I stood in my power today, possibly for one of the first times ever.
As a pleaser who was raised to “just make nice” which is code for “don’t speak up for yourself when someone disrespects you”, this is a big deal.
I had spent years swallowing my anger and tolerating inappropriate and disrespectful behavior, in part due to my desire to avoid conflict and protect other people’s feelings. In all honesty, I also did not know how to kindly and clearly stand up for myself without over-reacting and saying things that I would later regret.
Over the years, I noticed that I would stand up for my children in ways that I would never be comfortable standing up for myself. The same appears to be true for my business.
After parting ways with a bookkeeper that wasn’t doing the work they were being paid to do, it became apparent that I had been charged for a variety of services that I never requested or used, like taxes that were filed prior to engaging this bookkeeper. The charges were not insubstantial so I kindly and clearly presented the overcharges and asked for a refund.
Instead of taking accountability for his actions, the bookkeeper responded with a slew of personal insults and attacks that were so below the belt that they felt like a physical assault.
In the past, this kind of vicious attack probably would have shut me down. My desire to avoid conflict often outweighed my need to stand in integrity and speak my truth. But the fact that numbers don’t lie and the accusations were so clearly unfounded and untrue allowed me to recognize and shift a pattern that had prevented me from speaking my truth and standing in my integrity.
Every journey begins with the first step and I am sharing this information today in the hopes of helping others take the first step. Being able to recognize patterns of manipulation that keep you stuck is the first step to unraveling and interrupting those patterns in your own life
Once you are able to identify situations where you are giving your power away, you can begin to change your circumstances and reclaim your power!
I was trained early in my career to always keep a paper trail of any business related conflicts. So I prepared a very thoughtful and detailed spreadsheet and email and requested what I thought was a very reasonable reimbursement request.
And heard nothing in response.
When two weeks passed without any response, I requested a refund for the amount in question through the credit card company I had used to pay him.
That triggered an immediate response – in the form of vicious insults. Instead of acknowledging the issue or taking any responsibility for his actions, he instead attacked my character.
Insults can feel like a physical assault. They trigger the same “fight or flight” danger response as an actual physical attack and prime your body to fight back. This might explain why we are so easily provoked and ready to rumble in response to any physical or psychological threat.
When you are operating from the “fight or flight” survival mode, your Sympathetic branch of your nervous system prepares you for action. Your muscles tense and your vision narrows, allowing you to narrow your focus and pay close attention to the external, physical world.
Selective attention, a process where you identify and survive threats before dedicating your attention to anything else, helps you focus on what’s important while ignoring irrelevant, outside information. Just as the sympathetic nervous system turns off all functions not critical to survival, including your ability to digest food, it also turns off your capacity to access critical thinking and problem solving skills, by shutting down your ability to focus on anything outside of the pressing danger.
You are constantly bombarded with sensory information. If you focus your attention on everything going on around you, you will go into sensory overload and be unable to maintain your focus on safety. Unfortunately, when the sympathetic state locks you into a state of constantly scan for threats, it shuts down your ability to thoughtfully contemplate different perspectives that might feel threatening to your safety.
This hyper-vigilance can save your life when you are under threat, but also restricts your emotional regulation or receptivity to new or different viewpoints and ideas, making you more likely to engage in and amplify conflict.
When you respond from a place of survival and fear, you often blow your top and end up regretting your behavior later on.
It is critical to shift out of the Sympathetic, survival mode, branch of your nervous system as it is not conducive to making wise, thoughtful choices. The easiest way to do this is to literally force yourself to pause and activate your Parasympathetic nervous system. My favorite way to stimulate the Parasympathetic nervous system is to apply Parasympathetic blend behind the earlobe on the mastoid bone.
Once you are able to calm your nervous system, you may notice that you immediately feel less triggered and far less reactive. It is far easier to practice restraint in the Parasympathetic state.
In her excellent book The Art of Extreme Self Care, Cheryl Richardson advices that restraint is a wise choice when:
If you experience any of these emotional reactions listed above, consider pausing and activating your parasympathetic nervous system. Again, the fastest and easiest way to stimulate the Parasympathetic nervous system is to apply Parasympathetic blend behind the earlobe on the mastoid bone.
Taking a parasympathetic pause gives you some space to pull back and view the situation through the lense of the objective observer.
Objectivity is defined as the ability to observe a situation in an unbiased manner and make decisions based on those facts, without attaching meaning, making assumptions or defaulting to reactive emotional response.
The more you can emotionally unplug and objectively observe a situation, the easier it is to clearly assess a situation and consider the different options before reacting or responding.
When you are emotionally triggered, your reaction is often exaggerated. Objectivity allows you to unplug from the emotional response so you might recognize and identify these triggers
I recently shared my 3 Step Ground – Center – Shift strategy that helps me calm and stabilize intense emotions so that I might better access my objective perspective. The following essential oils help support this process:
For Grounding: Grounding allows you to feel safe so you can objectively observe a situation. Attention™ contains oils from plants with very deep roots in the Earth, like Vetiver, Frankincense™ and Cedarwood which helps you ground and feel more objective Apply 2- 3 drops of Attention™ on the bottom of the feet and back of the neck to help with grounding.
For Centering your energy in your heart to allow you to be more objective, compassionate and receptive to the best possible solution, Heart™ blend helps you process things through your heart (as opposed to your head) so you are better able to stay objective. To use, simply apply 2-3 drops of Heart™ blend over the heart (left side of chest) 2-3 times daily or as needed.
To Shift, you need to dedicate your focus and energy on issue that might feel painful or uncomfortable. Supporting healthy brain biochemistry can help make these intense emotions less intense and more manageable.
Once I am able to calm my emotions, I try outline the following:
What are the facts? I intentionally list out the factual information that I am aware of, removing any and all emotion.
What additional information do I need? Often I will realize that more information is needed before acting. I will then brainstorm what friends or colleagues might help fill in the gaps for any outstanding information.
What might the other party be thinking? As angry as you might be at another individual, it is always helpful to try to put yourself in their shoes and understand what they might be thinking or feeling
It is helpful to recognize patterns of emotional manipulation, exploitation and traumatization. For example, my bookkeeper implied that others were making negative comments about me. Once I realized that we knew only one person in common who is not one to badmouth anyone, I recognized this as a “gas lighting” technique. The term “gas lighting” is derived from the 1944 film Gaslight, in which a husband tries to convince his wife that she’s insane by causing her to question herself and her reality.
Psychology Today defines gaslight as “a form of persistent manipulation and brainwashing that causes the victim to doubt her or himself, and ultimately lose her or his own sense of perception, identity and self-worth.”
In his book, How to Successfully Handle Gaslighters & Stop Psychological Bullying, Preston C. Ni identifies the following gaslighting strategies:
Lie and Exaggerate. The gaslighter creates a negative narrative about the gaslightee (“There’s something wrong and inadequate about you”), based on generalized false presumptions and accusations, rather than objective, independently verifiable facts, thereby putting the gaslightee on the defensive.
Escalate When Challenged. When called on their lies, the gaslighter escalates the dispute by doubling and tripling down on their attacks, refuting substantive evidence with denial, blame, and more false claims (misdirection), which contribute to self-doubt and confusion.
Wear Out the Victim. By staying on the offensive, the gaslighter eventually wears down their victim, who becomes discouraged, resigned, pessimistic, fearful, debilitated, and self-doubting. The victim begins to question her or his own perception, identity, and reality.
Dominate and Control. Gaslighter often use their manipulative skills to control, dominate, or take advantage of others for personal, sexual or financial gain. To do so, they often maintain and intensify an incessant stream of lies and coercions, to keep their victim in a constant state of insecurity, doubt, and fear.
Gaslighters often use manipulative emotions like blame, shame or guilt to manipulate others.
At its root, blame is a form of avoidance that can be internalized or externalized and typically comes in 3 different flavors:
Blame transfers responsibility to someone else or forces you to carry the blame of others, keeping you stay stuck in the victim space. Liver Support™ allows you to release anger, blame and shame that are often stored on very deep cellular level. Just place the bottle under your nose and breathe deeply, fully inhaling the oil for 3 – 7 breaths, then slowly exhaling while intentionally releasing the anger. It helps you breathe into and work through the emotion. You will know that the essential oil for blame is working when you stop smelling it. You can also topically apply 2- 3 drops of Liver Support™ over your liver (right side of the body under the breast) to help work through and release your anger and boost resilience.
Guilt turns blame inward, a concept known as self-blame, where you attribute any negative outcome to a personal short-coming. Or deficiency. Guilt also has to do with control. You may like to believe that things should go your way and when they do not, you feel guilty about it.
Heart™ helps amplify feelings of self-love and gratitude, helping to balance and heal feelings of guilt. Every moment of our life you have the opportunity to see the glass as half empty or half full. How you envision each moment helps paint a picture of our actual experience, so why not choose to be happy, to think of and move toward things that bring you joy. Essential oils for blame are a wonderful tool for cementing in that positive frequency. Apply 2-3 drops of Heart™ directly over the heart (left side of chest) or on the back of the neck to calm guilt and uplift the heart and the body.
Shame results you receive negative messages from others, leading you to believe that you are bad, defective, or unworthy and somehow helpless to change that deficit.
Poor boundaries are correlated with shame, especially when you believe you lack the power, skill, knowledge, or capability to manage the expectations of others and continually seek validation through serving their needs and wants. Not surprisingly, your body holds shame in your digestive system, primarily the small intestine which is also associated with boundaries. Small Intestine Support™ may help you support positive boundaries and confidence to assist in bringing a sense of peace to our lives. Apply 2-3 drops of Small Intestine Support™ in a clockwise direction around the belly button or massaged into your ears for emotion related issues. You can start on the bottom of the ear at the earlobes and gentle massage upward along the exterior of the ear, hitting many of the major reflexology points. This article and chart show specific points on the ears for specific issues.
In order to really step into your power, you need to take responsibility for your actions and choices, without assuming responsibility for other people’s choices or feelings.
The word “Responsibility” breaks down to “response” and “ability” or “the ability to choose your response” to external circumstances. When you are able to accept responsibility for your circumstances, you are better able to change your circumstances.
I believe this is because when you are able to release thought patterns that make you feel disempowered like blame and judgement, you allow yourself the mental and emotional space to change your circumstances.
This also means taking accountability and responsibility for your own health and releasing your “victim stories”, stories in which you feel powerless or taken advantage of by others. Victim stories can include feeling betrayed by your own bodies and powerless to change your circumstances.
Then from a place of clarity, kindness and integrity, you are ready to state your desired outcome in the cleanest and clearest way possible.
I often draft a response, then walk away for a few hours or even better, sleep on it. Time may not heal all wounds, but it does seem to take the sting out of my anger. When I later revisit my draft, I always find a way to tone things done.
On that note, it never benefits you to attack the other party. People get defensive when you attack them and that tends to escalate the conflict.
I have also learned to embrace the adage “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make them drink.” Try to let go of your need to be right, get another person to see your perspective or change another person’s opinion. Just state your feelings and what you need to have happen in order to feel respected and safe.
If you do need to share unpleasant feedback, it seems to work best when you focus on the facts and remove any opinions or assumptions. When in doubt, you can default to the simple phrase “Please stop. That’s not okay with me.”
It also helps me to run things by a trusted friend who often can see things differently and share thoughtful strategies for resolution.
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