Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Don't Get in the Wheelbarrow!!

I used to dread going to see my therapist sometimes because I knew I could brew up a whirlwind rant about my workplace, culminating in a giant single sentence tornado that would destroy everything in the room--me included. 

First of all they promoted this incompetent woman over me. Then they dumped more on me to do including helping HER staff. Then we had retirements that were not replaced..and big capital projects...and operational adjustments while being the only department to implement cost saving operational improvements. Then I get promised a title change but it never happens and then...

(Even now I feel the urge to type out every minute detail just to know I am not crazy and these things are really horrible and evil and awful and they should all just----)
 
DEEEP BREATH!
 
At Inner Mean Girl Reform School our first lesson was to identify the inner mean girls who  tell you BIG FAT LIES about yourself and set you off on an inner dialogue that fuels the tornado.

Turns out I have four IMGs. My Comparison Queen--leads the pack. She continually compares me to others (with me either coming up short, or very superior to others) which whips my Doing Addict, my Achievement Junkie and my Superwoman into a fury of activity trying to measure up for where I am lacking or making up for where others fall short. 

They are very loud and say things like:
 
You are not good enough!
If you don't prove your worth everyone will leave you!
You are a failure!
You are weak!
How can you stand working with those people who are so incompetent.  What a waste of your time!
 
I picture them having this huge wheelbarrow.  They all grab the handles and dash over to me, scooping me up, hollering their messages as we plunge headlong down a steep bumpy hill.  They argue over which way to go and in the meantime, I am bounced and bruised as the wheel hits every hole and bump.  The hill, sometimes, is endless.  We just keep going and going until maybe we crash.  Then there are usually tears.  Or sleep.  Or television to numb the pain of the fall.  There is often no time to question what they are yelling at me.  All I can do is hold on and ride it out hoping they will get tired. Or join the ranting and end up in a full blown panic attack. (those are always fun!)
 
The next day, the come for me again.
 
It is exhausting.  My body tingles; my bones hollow and cold as the fight or flight response is stimulated.  You can't fight when you are holding on for dear life.  You can't get away because you are not in control of the wheelbarrow.  So you spin and spin in your head; hyper vigilant, breathing fast, unable to make a simple decision for fear of getting it "wrong" and having to hear them laugh at you. 
 
So here I am with all this going on in my head and I can't just turn it off.  I can't avoid the people pushing the wheelbarrow.  But maybe I can find a way not to get scooped up into the wheelbarrow?
 
Imagine this:
 
You overhear several people at work discussing how much fun they had at an  event they all attended on the weekend. You had no knowledge of the event.
 
You are a loser!
Nobody likes you!
You are better than they are so don't sweat it. Sounds like it would have been a waste of your time!
What if you have a panic attack! You can't DO social events!
 
Shouting, they all grab the handles of the wheelbarrow and come barreling toward you...each one jostling the other for the best spot. 
 
As they approach.  You take a step back.  And another. 

You watch as they brush past you and you see each one up close.  You acknowledge that there are a lot of feelings swirling around in your mind and you think:

Wow my feelings are all over the place and my skin feels uncomfortable.  I feel angry and hurt and I worry about why they didn't include me.  I can stew on this all day or I can just go for a walk for a few minutes to get a tea or coffee or a breath of fresh air and acknowledge these feelings as they pass through me and don't consume me.  I see them.  Here they come.  And there they go. I am not my feelings. 
 
My feelings are real but, I am not my feelings.  I feel tension in my muscles and my chest is a bit tight.  These are real things.  But they will go away if I don't feed them any more emotion. 
 
Watch your feelings pass.  Don't deny them.  Don't try to steer them in another direction by distracting yourself.  Acknowledge they real in this moment....but they are not who you are.
 
You can be someone --who at this moment is angry.  You are NOT an angry person.
 
Unless you allow yourself to get swept up by the wheelbarrow.
 
The choice is yours, and it takes practice.  It took me a year to be able to start to apply this and there are certainly times when I jump headfirst into the wheelbarrow and enjoy every bump and bruise because I feel like I deserve the ride.
 
But more and more, I can stand back and watch the show. 

They come. 
They yell.
They go.
They fade.

I am not my feelings. 
 
I am, as always, a Work in Progress.

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