Until recently, I couldn’t think about going to a party or even to the grocery store without breaking into a cold sweat. My heart raced, my mouth would go dry and I got tunnel vision.
It didn’t matter whether I was meeting family/friends or a roomful of strangers.
I remember using the excuse that I wasn’t feeling well because the thought scared me to death.
“All eyes are going to be on what I’m wearing.”
“They’ll think I’m fat.”
“What if I say the wrong thing and they think I’m stupid.”
“I might offend someone and then they’ll yell at me or be mad at me.”
These are just a few of the incessant thoughts that caused me to become shy, withdrawn and miserable.
Even if I did end up going to a party, I would lie in bed playing back the evening in my head so that I could make sure that I didn’t say or do anything stupid. If I thought that I did, I would replay the scenario, beat myself up and then figure out how not to make that stupid mistake again.
It took boatload of energy to get myself psyched up not only to walk in the door but also to make small talk. A glass or two of wine helped but it felt wrong using it as a crutch.
I’ve lived with this anxiety since I was a teenager. Fortunately,therapy got me on the road to recovery in my 30’s and coaching picked up where that left off.
Once I got a handle on it, I began to unpack my anxiety and discovered its lies:
1. “Everyone is judging me!”
Not true. My anxiety was ALL about MY judgments. I made up stories in my head that “everyone” was judging me, and, while some may have been, it started with me not accepting myself.
2. “If I don’t conform to what everyone wants then no one will like me.”
My anxiety was a by-product of people-pleasing. I became adept at morphing myself into who I THOUGHT the person standing in front of me wanted me to be. The thought of walking into a room full of people was overwhelming simply because I knew I couldn’t be everything to everyone in the room.
3. “I can’t make a mistake because then everyone will see that I’m not perfect and a fraud.”
Hello Perfectionism! It made me nauseous to even think about being wrong. The embarrassment of being wrong or making a mistake was enough to make me want to run and hide, and that’s what I did for the majority of my life. If I wasn’t around people then there isn’t the possibility of screwing up.
What I realize now is that my survival mechanism or ego had me convinced that I needed to be perfect to survive and be worthy of love.
4. “Sally’s got it all together, I’m such a loser next to her but at least I’m not a hot mess like Matilda.”
Welcome to my comparison thoughts. These are just another form of judgment. It seems like they would be ok, at least the ones that make us feel good. I’m better than Matilda so I have that to feel good about.
In the end, all of this comparison creates competition and somebody has to lose. It is a constant up and down of emotions as we judge others as better/worse than us. It is a game we cannot win because the rules keep on changing.
What an exhausting way to live!
I don’t like to think of myself as selfish but look at the thoughts: they’re all about me!
My anxiety had nothing to do with anyone but ME. Primarily, the thoughts and judgments in my head.
Rather than focusing and connecting with the people in the room, my focus was on me and how I look.
I realized that I’m not alone. Most people are so focused on how they’re being perceived that they don’t even think about me.
I finally learned that I am not going to die if I’m not perfect. I don’t have to be anyone except who I am and I really like who I am. I know myself to be someone who will own my mistakes and do my best to make it right when I mess up. I now practice honoring myself as well as the people around me.
My confidence began to rise as I stopped comparing and beating myself up. I practiced trusting me.
Does this resonate with you? What can you do?
~ Notice your thoughts. What are you saying to yourself? Meditation is great for helping to put space between you and your thoughts.
~ Question your thoughts. Is it true that Sophie gave you a dirty look across the room so she must be mad at you? Maybe her eyes were bothering her, maybe she had a stomach ache, you don’t know. Stop making things up and stick with the facts.
~ Give yourself permission to start focusing on you. What do you like? What do you want? Separate yourself from the need to make everyone else happy.
~ Have fun! Release the pressure and be who you are. Let life be joyful and begin to flow.
A great resource is Byron Katie’s The Work. On her website you can view videos of Katie working with people to question the thoughts in their head. She also has worksheets that you can download for free to help you through the process.
If you find that you need something more, consider working with a therapist or a trained coach. If you’re not sure which is right for you, contact me and I’d be happy to help you figure out what’s best for you.
I wish I had a magic wand so I could quiet all of those negative thoughts, judgments and fears but I don’t. You’ll have to do the work yourself.
I promise you, it’s worth it!
“Humans are nervous, touchy creatures and can be easily offended. Many are deeply insecure. They become focused and energized by taking offense; it makes them feel meaningful and alive.”
I believe we should be offended by things like mistreatment of people, animals and the environment to name a few. But lately, I have noticed an increasing number of people who are easily offended.
I saw a recent Facebook post where a friend used the term “folks” at an event and their waiter acted offended and asked her not to use that term again. Really?!
I bet you have examples of Easily Offended People (EOP) in your life.
Why are people easily offended? Here are my thoughts.
First, I think they like drama.
I blame TV for some of this, especially reality shows. The “Real” housewives are EOP and definitely NOT real. However, there would be no show if someone wasn’t offended and acting out, after all, drama boosts ratings.
EOP have someone or something to take issue with and that means they are upset or angry a lot. My guess is they are the same people who say “I hate drama!” but drama keeps showing up.
EOP also like to go on rants to prove how much they’ve been wronged. How many times have you seen those social media posts? DRAMA!
I don’t have drama because I choose not to even entertain it.
“To be offended is a choice we make; it is not a condition inflicted or imposed upon us by someone or something else.” ~David A. Bednar
Second, I believe being an EOP makes them feel powerful. THEY would never use the word “folks” so they get to feel superior. Although, I think it’s a facade for a feeling of inferiority.
Third, when someone is easily offended it immediately stops the conversation. It’s a wall that shuts out any intimate, authentic connection because we’re walking eggshells trying not to offend.
I find it’s virtually impossible to cultivate a friendship or intimate relationship with EOP because I’m constantly having to apologize for something I said or did.
However, EOP are unwilling to forgive and seem to love holding grudges. At times, we may not even be aware that we’ve offended them. We may be stunned that something trivial, such as using the word “folks,” or an equally benign comment, was offensive to them.
If you’re an EOP, you’re probably offended by this post and have stopped reading by now. Or, you are crafting a rant to post on social media or in the comments below.
If, by chance, you are interested in changing, I recommend you seek out a professional, either a therapist or a coach. They will help you learn why you keep this pattern of behavior in place and help you shift it.
I imagine the weight of carrying around all your offenses must be draining. Think about the time and energy it takes to look for things to be offended by. (You’re probably offended because I ended the sentence with a preposition:).
Let go of the Dark Side and join us DOP (Difficult to Offend People)! I promise you that life is glorious!
If you’re dealing with EOP, I don’t have much advice. Should you have the courage and bandwidth to call them out on their shiz, then do it. Just know that there will likely be DRAMA. They will be offended and not talk to you and may even talk shiz behind your back or post something on social media.
FYI- If your EOP is a waiter then I recommend you be polite, you don’t want something unfortunate to happen to your food.
You need to decide if it’s worth it to keep EOP in your life. If you’re honest, they probably weren’t a great friend to begin with so no big loss.
“Everyone is so offended all the time. The new police force that we weren’t told about: the moral police. No qualifications, no training, no understanding of actual morality, but they have a degree in the art of being offended.” ~Karan Johar
Personally, I try to avoid EOP. I find them draining and too much work so I practice what I call, “bless and release.” In other words, I send them a hit of compassion and release them to the Universe. When I encounter them or another EOP, I am polite, keep the conversation light and quick, and quietly wish them well when we depart.
If you decide to continue to walk on eggshells around your EOP, you might consider limiting interaction. It’s also not a good idea to be around them when you’re tired or stressed as they will likely trigger you and could end up in drama (do you see a pattern here?).
I want to live a happy life so I choose not to be easily offended and these two practices make it possible:
- Forgive everyone, everywhere, everything
- Assume best intentions
That’s really all I’ve got. If you liked this post, please share and post any other advice or tips you may have on dealing with Easily Offended People, I promise not to be offended.
My husband and I recently spent a couple of days staining our deck. Now that I’ve hit a certain age, I am no longer interested in hastening the onset of skin cancer so I grabbed the sunscreen spray, SPF 70, and liberally sprayed it on my arms and legs.
I did this faithfully both days we worked out in the sun.
The day after we finished the deck, however, I felt like I had a sunburn even though my skin looked perfectly normal. The burning sensation lasted one day and was replaced by itching that took a full week to completely disappear.
This was not the first time this happened to me. I used another spray-on sunscreen a few years ago and had the same reaction. I dismissed my itching as having sensitive skin and decided to try this brand that I thought would be less likely to cause a reaction.
The following week, while listening to a podcast called Travel Snacks, the host, Allison Sharpe, recounted items that she would not bring again on future trips.
Allison told how she brought a sunscreen bar with her on one of her travels and when she used it, her symptoms were pretty much the same as mine. Not thinking that her symptoms were sunscreen induced, she used it again when she got home and the results were the same, itching, itching, itching!
She went on to say that she did some research and found that people can develop an allergy to a chemical found in sunscreen called oxybenzone.
I immediately felt a sense of relief when Allison reported her findings (and a little stupid for not having done it myself:).
This wasn’t all in my head, it really WAS the sunscreen!
I decided to do some research myself.
According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (acaai.org), oxybenzone can cause a “photo-allergic reaction or photo contact dermatitis.” Red, Itchy Bumps Wearing Sunscreen Outside? – acaai.org
What happens is the sunscreen plus the UVA and UVB rays of the sun can cause you to develop an allergic reaction. Some develop red swollen and itchy bumps but others, like Allison and me, have no visible symptoms, just itching.
I also learned that Hawaii and Key West have not only banned sunscreens containing oxybenzone but also those containing octinoxate. They believe that these chemicals are contributing to the bleaching of the coral reefs in Hawaii and the Caribbean. Key West Bans Sunscreen Containing Chemicals Believed To Harm Coral Reef- NY Times article
To all of you who thought you were doing the right thing by applying sunscreen and ended up losing your mind because of the itching, you are not alone and you are not crazy.
Be sure to look for an oxybenzone free sunscreen. It can be difficult so here’s an article that lists 9 products. 9 Oxybenzone Free Sunscreens- Health.com
And please, if you’ve been using this on your child and they have been complaining about burning and itching, CHECK THE SUNSCREEN INGREDIENTS. They are not exaggerating how much it itches!
This is a different post than I normally do but after learning about this, I felt compelled to get the word out but don’t take my word for it, do your own research. Let me know what you find.
Take good care, my friends, and have a safe, healthy, itch-free summer!
As much as I hate to admit it, I stink at forgiveness.
When I was hurt, all I heard was, “You need to forgive and move on.” I was stumped, what exactly is forgiveness?
My first stop was the dictionary for the definition of forgiveness; “to grant pardon for or remission of an offense, debt, etc.”
The word that intrigued me was “pardon.”
I suddenly pictured a judge sitting behind a court bench pounding her gavel or, the president signing a presidential pardon saying, “You have received special dispensation and thus you are hereby pardoned of your offenses!”
This hit home the fact that I have the power and a choice to make.
I imagined someone with whom I had been holding onto some hurt. I pictured myself signing a decree that, from heretofore this person is officially pardoned.
“Forgiveness is me giving up my right to hurt you for hurting me.” ~Anonymous
I wasn’t condoning what they had done, I simply was saying I will no longer hang on to the negative energy that resulted from their actions. I felt the hurt begin to melt away.
I also pictured signing that executive pardon for all the embarrassing, hurtful and stupid things for which I judged myself.
If you’re struggling with forgiveness, give these steps a try:
- Make a list of the people with whom you’re currently holding a grudge. Don’t forget to include yourself.
- Go through the list and write down (or state out loud) what they did to hurt you. Dig deep, and don’t forget yourself.
- Before moving to the pardon, ask yourself, “What did I learn from this experience?” Don’t skip this as it can help you see patterns of behavior and/or help to avoid repeats of the situations and people that you are now trying to forgive. Again, don’t forget yourself.
- One at a time, imagine them standing before you. Declare that they are officially pardoned and bang your pretend (or real) gavel. Move on to the next person and, you guessed it, don’t forget yourself.
- This takes practice. You may have to run certain people or situations through the courthouse more than once. However, if there are people and things you just aren’t able to forgive and move past, consider seeking support from a licensed therapist or counselor.
By taking a few minutes to forgive, we can free up energy to begin again with a clean slate. What a great way to say good bye to 2018 and welcome 2019!
Did this work for you or do you have another way that helps you practice forgiveness? Please let us know in the comments below.
A client recently noticed that she was continuing to let her sister tell her what to do. At the end of lamenting, she said the same thing she says every time this comes up, “I wonder why I do that?”
How many times have you asked yourself “Why?”
“Why did I blow off my walk today?”
“Why did I play video games instead of working on my job search?”
“Why did I finish that whole bag of peanut M&Ms?”
“Why, why, why?”
“Why?” is a strategy to stay stuck inside your comfort zone. When you ask, “Why is my apartment such a mess?” conversation shuts down and you end up going in the opposite direction of your destination. Suddenly you’re exploring the past, your mental woes and all the bad things that could have caused this when all you really wanted was a clean apartment.
“Why?” is a great diversion as it sends you on a journey to figure out what happened to cause this pattern of behavior.
You’re doing a great thing, right? You’re healing the past and your hurts.
Let’s say that you actually do figure out “why” you’re eating all those peanut M&Ms. Great!!!
Ok, now what? You know the “why,” so what?
Does knowing “why” help break out of the pattern that is keeping you stuck?
Nope. And you can tell by the results you’re getting.
So how do you break out of the analysis paralysis of “WHY?” Here are 4 simple steps:
- Practice noticing when “Why?” shows up. This can be tricky because we are so used to stopping when it shows up. Hint- Are feeling stuck? Are you thinking about the past?
- When you notice you’re stuck in “Why?,” stop, take a breath and tell yourself, “It doesn’t matter “Why?” or “Who cares?!” or “Frankly Scarlet, I don’t give a darn!”
- Remember the old cheer, A-C-T-I-O-N, ACTION, ACTION, WE WANT ACTION! Ask yourself, “What is the next right action I can take RIGHT NOW, that will get me closer to my goal?”
- Then DO IT, no matter how small.
For example, say you are miserable in your current job and are ready and anxious to find a new one. Instead of updating your resumé, like you said you would, you’re sitting on the couch playing video games, for the third time this week!
You hear yourself saying, “I did it again! WHY do I keep doing this?!” Instead of analyzing, get into action. Shut down the video game and grab your computer. Set a timer for 20 minutes and get to work on your resumé. When time’s up, set the timer again and give yourself permission to play video games for 20 minutes. Continue this pattern until the resumé is done.
The only way to break this or any pattern of behavior is to stop letting yourself get sucked into the “Why?” and get into action.
I hope this helps you to leave the drama of the “Whys?” behind and move toward designing your destiny!
Let me know how you handle your “Whys?” in the comments below.
It can be difficult to watch people struggle, especially someone we love and care about. Our first response is likely to want to fix or save them.
However, consider the following:
- In our struggles are lessons. If we rescue others (or wait for rescue), they (we) can miss the lesson that is waiting for them (us). That lesson may keep them (us) from making the same mistake over again.
- When we practice taking responsibility for our lives, we learn that we are strong and resilient as we come out on the other side. We not only rob someone of that feeling of accomplishment when we rush to rescue, we keep them from building their self-confidence.
- We are not the Happiness Police. It is not our job to make sure everyone around us is happy.
Sometimes we need to be unhappy or angry or frustrated or …insert feeling here… Sometimes we need to let others be in and work through their stuff.
- Rescuing creates dependence. Are we afraid if this person becomes independent they won’t need us anymore? Do we get our self-worth from taking care of them? We need to address our motives when creating this dynamic in a relationship.
- Rescuing and trying to fix sends the message that they are not capable of taking care of themselves.
What CAN we do?
Let them know that they are not alone and the door is open if, and when, they need support. It’s up to them to walk through that door, it’s not our job to carry them through.
Allow them to practice asking for what they need rather than trying to figure it out for them. Be empathetic, listen and try not to “fix” their problem.
What if YOU are struggling?
Ask yourself, “What do I need to process these thoughts and emotions?” Then practice reaching out to someone who is “holding the door open” and make a request for support.
It’s amazing what happens when we are given the space to feel how we feel with no judgement.
I’m reminded of the story about a butterfly. (Take a moment to read Paulo Coehlo’s version of the story below)
If we want to fly, we must first be willing to struggle out of our cocoon.
What’s harder, sometimes, is we must allow others to do the same.
The Lesson of the Butterfly
December 10, 2007
By Paulo Coelho
A man spent hours watching a butterfly struggling to emerge from its cocoon. It managed to make a small hole, but its body was too large to get through it. After a long struggle, it appeared to be exhausted and remained absolutely still.
The man decided to help the butterfly and, with a pair of scissors, he cut open the cocoon, thus releasing the butterfly. However, the butterfly’s body was very small and wrinkled and its wings were all crumpled.
The man continued to watch, hoping that, at any moment, the butterfly would open its wings and fly away. Nothing happened; in fact, the butterfly spent the rest of its brief life dragging around its shrunken body and shrivelled wings, incapable of flight.
What the man – out of kindness and his eagerness to help – had failed to understand was that the tight cocoon and the efforts that the butterfly had to make in order to squeeze out of that tiny hole were Nature’s way of training the butterfly and of strengthening its wings.
Sometimes, a little extra effort is precisely what prepares us for the next obstacle to be faced. Anyone who refuses to make that effort, or gets the wrong sort of help, is left unprepared to fight the next battle and never manages to fly off to their destiny.
(Adapted from a story sent in by Sonaira D’Avila)
In the election this week, the popular vote was split down the middle between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.
We have seen Trump supporters cheering and Hillary supporters crying.
I have friends and family who are Trump supporters. I know them to be good people and they truly believe that he is the answer to get this country back on track.
I also have friends and family who are Hillary supporters. They are also good people who feel the country is on the right track and they believe Donald Trump will derail it.
Our country is truly divided right now but it’s not the first time.
According to Ron Chernow’s book, Hamilton, this has been the case in America since its inception. Even the founding fathers didn’t agree on everything.
That’s what makes our country great.
We are allowed the freedom to debate our beliefs and ideas.
But who’s right and who’s wrong? They are both right and wrong.
No one person or group has the right to push their ideology on others. I know I get angry and resentful the minute someone tells me how I should be living my life.
All of us, not just our representatives, need to start listening to each other. We need to stop talking, get our anger in check and start trying to understand our fellow human beings. Especially those whose opinions are different than ours.
I believe we are more alike than we are different.
Most of us want to make a decent living, have access to affordable healthcare, raise our families in a safe environment, and enjoy the freedoms that this country was founded on.
And, each side has a different idea of how to get there.
The founders of this country knew that compromise needed to be part of the solution. The art of compromise is that neither party walks away totally happy but they are each able to live with the deal at hand.
One of those deals is what landed our capitol in Washington DC.
Try this today, stop talking and be curious about someone who is different than you. Ask questions and listen, really listen.
Practice looking for common ground and for a way to create a win-win.
This is how we make our relationships, work places and nation great!
Q: I would love to switch to a whole food, plant-based diet but I’m afraid that I won’t be able to get my family on board. How did you handle that?
A: This is a question I get a lot lately.
My children are adults and on their own so I only cook for my husband, Mike, and myself.
When I told Mike I was thinking about giving up meat and dairy, he was supportive. He also made it clear that he had no intention of following suit.
I have a tendency to rebel when something is pushed on me so I knew better that to fight him on this.
We made a deal that I would still cook meat for him and not judge or guilt him when he ate cheese or his nightly bowl of ice cream. He agreed to try the food I made for myself.
He was also supportive by asking me to share what I was learning in my CHIP classes.
We were both shocked to learn that not only is there more cholesterol in chicken than there is in beef but that our liver produces all we need. We do not need to ingest any additional cholesterol to survive!
At that point, Mike was eating at least 2 eggs for breakfast most days.
Even though this alarmed me, I said nothing.
One day, he said, “Dear, I think I would like to cut down on the number of eggs I’m eating. Could we maybe find something more healthy for me to eat for breakfast? But it has to taste good.”
Music to my ears!
The first hot cereal we tried was a miss.
Then we tried a hot cornmeal cereal that has dates, lemon zest and pumpkin pie spice (see photo above). That was a winner for both of us!
Now, most mornings, he has the cereal topped with berries. And he loves it!
He has also started snacking on raisins and peanuts instead of cheese.
Most of the food I make for myself, he enjoys. There have even been times when I’ve had to ask him not to eat all of my food.
If I was constantly preaching, trying to guilt or push him to change his diet, this probably would have gone a completely different direction.
Just like it had to be my choice to change, I have to give him the space to make his own choices.
As a coach, it’s not my job to tell my clients what I think they should do. We all need to choose and own our choices.
Giving others the space to make their own choices can be challenging. Especially when we think we know what’s right for them.
There are times when we learn best by making our own mistakes. And sometimes the mistakes that others think we are making turn out to be the best decisions ever.
And if I judge others for not following what I’m doing, then they will likely do the same to me.
It’s not up to us to police the world. It’s up to us to do what we think is right and allow others to do the same.
Good luck with your new lifestyle!
Since I last posted about my journey with food, I felt like I was wandering aimlessly and at the end of my rope.
I felt hopeless and helpless when it came to my weight. I had lost 9 lbs. since the beginning of the year but now it seemed the only way to get the scale to move was to starve myself.
I needed support and a plan but which one?!
I was confused by all of the ads. Oprah loves Weight Watchers, Marie Osmond loves Nutrisystem. Even Dr. Oz seemed to have a different health expert every day, tout the benefits of their weight loss plan.
Everyone had advice for losing weight.
Then I began having bouts of nausea, vomiting and stomach pain. I went for blood tests and an ultrasound to see if I had gallstones.
The ultrasound showed no gallstones but the blood work shocked me.
My cholesterol was 233! Thirty-three points higher than recommended!
My crappy diet was coming back to haunt me and it scared me.
Suddenly this was less about losing weight and more about being healthy.
A dear friend had been telling me about a program that she discovered about a year ago called CHIP.
CHIP stands for Complete Health Improvement Program and is sponsored by Rochester Lifestyle Medicine.
I resisted CHIP at first because it is about adopting a whole food, plant-based diet; no meat, no dairy.
It was hard to imagine life with no steak, butter, eggs, and OMG! No cheese or ice cream!
In my mind that meant food with no flavor and that meant SUFFERING!
But I watched my friend change her life over the last year simply by changing her diet and increasing her activity.
She’s lost 25 lbs. and no longer takes medication for fibromyalgia. She’s 65 years old and looks and acts at least 20 years younger!
And she certainly is NOT suffering!
So I checked out CHIP.
The program is based on studies by top researchers around the world like Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn and T. Colin Campbell. The studies they cite, like the China Study, are not funded by the pharmaceutical companies, the food lobbyists or others with an interest in skewing the results.
The program looked sound and I knew my current lifestyle was leading me down the path to heart disease and likely an early death. It was time to change.
In July, I signed up for CHIP and met 17 other people who were struggling like me.
Twice a week, we learn the truth about the typical American diet and how it contributes to obesity, diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, cancer and more.
They share with us the research about how eating a whole food, planted-based diet can reverse disease.
We look at the difference between the typical American diet and what research has found to be the optimal diet for health.
There is no judgment. No one is telling us we HAVE to change. They simply educate us and we decide the changes we want to make.
Some of us have jumped in and embraced the optimal diet. Others have decided to make a few changes each week.
I could not do this on my own.
I need the support of others who are going through the same thing. We encourage each other and talk about how to handle challenges like eating out or dealing with family and friends who are not supportive of our new lifestyle.
Since July 15th, I have been eating the optimal diet and I can honestly say that I love it!
My fear of eating bland, tasteless food was totally unfounded!
Along with a textbook and a workbook, they also provided us with a cookbook.
I am having a blast trying new foods and have learned how to change recipes to suit my new lifestyle.
And listen to this: as long as I am eating foods that are part of the optimal diet, I can eat as much as I want!
I feel like I should have gained 20 lbs. because of the amount of food I’m eating. But I’m actually losing weight! It’s crazy!
Am I perfect? Of course not. I eat potato chips and taco chips. And I still have a drink a couple times a week. This may change as time goes on but for now, I’m not going to beat myself up.
After one month of eating a plant-based, low fat diet, I have not only lost 4 1/2 lbs but I have lowered my cholesterol by 32 points! And, no more nausea, vomiting or pain.
It wasn’t easy getting here but it’s getting easier every day! I’m eating food that I love and I know is good for me. Physically I feel better and mentally I feel free!
If you’ve been struggling like I have, check out CHIP and see if it’s right for you.
And feel free to reach out with any questions regarding my experience.
To learn more about CHIP, go to Rochester Lifestyle Medicine and click on What Is CHIP?
If you do not live in the Rochester, NY area and would like to find the nearest program, go to Lifestyle Medicine Institute.
With the rash of shootings and violence going on in the Rochester area, our country and around the world, it’s hard not to be scared these days.
Living in a small town, it’s easy to turn off the TV and say “I don’t want to think about this because it doesn’t effect me.”
Or “I’ll just ignore it and it will go away.”
Or even, “I don’t want to think about this because there is nothing I can do.”
However, I know I need to do something, but what?
According to an expert on peace and nonviolence, Arun Gandhi, “The world is what we have made it. If we change ourselves we can change the world, and changing ourselves begins with changing our language and methods of communication.”
Arun learned from his grandfather, Mahatma Gandhi, that violence occurs everywhere. We may think we live in a world where violence can’t touch us if we only focus on physical violence. I know I feel pretty safe in my neighborhood and in most places I travel.
However, Arun Gandhi states in Marshall Rosenberg’s book, Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life, that there is a more insidious form of violence, “passive” violence.
This takes the form of speaking to or treating others disrespectfully, name calling, bullying, even eye rolling.
Any act where it causes an emotional hurt is an act of “passive” violence.
For example, a nasty or hurtful Tweet or post. Mocking someone’s appearance. Rolling your eyes when someone says something stupid.
I remember being picked on as kid and complaining to my mom. Her advice was to just ignore it and the kids will stop. She was right but it took a while. I can still feel the anger and frustration I felt sitting in silence on the bus as some boys told me how fat and ugly I was.
And it doesn’t just happen to us as kids. Fast forward 35 years and there I am again, sitting in a boardroom having insults thrown at me by a superior.
The old saying, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me” is BS!
Gandhi explained that “passive violence ultimately generated anger in the victim who, as an individual or as a member of a collective, responded violently. In other words, it is passive violence that fuels the fire of physical violence.”
With all of the hate speech and negativity being thrown around in the political arena, there has been plenty of fuel being added to the fire lately.
Could it be helping to create the homegrown violence in our country? I believe 100% YES!
We all need to get: Words are powerful.
What we are doing is NOT working. The answer is not more police. The answer is not meeting violence with violence.
“Be dominated by love, respect, understanding, appreciation, compassion, and concern for others rather than the self-centered and selfish, greedy, hateful, prejudiced, suspicious, and aggressive attitudes that dominate our thinking.” Arun Gandhi
It is not our job to try and fix what everyone else is doing. It is our job to be sure WE are doing the right thing.
What can you do to stop passive violence?
~ Stop, take a breath and think before you speak, act or respond to someone.
~ Ask yourself, “How can I respond with kindness and respect?” (Sometimes the best response is no response)
~ Give yourself permission to take a time out, if needed. Step away, collect yourself and then go back to “How can I respond with kindness and respect?”
In my case, I had to leave the toxic situation I was in. Fortunately, I had the love and support of my family and friends and a great therapist to help me sort through the anger, hurt and betrayal I felt. Not everyone has the support or tools to handle those difficult feelings.
Imagine what would be possible if we all practiced treating others with kindness and respect.
I try and meet each person with kindness and respect because I know how it feels when met with the opposite. And most times, people return the favor.
Kindness and respect creates connection and makes for a much more peaceful and productive world.
When it is not returned, I give myself permission to take myself out of the toxic space. I practice choosing to “go high when others go low” (Thank you Michelle Obama!).
We will only stop the out of control violence in our world by knowing that what we say and how we treat others matters just as much as physically injuring someone.
We CAN make a difference. As Gandhi said, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”
Go to MK Gandhi Center for Nonviolence for more information.
Also read Marshall Rosenberg’s book, Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life, to learn more about nonviolent communication.