If you’ve just stumbled upon this post, it will make more sense if you read the summary below, and then Breath 1.
If you’ve read Breath 1 – skip down to Lucy, below.
When someone you love does something that hurts you emotionally, it’s quite common to find yourself caught between two opposing desires:
- Revenge – make ‘em pay for your hurt
- Forgive – and forget as quickly as possible to remove the pain.
Neither is great.
If you practice revenge you reinforce your own pain since (think about this) emotional pain arises from our story about an event – not the event itself.
If you rush to forgive, forget and avoid having an honest conversation with yourself and whoever hurt you, you practice being a coward in the face of your true experience.
A robust reconciliation, based upon an artful apology, avoids both these problems. In my work I’ve found there are five stages or “breaths” you need to take. Why “breaths”?
- When we are stressed it really helps to breathe: Keep breathing!
- There are in-breaths and out-breaths. To stay alive, you need both. A reconciliation between 2 people that avoids revenge or victim-hood needs both these perspectives.
Breath 2 ~ FEELINGS
Acknowledge the other person’s FEELINGS ~
Put yourself in your accuser’s shoes and imagine how they felt, even if they have not expressed any feelings beyond anger. Until you have done this they will continue to have no interest in anything you have to say.
It will not help them one iota for you to tell them:
- But I didn’t mean to.
- It wasn’t my intention to hurt you.
- Let me just explain.
- You have no idea the pressure I was under.
- Hey, you could have done something.
- I did not do this on purpose for heaven’s sake!
- Can’t a person make a mistake?
In fact, these tend to make things worse. Have you noticed?
So, resist the urge – which will be strong! Instead, try this ~
“Oh Fiona, you felt awful that night! You felt abandoned by me when I did not introduce you to those folks we were talking to. And then at dinner, it sounds as though you felt jealous that I had someone to talk to – and it did not help that it was a woman – and you were stuck between two folks you did not enjoy. And for sure you don’t want to get put in a situation like that again. Did I get this right, or am I missing some parts still?”
Cultivating the will-power to curb your righteous-indignation and make the effort to see a situation from another person’s point of view is like weight-lifting for the soul. It’s very hard, takes vast effort, is super good for you, and (I promise) gets easier with repetition. If you can start by practicing this with people you love – your children, partner, family members and friends – one day you might find yourself being able to empathize effectively with someone at work. Or , you might even find yourself being able to talk down an angry, violent person who simply needs someone to listen to them. You never know how this sort of inner strength will come in handy.
Continue to clarify your FEELINGS ~
Did the person who triggered your pain manage to express accurately enough how you are feeling? Do you need to have them understand any aspect of that painful event more fully? Now is your chance to see if you feel genuinely and fully understood. It’s your job to help the accused understand you – there is only so much they can guess.
“Well, you’ve got most of it right. I did feel abandoned and jealous. I think what made it worse for me is that you know how vulnerable I feel amongst your super-smart financial market friends. Right in the midst of my six month parenting leave and all I can think to talk about is Sylvia sitting up and how cute she is. I ended up feeling boring, dumb and unattractive.”
ADVANTAGES? This is a gift for you. When someone has – inadvertently or otherwise – triggered some hot buttons for you, being invited to name and share your feelings will help you get over your pain more quickly than any other way I know of. You can help the pair of you by staying present. What are you feeling? Need help identifying your feelings? Click here – parrott-emotions-tree-2001(3). Remember, emotional pain arises from our story about an event – not the event itself. You are in pain because of these feelings which have been triggered in you. This means your way out, is through.
ACCUSED Repeat Breath 2 ~ Keep going around by inviting your accuser to say more about their feelings while you continue to acknowledge what they are saying.
Again remind yourself – you are not pleading guilty. You are simply helping someone in pain to identify precisely how they are in pain, so they can feel better. You did not plant these feelings. These feelings were triggered by the other person – it is important they feel them so they can start to understand how they were triggered and maybe how to not have them be triggered next time.
This is Part 2 of 5.
Check back tomorrow for Third Breath of Apology ~ COMPASSION