My desire for harmony, life experiences and slight tendency towards avoidance means that I have to work hard at ensuring I actually say what I mean and say it when it matters.
Several years ago, I decided that I would concentrate on this aspect of my development and reflected intensively into what scenarios had led me to avoid saying what I meant, and what emotions had led me to say something I did not mean.
This process of personal development has also increased my empathy in circumstances when others don’t say what they mean or mean what they say… and this weekend I was faced with a good example.
My twin boys, who are almost 13, wanted to watch a documentary film about 9/11 and the Iraq war. It was a film that I had seen many years ago, and although I remembered it being hard hitting, we were all taken aback by the graphic scenes and the emotional content.
It was past bed time and one of the boys suddenly said… “I am off to bed, I don’t want to see any more of this tonight”. At that point the other boy, very uncharacteristically, burst into tears and wouldn’t talk to us about what he was thinking or feeling.
The following morning, we talked about it and I was told adamantly that it wasn’t the film that had upset him at all, it was the fact that I had sent him to bed before it had finished… I made an assumption that this wasn’t the case and tried to explain to him that what he was actually feeling, was too difficult for him to explain.
Later that day, my very insightful son did share with me that the film was indeed much more upsetting than he was expecting, and he hadn’t meant what he had said about it being about bed time. He recognised that he was cross with me for letting him watch a distressing film, surprised at himself for having such a wave of powerful sadness, and most of all, shocked about the things he had seen happening to innocent people in the film.
I think that most of us can relate to the range of complex feelings my son was experiencing and to a greater or lesser extent, we have that level of complexity of reaction to a whole range of work and home situations. We probably all find it hard to tease apart the strands of emotion, correctly label them, and then say what we mean and mean what we say in the moment.
To counteract this, it is so important to regularly reflect on what is happening internally for us and what maybe happening for others. We need to be even more generous with our compassion, particularly when we know that it’s so hard to instantly ‘tap into’ exactly what we are feeling, and as a result, say things that we don’t mean at all.
Amy – Managing Partner, The Wellbeing Collective