clean off the windows.

  1. Bugs.  These poor guys are just flying along minding their own business and run into your house.  In the emotional world these are the natural, daily, events that hit us and we don’t even think about them.  Snow and rain on the day you wanted to wear your new spring shoes or play a pick-up game in the park. Sudden changes in your day, too much traffic, and the annoying mosquito person at work, can all build up without any of us really noticing.
  2. Bird Crap!  They really don’t do it to you.  It’s not personal and they’re not aiming at your windows more than your neighbors.  It just seems that way.  Bad stuff happens in your life.  Things that can seem pointed, and like the universe really is out to get you, can leave long smears of frustration and disappointment .
  3. Rain drops & sprinklers.  The things that should clean, but may leave residue in the smallest most persistent ways, can also fog your vision.  Think of these as memories of good times, old habits that don’t seem that bad, and expectations that used to fit you.
  4. Eggs, doggie bombs, & paint balls.  Yep, sometimes it is personal and someone is out to get you.  This is the long standing feud at work or home, the 16 year old  who screams at you every time you ask where the homework is, and the driver who flipped you off after cutting into your lane without a turn signal.  People aren’t always nice.  Heck, some of them aren’t ever nice.  If one of those has made you the target of their unjustified wrath, you have some nasty to clean off your windows.
  5. Pollution.  We live in a world that is filled with too many choices, too many noises, too many people, and too many stresses.  It’s all around us.  Just being here in this day and age is a stress that we overlook and underplay.  It leaves a residue that can be hard to focus through but builds up so gradually you may not even realize it’s there.

 

If you clean all of this and have nothing clouding your vision, what could happen?  You could give yourself a chance to see clearly for the first time in years.  Maybe you’re not the bad things you’ve been labeling yourself as.  Maybe you’re a stronger person who needs to finally appreciate yourself.  Get out of the shadows and stop letting bad people and bad experiences influence the rest of your life.  Yah, we’ve all had stupid days and done shameful things.  Clean that off the windows and stop letting it color your world.  Give yourself the ability to focus beyond where you are and look out to where you want to be.  Clean the inconsequential bugs and residue off your eyes and see a better future for yourself.  What you can see, believe and plan for, you can achieve.  First you have to see.

How to get those windows clean!

  1. Vinegar.  It smells.  It cuts through bird crap and wipes away residue.  It is the sometimes painful experience of questioning all your assumptions and expectations.  Sit down and write out what you expect from life, what are so mad about?  Are your expectations realistic?  Are they part of the problem?  Do you assume you’ll always loose and aren’t worth winning?  Be strong enough to face your old world view head on.  Then give the reasons it’s not right anymore.  Write those on sticky notes and book marks, have them as your screen saver on your phone and computer.  Remind yourself daily that you are a new person.
  2. Get help.  Windows by yourself are overwhelming.  My mother would make all of us kids do this together for a great bonding experience of whining and accusing her of having brought us into this world for slave labor.  But at least we weren’t alone.  Ask people how they see you and really listen.  Look especially hard for the positives you’re missing and the negatives that are holding you back.  When you find a friend or mentor you can trust with these questions, leave the door open for more information from them.  Friends that will tell you the truth without judging you, are worth their weight in gold.  Keep them close no matter how uncomfortable it can seem.
  3. Put a sheet over the windows.  There are days when you know the proverbial crap is hitting the fan.  It’s really ok to take a break.  Close your eyes and let the breeze feel good.  You need enough rest to feel rested or you won’t have the energy to do more than exist.  This can also mean an information fast.  Turn off the news.  Don’t read the paper.  Give yourself a week long break from incoming information so you can have some time to process what’s already banging around in your head.
  4. Put up some protection.  If you build in overhangs, put up sun coverings, or just redirect the sprinklers, you are narrowing what will get splattered on your windows.  In life, you may need to narrow your choices down to a manageable number.  Give yourself 15 minutes in the grocery story and stick to the list.  Only look at the items that are already in your price range.  Our brains get overloaded by too many choices and it begins to affect our view of the world and ourselves.  People are more depressed these days partially because they believe they could be happier and should be.  Everything is out there, why can’t I find it?  Well, because it’s now hidden in a mountain of other options that are visually overwhelming and emotionally draining to sift through.
  5. Clean something.  The act of cleaning up a section of your house, the top of your desk, even your windows, will help you see a physical difference that you made happen.  When you clean, you physically enact what you’re trying to do mentally.  It allows your mind-body feedback loops to work in your favor.  And we all tend to think better in a visually calming environment.  Take one small area and make it calm enough to look at and feel good.  You’ll see more options for yourself and open up a space for new thoughts about yourself.

 

I hope this spring brings good things to your life, light to your eyes, and new beginnings you can be excited about.

Controlling People, really care about their own feelings.

But you don’t have to.

You’ve probably been convinced that you should.  You spend lots of time and energy apologizing for holding someone accountable because they say, “I didn’t mean too!  You act like I wanted to hurt you!”  You enter the conversation wanting an apology and leave it apologizing to the person who hurt your feelings in the first place.

Now how does that happen?!

Simple.  You’ve been trained to care about other people’s feelings.  And whoever did the training didn’t differentiate between empathy (I understand you have feelings too) and agreement (your emotions are so important that I’ll do what you want).

You’ve also gotten shafted on motives because you don’t see the difference between an explanation and an excuse.  The ice on the road may explain why my car runs into yours, but it won’t be an excuse for driving too fast in icy conditions.  I’ll still have to pay your deductible and my insurance will go up.

Here are the ways understanding these differences helps you.

  • Valid explanations of motive and emotion no longer mean an excuse to use/ abuse/ ignore you.  Emotions just are.  They are not white-out for mistakes made against you and neither are motives.  Thank people for their pure motives towards you and then continue to stand up for yourself.  Whether or not people love you, they still need to treat you with respect.  If they’re not, how do you know it’s love?
  • You can empathize and understand feelings because you no longer think it means you must agree.
  • You can relax when other people start yelling about their feelings because that doesn’t mean you need to be guilty for holding them accountable.  Part of the usual anxiety is thinking about how you need to apologize later.  Guess what?  If you are calmly stating the facts without sarcasm or degradation, you do not need to apologize.
  • Accountability is totally behavior based. If you agree to let someone off the hook because of motives or emotions, you are showing mercy.
  • Mercy is for special occasions and unusual circumstances. It cannot be demanded.  Controllers think they deserve mercy and you must give it to them.  They cry, scream, and call you names when you don’t immediately let them off the hook.  You no longer have to let them escape accountability and call it mercy.

 

Understanding these will help you avoid being manipulated by controlling people, spouses trying to win a fight, co-workers & bosses, basically anybody who is willing to use their own emotions to excuse their behavior.  It also will help with the people who believe they cannot be held accountable when, “It was an accident!”  Accidents are a sign of poor planning.  They will continue to happen as long as you do not hold people accountable for their actions.

Emotions are valid, they just aren’t a valid excuse.

Motives will be judged by God, the rest of us have to go on behaviors.

I will empathize knowing I do not have to agree.

I will be understanding while I hold others accountable and insist on being treated respectfully.

 

photo by y3rdua flickr stream

Avoiding Fights

fighting

I get asked quite often how to avoid getting sucked into fights.  People are usually frustrated and worn out when they ask this.  There have been too many times where a simple request or observation morphed into the mother of all show downs.  So I understand the frustration, and I still see the need to back up and talk about the difference between a fight and a discussion/confrontation. 

Lots of people ask me about stopping the fighting and what they actually want is to get what they need without ever having to confront another human being again.  Nice try.  Won’t happen.  You will have to tell people that you disagree with them.  You will need to stand up for your needs and beliefs.  That doesn’t mean you have to fight about it. 

So as a starter to this topic, here’s the top five differences between a fight and a discussion. 

1)Discussions are about facts.  Fights are about feelings.

2)Discussions meet anger with a blank space and redirection.  Fights meet anger with escalating anger.

3)Discussions have changes in voice tone, emotion and reaction time.  Fights have volume that only goes louder and one emotion; ANGER.

4)Discussions stick to one point or keep coming back to that point.  Fights bring up multiple issues,and go off on tangents.

5)Discussions are about the future and what will happen next.  Fights are about the past and who is at fault for it.

If you’re finding most of your interactions at work or home veering towards a fight, that doesn’t mean you’re stuck forever.  Just being aware of this short list can help you start changing.  Once you see where it gets ugly, you can start making choices about that process.

 I go in depth on these top five and some great ways to stop fighting in the newsletter that you can sign up for!

What Do I Do When Someone Acts Uncomfortable Around Me and I Know Nothing is Really Wrong?

Question: I recently moved in with a long time friend and while we got along great before I moved in, I can tell he is really uncomfortable about some things that I do differently than him- it’s nothing big at all, just the kinds of food I buy, that I don’t watch the news, how I handle my finances. I understand that everyone does things differently and if it works for them- great! But he seems to feel threatened and not know how to even talk about anything that we don’t agree 100% on.

I’m used to being fairly open with my life (well, little things such as what TV programs I watch or what food I eat!), should I be a little more private to protect his feelings? How can I help him understand that I don’t judge him just because we do things differently?

Answer: This needs further investigation.  When you say threatened, what are you describing?  People can react to threat with defensive or aggressive postures and language. The basic three responses to scary events; flight, fight, and freeze.  You’ll need to handle the situation differently depending on how this person is reacting.

If your room mate is in flight they will first try and curl into themselves before they attempt to physically get out of dodge.  Flight body language curves the back and uses the arms and legs to protect the stomach.  A person in this posture will put their chin down, curve their shoulders forward, cross their arms over their chest and cross their legs.  Their facial expressions will get stiff and not change as rapidly as normal.  Think of a painted on smile with slightly narrowed eyes. People who are in flight are worried about being trapped.  They will think about the wrong thing they could say that will end your friendship or the bad thing you will say to them.  They may feel that any differences they have from you will make you disgusted, disappointed and judgemental. These folks run before you can prove them right.

Give them the message that you like and want their differences.  You won’t like all their differences and you don’t have to.  Just grab on to the differences you do like and talk those up!  Do not try and cut off escape routes for these folks or chase them when they run off.  In fact, move away from doors and let them feel they always have room to move.  This can actually help them feel calmer and lessen their need to run away.  Physically give them space and verbally give them reassurance.  And please don’t take any of their actions personally.  Runners do not realize that their behavior makes other people nervous.  Runners think they are responding to the negative reactions people MUST be having.  They do not see that their own nervousness makes other people have some of those negative reactions they are so worried about.

Freeze can have some of the same protective posture as flight, but there will be very little motion.  People will literally freeze in place, stop what they’ve been doing, and become incredibly tense.  There may be no major differences between the relaxed pose they had and the freeze they are in now, but you will be able to see the effort they are using to be totally still.  Their face will be tense, they may extend through the back of their neck, putting their chin down slightly into their chest.  People in freeze are trying to be invisible.  They feel that attention will bring attack.  They are thinking about how you have noticed they are different and no longer want to be their friend.  Even though they are physically still, their brains are going at warp speed figuring out all the ways they are bad and what they did wrong.

Distract them first and then give them the acceptance they crave.  The distraction can be some goofy thing you do, a change of subject, questions on an area of that person’s expertise work really well.  Once their brain is off the rat wheel of how bad they are, make a sincere compliment and then move on again before the other person can freeze themselves again.  Do not walk on eggshells or attempt to stay away from topics that expose your differences.  It won’t work and your increasing level of frustration will make this friendship way more fragile.  Be yourself and let the other person know you accept them, when you can.

Fight body language is the easiest to see.  It’s far more difficult to realize it is just as fear based as flight and freeze.  It’s not about fists being up so much as chest, chin and color being up.  This person will puff out their chest, shoulders will move back so shoulder blades nearly touch, and their feet may move further apart.  The chin will move up, away from the chest and they may flush as their small blood vessels dilate.  If they’ve got a smile, it’s the upper lip pulled tight, show your teeth version and it’s not happy.   The fighter isn’t tense like the freeze.  It’s more like a rubber band pulled taut and ready to fly.  This is the group that will probably use humor or just flat out make fun of you and then say “I was joking, what’s your problem?”  People in fight are afraid of being controlled.  They will assume that the differences you notice are being saved up as negatives against them.  They worry about being shamed into actions or humiliated out of what they want.  They are very threat sensitive and will assume that you mean to control and harm them.

You have no responsibility to put up with other people’s anger whether they are scared or not.   You can walk away, refuse to engage, or tell them calmly that there is no reason to treat you with disrespect.  If the behavior is minor and usually followed by pouting, do not attempt to reason with them.  Smile and ask about their physical health.  Purposefully misinterpret their anger signs as potential symptoms of illness and intestinal discomfort.  They will either appreciate your concern or get frustrated enough to admit to the source of their anger.  This technique is actually effective for most of the minor fight behaviors.  If you’re dealing with major intimidation and threats, you need a new room mate.  In the meantime, leave exit paths open, keep your hands out in plain view, and have friends help you move.

Move in with someone and the space you might have used in the past to comfortably hide in is gone.  Some people are ok with that, and others get worried that you will finally find out enough about them to leave.  Neither reaction is your fault.

-Continue with your normal behaviors.

-Assess their discomfort and what they are afraid of.

-Decide for yourself whether or not it’s worth the effort to deal with that fear.

-Don’t take the fear personally.  That was developed long before you came on the scene and it will still be there after you are gone.