Way of Being

Something has come over me during the last year where I feel the need to bare my soul to a handful of people, that is, anyone on the worldwide web with this URL.   In a way, I’m facing my demons by doing what scares me the most: showing my soft underbelly.

This week’s version of shameless self-disclosure comes during my Arbinger Institute facilitator training.  I wrote in my last blog about one of the Arbinger concepts, Must Be Seen As.  Admitting I have this Box to first, a roomful of strangers, then to the WWW again tests my willingness to be brutally (and I mean brutally) honest with myself and others.  Of course, after a week of disclosing our worst selves, these former strangers are now my partners-in-crime.

Another Arbinger concept that I love and is, in a very different way, equally terrifying:  way of being (I’ll call it WOB for short).  WOB refers to how we see others during the course of what we do.  For instance, I may ask someone, “please get me some Post-Its.” But how I view him will determine how I make the request.  If I view him as a person whose wants, needs and desires are equally important to my own, then the way I ask will differ compared to if I view him merely as a means to an end.   For the exact same sentence, the manner in which I say those words (grateful versus haughty, for example) can make a world of difference in terms of how he perceives my attitude (WOB), and thus his reaction. If I’m in my Must Be Seen As (or other) Box, then I’m more likely to be haughty, demanding, rude, entitled or possibly even meek, timid, or afraid when asking.

Since being trained on this topic (though I’ve been taught this before), I have become acutely aware of my WOB as I move through the world.  I have mentioned before that I’m actually a shy person and must work on intentionally making eye contact with strangers (my secret exercise with unwitting strangers).  Now, I look at strangers with a fresh perspective comprised of acute curiosity and awareness of our common humanity instead of as a vehicle for improving my shyness.

This simple shift has me once again feeling strangely vulnerable and open to whatever the stranger chooses to offer to me in return.  Sometimes, it is averted eyes.  Sometimes it is a smile or conversation.  Sometimes it is a return gaze containing an equal level of curiosity.    Regardless of the reaction, this new WOB has resulted in a heightened sense of connection to others that feels almost overwhelming.

I feel so privileged to have the opportunity to have participated in both the StrengthsFinders and Arbinger trainings.  Not only have they been personally transformative for me, I can’t wait to use these tools to help others to be more authentically engaged with their lives.  This phase of my life is yet another powerful new beginning for me, an exciting leg of my life’s journey.  The beauty and wonder of this journey is literally breathtaking to me; I can’t imagine why anyone would be closed to such exploration.  Perhaps it is best stated by Marianne Williamson, in her poem The Greatest Fear:

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.

Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.

It is our light not our darkness that most frightens us.

As I look with new eyes at each of my fellow humans, I now see that your light is, indeed, powerful and beautiful.  Whether you know it or not.

 Be not afeard; the isle is full of noises,
Sounds, and sweet airs, that give delight and hurt not.
Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments
Will hum about mine ears; and sometime voices,
That, if I then had waked after long sleep,
Will make me sleep again: and then, in dreaming,
The clouds methought would open, and show riches
Ready to drop upon me; that, when I waked,
I cried to dream again

–          William Shakespeare, The Tempest

Eeny Meeny Miney Mo – I Choose Fear

I sometimes choose fear and blame over love and joy. Perhaps, so do you.

Have you said these words recently?

“I am wrong,” “I made a mistake,” “I was thoughtless,” “I love you,” “I need you,” “I’m sorry.”

The words that reflect a willingness to show vulnerability are so difficult for some to say.  Why is that?

According to Brene Brown, researcher of human emotion, we use protective mechanisms such as blame, perfection, or certainty/absolutes to numb our sense of vulnerability.  The problem with numbing, says Brown, is that when we numb negative emotions, we also numb the positives ones like love, joy and connection to others.

Turns out, people who believe that they’re worthy of love and belonging are more willing to share their vulnerability.  As a person used to never leave home without her emotional walls, I know that they are not erected intentionally.  We just take them for granted, they’re how we roll, our M.O.

“I am worthy,” “I am enough,” “I am lovable.”

These truths are also so difficult for so many of us to really believe.  Why?

So many of us feel, on some level, that these truths do not apply to us.  We are the one exception to these otherwise universal truths.  Our unacknowledged fears are those that are the most powerful, and therefore the most damaging.  By identifying and challenging our previously-subconscious fears and assumptions, we can demystify and deflate their impact.

According to Tara Bennett Goleman, author of Emotional Alchemy, we have some combination of the following core beliefs and fears:

  • Abandonment – we will be abandoned
  • Subjugation – our needs are less important than others
  • Deprivation – we will not get what we need (I’m especially fond of this one)
  • Unlovability  – we are worthy of love and
  • Mistrust – we cannot trust others

These fears cause secondary fears regarding our interaction with the larger world including:

  • Exclusion – we do not belong
  • Vulnerability – catastrophe will occur
  • Failure – we feel like a failure despite outward success
  • Perfectionism – having unrealistically high expectations or
  • Entitlement – feeling special and entitled.

In other words, our subconscious core beliefs such as unlovability may cause us to express those beliefs in a dysfunctional way such as perfectionism or entitlement.

These beliefs and fears are all lies.   Dirty, rotten, stinkin’ lies.  We are ALL worthy of being loved, listened to, cared for, nurtured and being able to trust, no matter what we’ve been told, what we have done, or what secrets we carry from our families or our own pasts.  By failing to confront our subconscious lies, we deprive ourselves of both authentic connection to others and positive emotions like love and joy.

To make matters worse, we are predisposed to be hypersensitive to confirmatory cues that reinforce the fears.  If we believe we are unlovable and someone shows disapproval, then we may blame them for being inconsiderate, judgmental or mean or turn the hate inward and lose our confidence.  The infraction, perhaps inconsequential to someone else, is so hurtful because we are primed to find evidence of our unlovability, then believe it confirms our hidden flaws and destructive assumptions.  This, of course, is a self-fulfilling prophecy since we are now acting unlovable by being so sensitive or defensive. This self-fulfilling pattern will occur as a result of any of our fears.

What are your inner lies?  Which lies are you making your personal reality?   If you think you don’t have any, then you’re lying to yourself.  By avoiding the reality of your inner lies, you are also avoiding your joy and connection to others.  Regarding the past, you can claim ignorance.   What about the future?

Once you bring this decision to consciousness, it is really a no-brainer:  “Let’s see, keep the story going that makes me and others miserable, or let it go and choose love and joy?”

Which do you choose?