Wednesday, June 24, 2009

You Feel What You Feel.

Before Al-Anon, I met rudeness with disbelief and self-doubt. Had I done something to provoke this? How could a reasonable person behave like that? Why would this person treat me in this manner? Yada yada, much outrage and fuming. But only to myself, and always with a lurking doubt that I had any right to my feelings. Because I had no healthy way to deal with rudeness, I lost my equilibrium completely, and if it was a co-worker, or family member, or friend who was rude to me, I could be upset for days on end.

After I'd been in Al-Anon for a while, and was introduced to the idea that it wasn't their rudeness that was pushing me off my perch, but rather my own reaction to it, I could grasp the concept, but still wrestled with my feelings. The longer I was in program, the more I began to give weight to the mistaken idea that if I was truly dealing with it, I wouldn't have any feelings about it. I can still occasionally lose sight of one truth:

I feel what I feel.

How I deal with my feelings, the choices I make, are all secondary to that. I have a right to my feelings. Until I accept them, acknowledge them, honour them, I can't let go. My ability to deal with rudeness or unkindness with courtesy in turn, is not predicated upon my being an automaton with no feelings. This isn't Stepford Al-Anon.

My feelings are my essential self. There are times when I heave a deep, tired, sigh over the childishness of that self, but locking it into a dark closet with no dessert, isn't an effective teaching method for helping it to mature and grow. Years ago, when I worked as a counsellor on the crisis line in the city, our supervisor would remind us, "People need to be heard." That goes for me, too. I need to be heard, by myself first of all, and then by those around me.

When I feel heard, my choices click into place with consumate ease - I can say "I didn't like it when you...." and leave it at that. No attacking, no blaming, no character assassination, no suggestions of how the other person should have behaved. Just a simple statement of fact.

I have found that this calmness on my part clears the path, and eases the way.

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