Today, I went to a very dark place. Not at all proud of it, but I went there. I got to my office only to remember that I had forgotten to bring coffee. Thus so, I had to return home to get it as I did not want to not have it for me, for the staff and for our clients. Upon arriving home I quickly threw some beans, which I roasted the previous weekend, into the grinder only to find out that it was not grinding properly. The reason for this was that on the previous weekend, I took it all apart for a much needed and thorough cleaning. The problem, at that time, was that I could not get it back together correctly and the owner’s manual was of little help. I finally finished.
After throwing the beans in the grinder it would only grind on a very fine setting and then it clogged. Obviously, I had not correctly reinstalled the parts. I quickly took everything back apart and continued with numerous unsuccessful attempts to remedy the problem. The more I tried, the worse it got. The more unsuccessful I was, the more the negative thoughts begin to flow and then my negative core fear of failure was tapped. I began to think about how incompetent I was with my hands and about how other people would be able to fix it right. I thought about how incompetent I was, as I was unable to remember in what order the parts were to go back in. I thought about how I should know this about myself and about how I should have taken pictures at each step or at least I should have written the various steps down. I thought about how I was failing at this and that as a therapist that helps others regulate their thoughts, that of all people I should at least be able to do a better job of regulating my thoughts and emotions, even if I cannot work with my hands. I was a mess. My wife, Kim, came home. I vented to her that I was not doing well and gave a quick and passionate summary of how poorly I was functioning and why. She did well. I had to leave to get to the office. Before exiting, I said to her that I was so very sorry for everything and that I was sorry that she did not marry someone better. I then made her cry as she tried to dissuade me from my pity pit and said “We’re better than this.” I said something to the tune of “Apparently, I’m not.” I apologized several more times and then left. Sheesh, amazing. I’m not at all proud of any of this. It is now late, that same day as I write and I’m doing much better. I’m rather cognitively and emotionally tired but I’m in a much better place. Again, not at all proud of this event but I decided a long time ago that if I’m in the cave, I’m not leaving before I get my treasure. Thus so, what am I going to take from this? What am I going to learn about myself? What about my thinking needs to change so that I pass this class and don’t have to retake it? What was I afraid of? What dream of mine was in conflict?
My clients would say that I am obsessed with two things. One is dominos. The other is fear. Let’s look at fear. We’ve often heard it said, “Never say never,” and “Never say always.” But, regarding conflict you can say “Always.” Whenever there is conflict between 2 individuals, or 2 groups of people, or even a conflict within myself as above, there are 2 things that always take place. Someone’s fear button just got pushed, and someone’s dream just got crushed or at least they are afraid that their dream had just been crushed. This happens every time. It may not be evident at the onset, but I promise you that it happened. When this fear button gets pushed, the emotion then ignites the behavior. The fear may come in a lower form such as concern, worry, stress or absolute freezing terror, but no matter what you call it, it is still fear. The fear makes us perform or shuts us down. It engages our voice and we say things or it takes away our voice and we say nothing. Look at this again. It makes us do or shuts us down. It makes us say, or shuts us down.
Before the fear ignites the behavior, it may be rerouted through sadness or it may be rerouted through anger. Most of us fall to the anger side. The anger might be a smaller version such as annoyance, irritability, or being “ticked off” or maybe it is to the scale of furniture breaking rage, but it is all a form of anger. In the event from above, the fear ignited my irritability/anger and the result was my own self deprecation. I began to beat myself up. This began to ripple and it affected Kim.
So, what is my dream? One of my dreams is to be competent and be seen by myself and others as competent. I also want to be successful. When I was not succeeding at what I wanted to do, I began to push my own fear buttons and became quickly afraid of my core fear coming true. I am a failure. Again, not at all proud of this, but this is where it goes for me and it goes there very quickly every time. When I realize what is happening I can immediately begin to attack this fear as opposed to attacking myself or Kim or Sam.
Thus so, I would encourage you to begin wrapping your mind around this language, “Ooh…I’m in conflict (with myself or someone else). Whose fear button just got pushed? Whose dream is in conflict? What is the fear? How can I attack this fear?”
In the next post, maybe we can talk more about this…