I sat in my chair thinking about how wrong it all was. How wrong that this man was yelling at this woman. How wrong that this woman was not able to ask a simple question to get further clarity. How wrong that this man was unleashing his frustration on this woman. How wrong that now it was two women and they were both crying. How wrong that these two women had been victimized by this man’s anger.
I wanted to walk across the room and hold those women. Hold them and tell them that everything was going to be okay. That this man was just a big bully and that his manners were terrible. That this man had lost himself and was too arrogant to see that you were just asking questions. I wanted to tell that man to get a hold of himself and have some compassion. I wanted to walk across the room and protect those women. Protect them from that man and his anger.
And all at once I wondered what it was in me that made me think that these women needed to be protected. I began to think about my own emotions and was completely uncomfortable in my chair watching this confrontation unfold. Confrontation is uncomfortable for me and I can’t be with it. I can’t just sit there and watch it unfold. I need to take action; I need to do something. And instead of doing anything, I continued to question myself and my motives as to what emotions were being stirred in me by just watching it all happen.
I felt uncomfortable, yes, but that was just on the surface. There was something more than discomfort there, something deeper. Underneath the discomfort I started to feel sadness. Sadness, not for the women being confronted, but for myself. Where did that come from? I could see my child-self in these women, and as a child I was incapable of protecting myself, I was incapable of standing up and speaking my mind–doing so would create a physically and verbally unsafe environment for me. As a child, I was unimportant and need not share my opinions because they didn’t matter, and wouldn’t be heard regardless. As I sat there and thought about these childhood feelings that were very much visiting me in the here and now, it occurred to me that somewhere along the line I became an adult.
And as an adult I have grown to learn that I can and do stand up for myself. I’ve learned that sometimes people get angry, even get angry with me. Sometimes the reason is valid, and sometimes it’s not. Whatever the reason, I’ve developed the skills to assess the argument, know its truth and address it accordingly. I’ve learned to own my part of that truth and discard the rest as I see fit. And then a flash of anger came.
As an adult I’ve learned these things, but as a child I hadn’t learned to protect myself. That job belonged to my parents. And they didn’t always do a good job. As I thought about that, the anger became stronger. Tears welled up in my eyes and my heart beat faster. What was this about? And almost without thinking, I began to sob, I began to yell, to spew, to actually feel the feelings instead of sitting in my discomfort and trying to shift the focus onto something or someone else.
This experience happened over a period of a couple of hours, some of it in a large group of people, and other parts in a smaller, more intimate setting . These interactions and thoughts were the result of my training in Process. Process, being actually processing what’s happening for me right here and right now. What’s going on, what’s happening in my body right here right now, rather than what am I thinking about and how can I shift the focus from myself to someone else?
From that experience I was able to let go of some of the past simply by reminding myself that it was just that: the past. And the rest of it I was able to let go of because I allowed myself to just be present with myself in the moment. I was able to own my feelings as they were coming up, and acknowledge them, hold space for them and then give them permission to be released. I don’t need to hold onto that anger because I’ve now been able to express it. In that experience I was able to feel it all and let go of it pretty quickly. I suspect other things may not be as “easy” to release. But the important thing is that I’m learning to exercise the muscle that allows me to really be present with myself rather than deflecting.
Staying in the here and now has no room for anyone but whomever your emotions belong to (that would be you). I encourage you to find something you can’t be with today, and then to own it. For me, it was confrontation. My hands got clammy, my heart raced, I physically felt uncomfortable. Find whatever puts you in that place and then be with it. Really be with it. Honor it. Have compassion for yourself and those feelings, those emotions. Stand up for yourself and those feelings and emotions. Address them and love them. Actually feel your emotions. When you do this, the discomfort you feel will no longer be for hiding; it will be for growth.