I was speaking to a friend this morning who expressed her upset at the way the man she shares space with vacuumed the living room rug. In other words, It wasn’t her way.
Instead of advising her, I shared a recent experience that felt like a similar loss of control– my own.
A group I’m in has converted from in-person meetings to online zoom meetings–a godsend which has allowed me to stay in touch with this close-knit gang. One of the guidelines that keep the space safe, began to feel a bit wobbly to me. A member commented in a way that I found almost unbearable. I wanted to invoke one of our ‘commandments’, uphold it on behalf of the organization, wave the flag. At the same time, I noticed that my stomach was tightening, my hands were in fists and my heart rate had sped up.
If you know anything about psychology, you’re aware that when the reaction is that big, it’s probably not about the incident at hand. If it’s hysterical (my reaction was), it’s historical.
I’ve been in therapy long enough now to ‘catch up with myself’ when I’m having a moment like that. To notice that I’m being triggered in the present about something I really didn’t have control over in the past. One of the things I’ve learned to do is think through my possible response to its conclusion. What if I’d corrected this person, expressed my righteousness? What would be achieved? Incurring his rage, annoying the group, martyring myself, etc. That’s been my experience. And most likely, a similar transgression would pop up through another person’s behavior. Then where would I be?
“You’re not the Zoom Police, Jane,” my caring therapist reminds me. This isn’t the first time I’ve had such a strong reaction. It’s not my job to control the room, even though I have the awareness. I let it go, and surprise-surprise, I felt my heart slow down, my fingers unclench and my belly soften. When my friend shared about her vacuuming incident, it offered me a chance to re-join the sorority of womankind, where we’re allowed to have preferences, but not demand them of everyone around us. Very likely, others have preferences that I am not upholding.
If there was ever a moment to Live and Let Live, it’s now.
Feel free to share an embarrassing control issue you’d like to release. I promise, in allowing another human being to witness your vulnerability, you can shed a burden you may have been carrying around as long as I have.