What I have been noticing in myself at work is how I subtly moderate what I am thinking or what I do to what seems to be acceptable to other people. This is not just about the big stuff. It also shows up in the myriad of tense little interactions or problem-solving conversations that may occur at any time during the day. Engaging in or dealing with emotion-producing interactions is the nature of my job.
The internal process I notice is how I speak and then listen for the reaction within the interaction. As this is going on, I negotiate within myself, and then outwards, the elements of the story being created that will either fit or moderate the interaction. Sometimes I feel I have to modify my own “story,” changing bits here and there that do not “fit” the readily-apparent emerging story (that is, I am losing the battle) or support my “role” or “image.” To arrive at a negotiated agreement, I sometimes feel I have to change my external story even when I feel strongly about my internal story. I do not feel I have the power to make a difference in this conversation. I have noticed how this process smooths out the rough bits around the edges of my living. Not bad – we all want to live a peaceful life, right? Part of what happens, though, is that in following this process, I deny myself the full range of living and experience which is not quite “up to” my perceived image, less than flattering, or not some idealized “best.” I deny the interaction an opportunity for deeper and more authentic exploration of meaning.
It is hard for me to stay with a conflictual, tense interaction – especially at work. Partly, it is about not letting a weakness or vulnerability show, perhaps because I am not confident enough in myself or my capacities. I don’t feel I can afford to make any “mistakes.” I will be shut down. Shut out. This is what comes up for me, and it feels risky.
But beyond all that is my growing awareness of these moments – usually right after they have happened 🙂 As I embrace this awareness of what is, just as it is, I also am learning to embrace how I judge myself as a failure, or less than perfect. Facing these negative self-judgments without getting caught up in the stories that follow about how my life is impossible, or all the ways I need to change myself, is huge for me.
By not taking in this interaction as “who I am,” the judgments and worries that do arise are softer, more diffuse. They do not become part of my self-definition and I can release them with more ease.