As I have written recently, I am currently taking very deliberate steps to learn to be more transparent, forthright and definitive — in my communications, specifically, as well as in my life, generally. This is particularly difficult for me when I have a negative reaction to something that has been said to me (or someone else reacts to something I have said).
With the help of a few very wise people, I am starting to understand the difference between REACTIONS and actual FEELINGS. If someone says something that makes me feel bad, even though there are many different varieties of “bad” feelings, I tend to categorize that experience as feeling “hurt.” In reality, what’s often going on is that an exchange with someone leaves me feeling left out, insecure, embarrassed, jealous or misunderstood. These are reactions, and, although my reactions may feel uncomfortable and I may not like them, guess what? I’m not actually being damaged. 99 times out of 100 (just to leave a little wiggle room), there is no hurting taking place. By the same token, if someone has a negative reaction to me, while I may have provoked an unpleasant reaction in them, I have not actually damaged them.
This is a big distinction for me. I have walked around for most of my life feeling as though my communications with people are quite dangerous. That I have the ability to truly hurt someone or be hurt by someone just because I don’t choose exactly the right words or make exactly the right decision. I’m learning that I can react to someone, and someone may react to me, and both parties are still fine – AND most of the times my reaction to someone has nothing to do with that person. More likely, the exchange with that person just triggered an old feeling or experience.
So I’m taking baby steps and starting to risk sharing my reactions, and inviting other to share their reactions with me, with the knowledge that everyone is going to survive it intact.