Pick it up and let it go, Part 2

  • Cynthia Johnson

This is a continuation of last week's two part blog. In light of recent tragic international events developing sensitivity to others couldn't be more important. 

We know that you can develop your sensitivity to others, though you do firstly have to think that it's a worthwhile investment of your time and then you have to try.  So what about the second part of the scale, being overly sensitive to your own emotions and how others respond to you?  If you are sensitive to criticism, often feel overwhelmed or weighed down by your negative emotions, and/or find it hard to share others good feelings of news when you are feeling miserable, then read on!

If this is you, at the risk of repeating the basic message of the Challenge of Change you really need to practice Waking Up, getting Control of your Attention, Detaching and Letting Go.  You are probably continuing to repeat and relive the feedback you received, and feeling angry about it, or hurt and defensive.  In other words, you're ruminating about it, and the longer you hang on to the thoughts and your feelings, the more miserable you will be.  

Hearing criticism is always hard, and most of us would feel taken down for a while, but the key is to detach the emotion from what you have been told.  Try telling someone about how you are feeling about the criticism or try writing it down. Both are known to work equally well in resolving emotions and getting perspective. Practice the relaxation exercises given to you in the MP3 downloads.  They will help you calm your mind.  You could ask for suggestions from the critic and others for how you can do better, and if you can't do it face to face, ask them in an email. Choose just two of the ideas for change and start with them.  And if the criticism truly wasn't justified, then all the more reason to let it go!
If you feel weighed down by everything that is going on you're feeding your misery by giving attention to your negative thinking and emotions and dwelling on them.  By Waking Up you can catch your thinking when you are like this, and when you do, Control your Attention.  Think about just what is in front of you and attend to that.  Each time your mind drifts to your burdens, bring it back to the here and now. We aren't advocating ignoring them, but being pre-occupied and miserable about them isn't resolving anything. When you can look at your problems dispassionately, then you can plan.

This is what being in the loft is about – the ability to look at your thoughts and emotions with distance, to ask yourself questions ('is what I'm saying to myself true?') and to consider them with perspective. When you are too negative or too caught up, you are on the ground floor of the house and you aren't planning – you are reacting!

If you get upset when people don't pick up on how you are, such as feeling left out but no-one notices or feeling overwhelmed by workload and no-one sees that or offers to help out, or even if you get upset by people not asking you about your weekend, or holiday, there are a few things to consider.  Have you ever been told that you are hard to read?  Maybe people can't tell that you're needing support? Or perhaps you describe yourself as private – someone who doesn't like to share much. If this is you, then people will respect that and stop asking you after a while.  Or maybe you are afraid of boring people, or of being seen as someone who talks too much about themselves.

Whatever the reason, if you're bothered by people not picking up on your feelings you have help them out.  Take some responsibility for this – you have to tell people how you're feeling to get the support you need. If you are tired, tell others; if you are confused, say so; if you are bothered that people haven't asked about your children or your holiday – just tell them!  Start the conversation.  In one case we saw, a woman had been feeling left out and ignored for many months and then one day she went to her manager and quit.  Her manager was shocked and upset because they had no idea she had been feeling so miserable and she was a great creative team member that they didn't want to lose. They either hadn't read the signals or the woman hadn't signalled it.  In fact, her manager felt she had been unfair to have sat there all that time and said nothing.  An interesting perspective, isn't it?

If you find it hard to share in others' joy when you are feeling miserable, did you know that doing so can lift your mood? In the well-known Framingham Heart Study that measured happiness in 5000 people over 20 years, happiness was found to be contagious, spreading to the people they spent time with, and the effect can last for a year.  Spending time with people who are joyful and happy will be good for you, and the same study found that sadness did not spread.)  

I once took part in some research from Martin Seligman's happiness project where the task was to celebrate another's happiness and success.  Each time someone told me about a success I had to: 

  1. Congratulate them: 
  2. Encourage them to tell others; and 
  3. Celebrate their success with them. 

This is one of the exercises they recommended in their happiness research – you may want to try it and see what results you get.  

Regards, Cynthia

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