Today, my therapist taught me a breathing technique for managing feelings such as stress, anxiety, or anger. Breathe in while counting to four, and breathe out while counting to four. I find it helpful cuz it takes concentration without taking too much mental energy.
I had a horrible day today. When I was at the bus plaza, I was so upset that I started pacing inside. My emotions were running so wild that I wasn’t paying attention to where I was going. I accidentally walked really close to a mother with her two small children. We did an awkward dance around each other and the mother said, “Fuck, lady.” Although I’ve talked about learning conflict resolution skills, I admit I faltered and didn’t react well. She followed me across the street to keep yelling at me. Security guards at the plaza tried to placate her while I made an escape.
I’ve been thinking more about that encounter. I thought at first that she was just a giant asshole, but I see now that I did, although unintentionally, invade her and her children’s personal space. She didn’t know what was going on in my mind, so she may have thought I did it on purpose to antagonize them.
This incident reminds me of another time I paced while upset in (sort of) public. I was in an assisted living facility at the time, and I was pacing up and down the hallway. Someone thought I was on my way to his room and yelled at me, accusing me of trying to break in. I thought at first he was just a giant asshole, too, but looking back, maybe I didn’t realize how close to his room I had gotten, and it really did make it look like I was trying to break in.
I wish that people wouldn’t keep making negative assumptions about my intentions. It’s really hurtful. However, at least in part, I can kinda see how these two people might’ve taken me as a threat due to my lack of attention during emotionally charged pacing.
I think that two incidents is the beginning of a pattern. Pacing while upset in public seems to cause trouble for me. I wanna break this pattern. From now on, if I get upset while I’m around other people, I’ll sit or stay in one place until I can calm myself down. I’m not sure yet how to get myself to calm down. I’ll talk to my therapist about that tomorrow and share what I’ve learned here later.
Edited on 8/15/17 to add: my mommy just suggested, “Maybe you could pace somewhere people would expect it, like at a park.” I’m willing to try it, but I’ll still be careful to do things like look ahead instead of at the ground so that I don’t disturb anyone. There’s a beautiful park downtown with lots of birdies that I like. If I feel the need to pace when I’m upset again, I’ll go there to walk my feelings off.
In the past, when I didn’t like how someone was treating me, I often responded by lashing out, such as by calling the person an asshole. In this post, I talk about what I learned about dealing with conflict recently from a book I read.
From now on, I’ll be kind to people regardless of whether they’re kind or unkind to me. I used to have a spiteful side, but now, I think differently.
If someone is unkind to me, and I’m unkind back, they’ll retaliate to my retaliation and it’ll keep going in an endless cycle. If someone is unkind to me, and I’m kind to them, my actions can likely deescalate the conflict. Also, the person may be inspired to be more kind in the future.
Here are some of the goals I’ve set for being kinder when I’m angry:
- Don’t call the person a name.
- Keep the tone and volume of my voice calm.
- If the person is acting out cuz of an unmet need, and if I feel up to it, I can try to negotiate with them to meet their need.
- If I don’t feel up to engaging, I can remove myself from the situation.
I feel happier and healthier now that I’ve changed the way I react to conflicts. I hope to contribute to making a world a more peaceful place with my new mindset and actions.
I used to only speak if spoken to, unless I knew the person already. I was braver online, since having a computer screen between the other person and me provided a cushion if I got rejected, but I hesitated at social activities.
I’m pleased to say that within the past month, I’ve initiated conversations twice with someone at a social activity. When I went to a sci-fi/fantasy Meetup, I joined a side conversation that a couple of people were having about Godzilla movies, asking a couple of questions about what they thought of one of the versions they mentioned. When I went to a group activity at the park on Friday, I asked someone afterwards how she liked trying Frisbee. I have doubts about how good of a conversation starter that was, but it broke the ice, and we wound up talking about our career goals.
I also put myself out there to reconnect with a couple of old friends. I ran into one friend, Kellie, at a bookstore, and I invited her to coffee. We had a good time catching up and I’ll get to see her once more before she moves to another state. I added another old friend, Clare, on Facebook. She was willing to schedule a Facebook chat session with me, and I got to learn about what it’s like to teach elementary school and her love of stories about strong women. She told me about her journey overcoming shyness, and it was nice that someone could relate to me about it.
What got me to start working through my shyness was my need to socialize. If my life was a Sims game, my social bar would’ve been in the red. I felt compelled to reach out to others cuz my loneliness became a stronger problem than my shyness. I have a desire to know people and for them to know me. I love finding nuggets of information about people, like that Kellie wants to become an outdoor therapist, helping people work through their problems in nature.
It helps me to think about how putting myself out there will create more opportunities to connect with others than I would’ve had otherwise. While not everyone will wanna connect, I remind myself that lots of people are also looking for friendship, or at least would be receptive to it, so there’s a chance that a connection will form if I try.
While I’m phasing out of being shy and into being outgoing, I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with being shy. If someone is shy, and it interferes with their goals, it’s okay if they wanna change, like I did. If someone is shy, and they’re okay with taking longer to form relationships with people, that’s an equally valid way to be.
The book Nonviolent Communication, by Marshall Rosenberg, has already made an enormous impact on my life, even though I only read it a few days ago. The techniques I’ve learned have made it easier for me to get along with my daddy, who I currently live with. I no longer live in dread of having another messy conflict with him.
At the core of the book is a four step process:
- Observe the person’s behavior and whether it has a positive or negative affect on you (Rosenberg 6).
- Identify how you feel about the behavior (Rosenberg 6).
- Identify the need under your feeling (Rosenberg 6).
- Share your observation, feeling, and need with the person, and request an action that will meet your need (Rosenberg 6).
It’s also important to be willing to receive the same information from another person (Rosenberg 6). The book is full of stories that show how the process works. I think that the examples are somewhat unrealistically formal, but you can get the basic idea from them. I recommend this book to anyone who needs help dealing with conflicts or getting their needs met.
Rosenberg, Marshall. Nonviolent Communication. PuddleDancer Press, 2015. Print.
For a while, I didn’t know who my payee is and couldn’t get a hold of the organization. I was finally able to get a hold of the organization on Monday, and my payee called me later that day. On Tuesday, I got to access my money. Social Security said they would reduce my money cuz of a benefit that I don’t get anymore. I talked to someone on the phone about it, and they said that it would be reduced for August and September, but go back to normal after that. I’m not happy about my income being reduced for two months, but at least it isn’t long term. For a while, I was so stressed out about my money that my feelings were unbearable. I’m much calmer now that these issues have been resolved. Now I need to find out if I can pay Social Security’s over-payment from when I was a child back from my back pay instead of having 10% of my check taken out every month. I’d prefer to rip the band-aid off all at once. Since I dealt with bigger issues with Social Security, I feel like although it’ll be hard, I can deal with this, too.
Last Sunday, I tried out the Unitarian church. I received a warm welcome from many people. The atmosphere was positive and there were many references to nature throughout the sermon, which I enjoyed. I felt calm there, which is an unusual feeling for me cuz I have depression and anxiety and have been dealing with a lot of long term stress. I think that joining the church will help me relax more.
The sermon was about creativity. A member of the church spoke to us about her experiences writing poetry and running various writing groups. She and the substitute pastor gave two pieces of advice about creativity: to pay attention, and to draw from our inner lives. She shared some of her poems with us, which were beautiful. There was even a poem she built from words she picked out of a box. They were words that seemed random, like electric and salamander, but she turned them into a beautiful poem, too.
There are some other activities through the church that I’m interested in. The Pastoral Care team involves providing emotional and practical support for other church members. The Singular Unitarians group does various activities, such as movies and potlucks. I’m not sure what the Dojo of the Mind involves, but I think it might involve something like philosophy or brain teasers. I’ll try it out and see what happens.