Some of us explode in anger, like an adult version of the two-year old temper tantrum. We stomp our feet, punch a hole in the wall or wildly throw whatever object happens to be in our hands or nearby. Stand clear everyone!
Some of us spew a verbal rant. Our anger fuels a level of articulation that surprises us and elicits pride, albeit only in that moment. We blame and accuse as we shoot verbal bullets at screens, groups, or individuals with precision. We can also spray machine gun words that land on random, and innocent, beings.
Some of us clam up and sink deep into our own ruminating thoughts. We worry and worry. In our minds, we play out an endless variety of possible scenarios and outcomes as we listen intently to the voice in our head that confirms every single one of our fears. As the fear grows, we sink lower.
Some of us take immediate control. We device and employ intricate action plans in a desperate attempt to force outcomes. We are impulsive and tenacious in our pursuits to make people and environments the way we want them to be. This job is 24/7 and the pay is, well, I’m sorry to say, but the pay is always shit.
Some of us head for the Denial Trail where there is an endless choice of activities to distract us from our shitstorm. Oversized tubs of ice cream, excessive beers or shots, extreme exercise, endless work, puff-after-puff, and shop-till-we-drop are common options. Wine and Netflix anyone? Give me more, more, and still more. Anything to keep our minds muddled, full or busy.
All these coping mechanisms, in their own unique way, might appear to help us feel better in the immediate aftermath of whatever has happened. At least that’s what we think. It’s why we do them. For many of us, regardless of which tendency we rely on, it’s become automatic. We’ve practiced so many times, over so many years, in response to so much shit, that we do these things without even thinking.
The problem is, whatever issue is causing us pain, doesn’t go away by engaging in any of these responses. In fact, they can cause even more pain, both for us, and for others. These coping mechanisms are futile. Maybe fun in the moment, but futile in the end. I’d like to extend an invitation to experiment. It’s an alternative response called Grace and Space, and it works like this:
GRACE: Love and Compassion
When someone we care about is dealing with painful feelings, we don’t judge them (well, at least not out loud). We are the voice that counter-acts their beliefs that they aren’t strong enough, that it was all their fault, or that they should be ashamed. Our attitude of compassion is invaluable in helping them deal with the pain. And deal with the pain we all must. It won’t go away until we give it due consideration. Why then, are we so hard on ourselves? We judge, condemn, punish, and label ourselves over and over. Regardless of the issue, what if we offered ourselves the same compassion and non-judgement? I guarantee that everything will be easier to handle. It will allow us to more gently process the pain and move on. And that is the goal, isn’t it?
GRACE: love and compassion. For everyone, yes, but for ourselves first and foremost.
SPACE: Time and Environment
The ideal environment to deal with our problems will look different for each of us. It may also depend on the nature of what we’re dealing with and what we need to process. A two-hour bubble bath, professional therapy sessions, a four-day wilderness trek, or even a retreat. The possibilities are as unique as we are. The right choice – made with grace – is whatever environment will be the most conducive for each of us to feel better. Period.
SPACE: time and environment. Because it’s what’s best for us, and for everyone else too.
Whenever shit happens, whenever you’re feeling low, just remember, GRACE and SPACE.