Cleaning our Emotional House

With the changing of the calendar and another New Year’s demarcation behind us, many of us step forward armed with resolutions, goals, and promises to make this year better than the one before. A natural nexus to all of this is tackling various clean up projects—clearing out detritus we no longer need, organizing what we do, working hard to keep our little corner of the world swept up, nice and neat.


How good are you at cleaning up your messes?


Groan. I know. I feel the exact same way. While certain projects such as getting in shape or organizing our office are largely within our control, tangible, and clear cut, others are less so. What makes clean up far more fraught is when the messes are not of our own making. It’s a lot trickier to clear up misunderstandings or assuage hurt feelings when the offending action is something personalized by the other party. Do we apologize for something we didn’t do? What if they expect more than a, “I’m sorry your feelings are hurt” sort of statement, making it into a whole thing where a litany of additional personalized hurts gets tacked on. Who wants to hear all the ways they have fallen short of the mark?


Yuck, yuck, yuck.


It is precisely such circumstances that test the mettle of a dedicated Re-booter. It is our cultivated ability to rise above our defensive reactions and to draw upon a wellspring of compassion for this beloved other in order to find a way through such messes. This isn’t easy and we may not do it perfectly but that’s ok, because at least we’re trying. When I found myself in one such unfortunate scenario, I reminded myself of a few things: 1) this is what it feels like for the other person when you personalize things, Chrisanna; how do you like them apples? 2) this person is obviously feeling fragile, so try to see beyond their immediate accusations and communicate with their more mature and grounded self; 3) how would your Ideal Self—the person you want to be—handle this interaction in order to increase the likelihood that both parties can move forward in a constructive manner? and 4) give them time to settle down while also demonstrating that you care about them. These are the guideposts I aspire to use, especially when I’m feeling defensive or fed up or insulted.


How do you tackle such interactions? What strategies have you tried? How have they worked for you?


Re-booters recognize that kerfuffles such as these do crop up from time to time—in the spectrum of any close relationship, they’re bound to occur—so, we take it in stride. Having made the decision about how we want to handle ourselves when confronted by such unpleasantness gives us the confidence to react in a more measured manner, with compassion for the unhappy other. The good news is that tangles such as these don’t come up too often. It gives cleaning house an entirely new meaning.


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