So you want to be a “real Adult?” Great! Then it’s time to Grow
up Open! If you don’t know what I mean by that, check out my last post here.
Think of this as “Authentic Adulting.” Here’s Part 1 of ways to grow more open.
1. Spend Time in Silence
Yikes! I bet you’re thinking, “If I knew she was going to say that, I would have clicked on the goat video instead.” But hear me out. It’s super important to spend some time in silence if you want to become a real adult. In fact, this is the foundation to the other things on today’s list. Because so much of growing open is about our awareness of what is going on within ourselves and what we do with that information, it’s essential to spend time with yourself. And no, I don’t mean binge-watching the new season of OITNB.
I mean quiet time, where you can actually hear and see the thoughts in your own head. Time to notice what is going on in your body. When you can let your nervous system chill out. So try some meditation, go for a walk in nature, or just sit in a chair on your front porch and watch the world pass by. Start with a minute if that’s all you can do. Work your way up to 5, 15, even 30 minutes. Just put the phone down, turn the TV off, and spend some quality time with yourself.
2. Take Responsibility For Your Thoughts and Emotions
This is a big one. It’s not optional. And you might not like it at first glance.
Taking responsibility for your thoughts and emotions means recognizing that no one can “make” you think or feel a certain way. Therefore, your emotions and thoughts belong to YOU, and are your responsibility to soothe or understand or communicate in a responsible way (see number 3).
Look, sometimes people are jerks. They say or do things that we don’t like or agree with. I 100% guarantee that there will be things other people say or do that will trigger uncomfortable thoughts or feelings for you. That’s totally fine. But what do you DO with that? Do you blame them for your feelings?
“You made me feel X,Y,Z…”
Really? Is it completely true that the other person “made” you feel that way? Or is it possible that the way you interpreted what they said, or the meaning you made out of what they did, is what really made you feel that way?
• • •
This is a tricky one because we desperately want to blame other people when we’re feeling an uncomfortable feeling. However, if we pay close attention and slow our experience waaaaay down (I told you number 1 was important), we can watch our thoughts interpret situations. And we notice the emotions that come from our interpretations.
It becomes obvious that we’re causing a lot of our own suffering by hooking into our thoughts and feelings.
While it may give you a nice feeling of righteousness to blame others for your feelings, it also puts you in the victim role. Which feels pretty lousy – like your well-being is in everyone’s hands but your own. It’s a very un-empowered place. Recognizing that ultimately no one else is responsible for your thoughts and feelings is initially challenging. But it leads to true freedom.
Without this freedom, we can never really open. We’re always protecting ourselves in some way, shutting out other people or the world. Because if other people can “make me” feel bad, I need to protect myself from them. When we recognize our own role in our emotions, we become more able to connect with others. Because we see that it’s safe after all.
Side Note: I’m not saying that other people can’t do or say things that are painful for us. If your friend punches you in the nose hard enough, your nose will bleed. It’ll hurt! But what do we do when that sort of thing happens? Get righteous and blame-y? Pass on our pain and punch the person next to us in the nose too? Decide it means we’re weak and not good enough, and it’s their fault we feel this way? Or do we get clear about our emotions, investigate our thoughts, and come to right action? I think the last choice is the best choice!
3. Express Yourself Consciously
Recognizing that we’re ultimately responsible for our thoughts and feelings doesn’t mean that we don’t express them to others. It’s ok to have feelings and to want to communicate them to others, even if they’re generated by a story you’re telling yourself. Even if you can’t make sense of them. Even if they’re uncomfortable.
But HOW do you communicate them to others? Do you:
- Lash out at others and blame them for your feelings – “You made me feel…”?
- Go into a cycle of self-loathing and shame – “I guess I’m a horrible person…”?
- Stuff them down and pretend like they don’t exist (the silent killer)?
Or do you communicate them consciously? In a way that expresses your feelings while also noting your role in them?
Here’s an example that I bet you can relate to:
My partner doesn’t like to put the dishes back in the “right” spots (Right according to who? Me, of course!). It’s not important to him. I’ve asked him to do it before, because I like it when the dishes are in their places. So one day, when I open the kitchen cabinet, the plates are where the glasses go. I get grumpy and upset.
I could: Say to my partner, “You never put the dishes back. You’re always making me angry, you never do what I ask you to do.”
I could: Say nothing, stew silently on my own and watch the chasm between us grow wider and wider.
I could: SLOW IT DOWN.
Do number 1. (That’s why we practice – so that we can use it in tense moments like this). Check it out inside myself first – what is actually going on here? What am I really feeling?
Try out number 2 – What is really making me upset? Additionally, what MEANING am I making out of the dishes that is contributing to my anger? Ahhh. That’s where the feeling is coming from.
Once I’ve done this, I could say, “I’m feeling angry. I see that the dishes aren’t where I’d like them to be. When I see that, I tell myself that you don’t care about me and what I want. In the future, I’d like you to put the dishes back where they normally go. Would it help you if I showed you where?”
Which of these approaches is most likely to get me the results I want? Yep. That last one.
Which of these approaches is the most compassionate, towards myself and my partner? Yes, that’s right. The last one.
• • •
What does this have to do with growing open? Growing open also includes growing open to others. The more conscientious we are when relating with others, the more genuinely and authentically open we are with them. Often, you’ll find that this makes room for them to be open with you too.
Nothing says “adult” like self-awareness, self-responsibility, and conscious communication.
Tune in next time for a few more ways you can practice “Authentic Adulting” and grow more open, happy, and free.