I Was My Own Worst Enemy
This week I have been reminded that I can be my own worst enemy.
Years ago, through work, I took professional training called Crucial Conversations: Tools For Talking When the Takes Are High. (On a side note, if you are ever looking for a conflict resolution type training, this is the absolute best professional training I have ever taken and the book alone is absolutely wroth a read). One of the main things I learned in my course is that we can only control ourselves in a conversation. We can make a conversation safe for others to feel comfortable and safe to participate, but ultimately we can only control ourselves. We cannot predict the outcome of the conversation as we are only one half of the conversation.
While the course focused on the professional setting, and gave a tonne of great pieces of advice, I cannot count the times I have said in my personal life that I have returned to two particular points:
- I cannot control others in the conversation, rather just myself.
- I have no idea what the other person is thinking. If I try to think through their side of things, my “predictions” are nothing more than guesses and I end up just telling myself a story usually based in a lack of clear facts and therefore also based in usually the most negative assumptions that are the result of my own fears.
Often using techniques like speaking only in a soft voice, no matter how much I may want to yell, scream or cry. Talk intentionally slowly, slower then you normally do – people tend to start speaking quicker as their heart rate increases in a state of anxiety, and then we are unable to think through things in a rational matter. Pause when you sense the anxiety in the room increasing – I always bring a bottle of water or tea into any meeting or conversation where I anticipate stress so that I have an excuse to stop talking if I need to. (On a side note, if you are ever in an argument and want to drive the other person crazy, speaking slowly and without raising our voice will usually at first irate them even more, but eventually they usually fall in step so long as you stick to the approach without slipping up – the problem in my life now is that Mr. MPB knows all of this, so when I just want to yell he uses all of these techniques back on me).
So, what is the point of sharing all of this? The point is simple, earlier this week I did everything I’ve spent my entire career learning not to do professionally and often use in my personal life as well. First, I let my anxiety creep up and I didn’t make any attempts to give myself space to calm down – I let my mind and my heart run a million miles a minute and didn’t pause to think anything through. And as my anxiety increased, so did my hurt and my sense of loneliness. Second, in my thought process I told myself a story about how bad our families are and how they just don’t seem to care. I told myself a story about why they weren’t celebrating our adoption. I told myself a story rooted solely in my own negative assumptions and fears. And the reality is, even though are families have not always been supportive of us in a way that we need, I don’t know the reasons for their choice not to celebrate our adoption with us right now. I have no idea if they are malice in their intent or not, and I shouldn’t just assume they are.
Because we have been treated differently then our siblings when they’ve had kids the seemingly easy and normal way (i.e. fertile way), I let my fear that we will always be treated differently for adopting lead my thoughts. I am so fearful about what this different treatment will do to our child. I’m afraid of grandparents treating our child different then their cousins. I’m afraid of school yard bullies picking on them. I’m afraid that they will grow up resenting that they were adopted. Simply put, I am afraid of the unknowns and I am afraid of the things I cannot control. And I let this guide my thought process.
Instead of reminding myself that I don’t know how any of this will work out, I focused solely on being let down in the moment. I didn’t think that maybe our families still have many fears about our growing family, just like we did months ago when we first looked into adoption – we ran away scared for months, the difference is they aren’t able to. I didn’t think that maybe because we’ve made intentional steps to not include everyone in all the details at all the times, to protect our hearts, that maybe they just don’t know when or how to step in. I also didn’t think that maybe no-one knows how to celebrate right now, but they will want to celebrate when our child is born and joins our family. Simply put, I didn’t think outside of my fears and I didn’t show our families any grace. I didn’t ask anyone and I didn’t give them the chance to share their reasons, because I didn’t even tell them I’m hurting. Instead, I just jumped to the worst case scenario and let myself believe all my fears are true.
I know these moments of fear and panic are normal and I cannot always stop them from happening and I’m sure my counsellor would tell me it would be unhealthy to try to. But I am also grateful that so many of you reminded me about this. I cannot promise that I will start to believe our families will come through for us, because in the past they’ve hurt us too many times for us to get our hopes too high. But, I can promise to try to try to be a bit more fair to them as I continue to work to accept them for who they are. And while I cannot promise that I will do better next time, I can promise to try. Maybe, just maybe, one of these days I’ll strike the right balance.
If you like this post, please feel free to share and please click the follow button on the side or return to myperfectbreakdown.com to follow my journey.