Don’t Take Anything Personally

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I know I’ve mentioned recently that I have been using hypnosis to help me stop grinding my teeth. There are a lot of theories as to why people grind their teeth. The ones I have heard the most are: an unaligned bite, stress/anxiety, and repressed anger.

I think all of these apply to me, but the one I have found myself wanting to explore the most is repressed anger. Earlier in my life, I was pretty passive, and I had to learn through experience to stick up for myself. Part of this was owning my anger. I realized that anger is raw passion, waiting to be harnessed as a powerful creative force. I learned to listen to my anger, to let it tell me where my boundaries lay, to let it teach me how to protect myself from predators.

Time has passed. I have grown older, stronger, and more confident in myself. I have moved beyond individuation and into service. I felt good with myself, satisfied with my own personal quest, and decided it was time to give myself to my career and my family.

I had a baby. And I fell in love looking at his innocent face in those early days, and was sure he could do no wrong, ever. I would look at older kids, making trouble, and knew my kid would never act like that. Nope. Not my angel.

He’s changed. I mentioned before that I think he just got his 4-year testosterone flood a bit early, and I am having a really, really hard time right now. The yelling in my face, the hitting, the throwing. The, “One more chance,” pleas a countless number of times. I have been trying everything I have up my sleeve: offering incentives, using consequences, talking, asking him what he needs, giving more attention, behavior charts…I could keep going. In short, I have used everything I know except physical discipline, but I have to admit, there have been plenty of impulses to use that, too. It is only my personal pledge and plenty of willpower that stop me from going that way. And my husband, of course, who grabs the wheel when I feel myself going off course.

I don’t know if I am being too hard or too soft. Should I just never give him any second chances, maybe? Have I leaned on that too many times, so that he does not respect the limits I am setting? Or maybe I am being too hard. He’s in his room crying right now, way past his bedtime. I put up the gate and let him know that one more hug means one more hug, and he needs to go to sleep now so Mommy can unwind.

I feel so bad, seeing him stressed out and alone in his room, just wanting closeness and comfort, and I wonder if I should just let him come into my room so that he feels completely safe and supported, because, you know, that’s what the attachment parenting method preaches. And I feel incredibly frustrated because I just need some down time, and I am not getting it, because he is testing me to my core.

Back to the repressed anger and the teeth grinding. Yesterday, I was having a great day. Great mood, optimistic, productive, grateful. Last night with the little guy was a wringer. I can’t even remember right now, or don’t want to, but I ended up using every consequence I have yet to use. We are in this standoff right now, it seems, regarding who’s the boss, and I know he needs authority, but I also feel like I am breaking his spirit.

Anyway, by the end of the night, I noticed my jaw was incredibly tight. Talk about repressed anger. I can’t throw my anger at my child, I know, I need to keep a hold on it, and it is ending up in my jaw. I have been getting incredibly frustrating with this little guy who has somehow already learned exactly how to press my buttons.

And then there’s compassion. And taking a step away and seeing things from a different angle. I’ve been thinking (after he finally gets to sleep), that maybe it’s not about finding an outlet for repressed anger. Maybe it’s about not getting angry in the first place.

A while back, I read a book called The Four Agreements. I am sure that many of you know this book. One of the agreements is, “Don’t take anything personally.”

A lot of this getting angry stuff is all about me taking things personally. A lot of the stress and anxiety is about me taking things personally. In fact, I may even go so far to say that ALL of the anxiety, stress, and anger I experience is completely about me taking things personally.

A client at work likes me, or doesn’t like me, or does well, or fails horribly, and I take it all personally. I hold myself responsible for all of this, doubting that I am good enough, skilled enough, knowledgeable enough to be a resource for them. News flash: it’s not about me! And when I indulge in these anxious self-doubts, I am taking away from the absolutely BRILLIANT work that I do with these amazing, totally capable individuals.

My kid acts out, testing limits, as is completely developmentally appropriate, and I think, “He is doing this to me.” A car cuts me off in traffic, and I get pissed about them disrespecting me, instead of thinking maybe they’re just in a big hurry, or maybe they’re just generally inconsiderate, and does it really have to ruin my moment, this moment that I will never have again? Do I really need to miss this speck of time when my son will be this small, because I am busy brooding about how he is acting disrespectfully? Maybe, just maybe, can I give him limits without engaging in a power struggle in which no one can win?

So, I pledge it now, and I will hold myself to it. Do Not Take Anything Personally. Nothing. It is not about me. Even if someone has a problem with me, it’s not me. It’s just one of the traits that I exhibit. Constructive criticism is merely a tool I can use to refine my character. It is not about me. It is not about me. It is not about me.

By the way, in the middle of this post, I did finally go make peace with my son, and I think (dear God, hope!) he is sleeping.

Wish me strength, readers, and lots of patience. 🙂

The Bare Necessities

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It is so wild that I am sitting down to write my first post about my pledge to practice yoga/meditation on a regular basis, and as I look at my blog to see how long I have been doing this, I see that I made this pledge exactly one month ago today. How cosmic is that?

So, the last time I wrote about this, I was high from the San Francisco Salsa Rueda Festival, and I talked about movement as meditation. Since then, I have barely amazingly managed to keep up with my regular practice, and I have come up with some basic guidelines for myself.

1. Dancing does not count. I love to dance, and yes, it is a meditation, but if I count this as part of my regular yoga/meditation practice, I will never do yoga. And I will never sit and meditate. I will just dance, and I already do that so it doesn’t really count.

2. I need to be alone. This is time for me to check in with me, myself, and I. I can sit and stretch and twist all I want when I am around other people, but this is not me checking in with myself. It is merely me extending and exercising my muscles while socializing.

3. Listening to my hypnosis sessions does count, as long as I don’t fall asleep five minutes into it. I got one hypnosis CD for test anxiety, and another for Bruxism (teeth-grinding, which I have learned I do with a vengeance). They have been helping me a lot. I have a lot of anxiety in my life right now, and this is a way for me to stay on top of it. I am learning “to be relaxed more than I ever have before (actual quote from hypnosis CD).”

4. Hatha yoga is very different from sitting meditation, and I need both. Ideally, I would be spending 15 minutes minimum nightly just sitting in meditation, but I need to stretch my body to de-stress. I need more time to devote to both practices, and meditation is getting the short end of the shaft right now, because my body demands to unwind. And that is okay, for now, until I get through this very packed and crazy part of my life (I sense someone snickering and thinking, “The crazy times never end, you fool…”)!

5. My practice is about nurturing myself, not about self-discipline. My life is way too disciplined right now. I am studying for my LCSW exam, and let me tell you, this test is a motherfucker! Serious insomnia inducing, teeth-grinding insanity. And I am not a nervous test-taker. I am also juggling a job where I constantly hear horror stories and try to help people find light in dark places. And then there’s parenting my almost 4-year-old boy who seems to be getting hit by a massive wave of testosterone. My sweet little mama’s boy is now fluctuating between screaming at me, hitting, outright defiance, and extreme clinginess. Patience has been a true necessity that I have sometimes been short on lately. There are plenty of other stressors I could list, but they are either in the past, in the future, or in the not so central present, so i will not get into them, because thinking about them is making me chew my fingernails. The point is, I need quiet time, to give myself what I really need.

I am learning more about what I really need, because filling these needs feels really essential right now. I think I am listening to my deeper needs more than I ever have in my life. Simple things, like: get to sleep at a reasonable hour; cut back on the caffeine, alcohol, and sugar; eat healthy foods and take vitamins; communicate assertively instead of holding things in; don’t spend my precious energy sweating the small stuff; be grateful; and relieve stress with physical activity (including sex!!!).

I already knew all this stuff. These were the “shoulds” that were always in the back of my mind. But somehow, they are becoming the “wants” and the “musts” at the forefront of my mind. Challenging times bring us back to our foundation. I am digging deep and making mine strong.