“Are you ready to talk about something serious?” Olen said, with a kind smile. My eyes impulsively averted hers and darted around to get a hold of the situation.
We were having lunch. She was reclining deep into her chair, in no rush to finish her food. Her eyes twinkled with playfulness as she waited for my response.
Everything about her body language told me she was either confident about having a serious confrontation with me, or she was joking about wanting to be serious.
Either way, every part of my body screamed danger — my heart closed up, the skin on my arms tingled with adrenaline. I could almost hear my internal shut down sequence start up as I blinked and thought of a response.
The thing is, confrontation is not an easy interaction to have. When you confront another, you negotiate your feelings by laying them out like poker chips on a table. For me, I’ve never had a lot of poker chips to begin with. Between Olen and I, the stakes were high. That’s because she’s the first (if not only) meaningful friendship I’ve made in my adult life.
Besides, no one in my child/teen years taught me how to acknowledge, negotiate and advocate for my own feelings. Any time a negative emotion surfaces (either by me or someone else), my surroundings shrunk inward and went straight into denial. Every confrontation I’ve had (e.g. asking parents for money, to go outside on my own), was paired with legs trembling and an irrational fear of judgement from the other person.
So this week I wanted to tell you that I succeeded in learning something new. My ego may not have allowed it before, but now I am grateful that new lessons can finally permeate through my being without the ego filter.
Reality check: Some times your teachers are your peers, and some times they are inanimate objects, and some times they are inconsequential events all muddled together — Your timeline coinciding with mine, and mine with yours.
So what exactly did I learn? Between Olen’s passionate opinions about what happened and how I deserve better, Olen reveals a magical formula that she’s cultivated from years of being in and out of therapy.
If this was her newsletter, she’d very casually tell you how she at least made all that therapy money worthwhile by trying to be a better friend. And our friendship will be the empirical evidence that it is.
We go back to a discussion that happened a week before — I triggered her with something that I’ve said about her relationship with her parents. ‘You didn’t even know, did you?’ Her eyes had slowly turned into this cute sort of wink, maybe she knew she was catching me off guard, or maybe she’s just flexing her emotional intelligence muscles.
She explained to me about how she took my comment away that day and wrapped it in her mental bento box to bring home. On the same night, she unpacked all the words and energies that she picked up that day and examined them closely.
She unpacked what I said and compared it to what she knows about my childhood/my relationship with my own parents. In her head, she pictured what it was like for me to grow up in the conditions that I did, and connected that to all the things I said to her present day.
What I said was not particularly nasty, but maybe they held a kind of resentment that was reserved for my own parents instead, and had nothing to do with Olen’s journey to bringing peace into her own relationships with her parents.
But you see, although that resentment was reserved, it didn’t stop from leaking into my interactions today. The leaky tap I’ve been carrying around is spilling onto the loved ones around me!
She decided she’s OK with it, though. She knew it was not my intention to hurt her, it was simply a reflection of my pain from the past. I know I said to myself, step out of me, but gosh, this stuff is hard. You can’t always step out of your reptilian mind, especially when you relive painful memories from the past and try to be considerate of others at the same time.
But most importantly, I received feedback on how I could be better. To get my points across, I could always reframe myself better. I think the scarce space I had spent so much time in left me with such a huge emotional deficit that I subconciously refused to be any nicer or kinder to anyone around me, and most certainly not myself.
Not much consideration was given to how I construct my words to:
1. Speak up about what I want
2. Make them heard and have others feel good about listening and/or obliging
The goal had always been to achieve 1, even at the sake of 2. I know I sound like a brute, but if you think back to the last few interactions you’ve had, you might find yourself accidentally doing the same too. After all, our silly egos are always self-centered by default.
Do you remember the last time you finally got what you wanted, and had to see someone hurt at the expense of your desires? How did that feel?
Hello, sad girls! Sorry I’ve been away for a little while. I’m currently on the tail-end of my Tokyo trip and it’s been amazing.
I hope this letter gets to you on a good day and maybe you can tell me if you’d like to know more about reframing? I’d need to do more research too, tbh.
Be well, and have a good weekend!