What I Learned the Week of May 27th, 2022

This week I must admit I struggled quite a bit with being in this world. I found I was not listening to as many podcasts or engaged on social media. Or what I was engaged in were things that just left me heartbroken. And my reading was mostly fiction.

When I went to reflect on the week, I considered for a moment searching for things that might be worthy of a blog. Creating from nothing if you will. And I finally decided it was not worth it. It was better to acknowledge that and move on.

I did have two stand-out learning moments for myself which I have included here. The next week’s blog is already out by the time I posted this so if you are missing out on the other three categories check it out.

From Reading – Female Heroism during WWII

The Nightingale is a historical fiction novel by American author Kristin Hannah. I have always loved historical fiction as I find it a great tool to bridge bringing history to life. IMO history that is written by anyone that was not actually there has an element of “fiction” to it because you are making sense of a few data points that are assumed to be true. The only real difference is that the authors of pure history do not take the time to create characters and storylines around that data points. The addition of the characters, storyline and all the emotions that are evoked from that make the “learning” more enjoyable.

This book tells the story of two sisters in France during World War II and their struggle to survive and resist the German occupation of France. Everything about what each sister experience feels 100% believable and probably did happen to various people – if not to just one person. The heroism that was spotlighted by females during WWII is inspiring. The heartbroken moments as a mother, as a young woman experiencing love for the first time, as a woman wanting to make a difference and being told you can’t because you are a woman – all so relatable. But then layer on top of that the horrific conditions that existed. Having read Man’s Search for Meaning, which was from a man who lived through WWII in a German concentration camp, I knew that none of the horrors that were being offered was there for the sake of creating a good story – it happened in some fashion.

And for those who appreciate a good mystery the author has done a great job of taking you back and forth through time as one of the sisters is still alive and you are desperately wanting to know which one makes it. Well done indeed!

From Others – Taking things personally

This is from a few observations and conversations this week and a mix of a few ideas. A topic that I’m always intrigued by is “people in conflict with each other”. 

In a few observations this week I noticed individuals reacting to others and being “offended” by their behaviour. In some cases, I was in a unique position to have insights from everyone involved and could certainly empathize with both parties. But it always seemed to come down to one party taking something the other party was doing personally. As if that person was intentionally trying to offend them versus their behaviour has the unfortunate consequence of offending. In most, if not all cases, I could easily put myself in both parties’ shoes and would say neither party had done anything wrong.

So, then what? I could say to the offended person that maybe you are taking this personally and they could easily say back to me “yes I am because it felt personal”. To them.

I suppose if neither party has any further interactions with each other and neither party leaves that interaction nor speaks ill of the other then maybe there is nothing to be done. One person is offended. Their day or at least that moment might be a bit sour. But one would assume they would get over it and move on. That might happen for many people, but my observations are rarely that they are unable to talk about it with at least one other person. And most likely they will have a future interaction which inevitably will have the one person not quite ready to forgive and forget.

The lesson for me is what value is there in taking anything personally? When I notice I am taking something personally then I need to challenge where I am putting that energy. It’s useless to take it to someone else unless I make it clear I just need a sounding board to help me unpack what I am feeling. It’s more effective if I can articulate my feelings to the person(s) involved and try to

From Me

I recently heard Dax Shepard talk about an exercise he went through, possibly as part of AA, where you list out 100 people that you resent in some way and why you resent them. Take this list and analyze it to look for themes (i.e., where are the resentments similar). And he suggested that what you will most likely find is that most of the resentments connect back to your 3 biggest fears.

I thought this would be an interesting self-reflection exercise. The first thing I noticed was that it was hard coming up with people that I resented. I barely came up with twenty people on the list. I suppose I could have tried harder and started including random people that I barely knew or had interactions with. Or the anonymous people you run into while driving, at stores shopping or simply doing your daily activities.

Regardless, with this meagre list, I began analyzing for trends. I could quickly find one trend which pointed to a fear of not being valued. Largely these were all instances where I was resenting where a person has not listened or gotten curious about me, did not honour a request (i.e., felt disrespectful) or just seemed to always bring the conversation back to them. I imagine this fear is a common fear for most people. And what I notice for me is most of the people that are on my list are largely not in my life anymore or I have developed strong boundaries in those relationships.

There was certainly another trend that particularly had an overlap with people who tended to always bring the conversation back to them. What I also noticed with that group is that somehow the thing they were also doing was emphasizing how much worse they had it. Either compared to me or others. I imagine they were largely looking for sympathy and attention. I need to emphasize that it’s the combination of these two things that trigger the resentment and most importantly the always bringing the conversation back to them. I have no resentment toward anyone who shares with me their hardships, whatever they may be. I feel the opposite here in that I can be of value and service to them. Which I think says something about the underlying fear of the case where it is the combination. In those cases, it feels like this person is trapped in negativity and constantly seeking attention. Almost as if they are getting some pleasure or gratification from both things and are not really wanting anything from me other than to “feel sorry” for them. And maybe they are not really looking for sympathy from me. Maybe they are looking for collusion – someone else to complain with. Regardless, in both cases, sympathy and negativity are both things I fear for myself. Sympathy makes me think of my childhood and being poor, the outcast, the chubby girl with no friends. I can remember feeling sympathy from different teachers and some of the other students and their sympathy just made me feel even more like an outcast. Their sympathy felt like pity.

The fear of negativity is more about being caught in a downward spiral of negativity. I am an eternal optimist. Driven to go from one joyful experience to another. And while I can certainly complain about the crappy things in my life or how depressing the world can feel sometimes, I always tend to make my way to gratitude about something in those moments. Whether on my own or with others. Possibly that is my way of not wanting to appear weak as well. Not wanting to be seen as that little girl who is poor and has no friends.

I have to say that even as I write that last line, I feel obliged to say I know I had friends. And that I know most kids at the primary ages have not yet found their “best” friend. And even though it may look like many do the way they pair off with each other, most are just pretending to belong because that is better than being alone. But I imagine most of us, if we could have articulated it, would have said we were alone. Particularly those with no siblings or siblings with large age differences.

In any case, this is a difficult exercise. If I net it out there were three fears, I came up with

  1. Fear of not being valued
  2. Fear of being caught in a downward spiral of negativity.
  3. Fear of being seen as weak.

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