Recently I had a huge light-bulb moment, one of those bigguns that knocks the wind out of the sails and led me to question how easy it is to forget that there are 2 sides to every story.
It came at me twice, from 2 different encounters, so it obviously needs witnessing and it showed me that there really are 2 sides to every story, even the ones we write in our own heads.
An acquaintance contacted me and asked if I could support them with a project they were hatching, they had all the ground work laid and wanted some help with logistics. We sat down and discussed the ‘issues’ and, together, we found the best way for them to reach the desired outcome.
Afterwards, while chatting and finishing up, they turned to me and said, ‘I was worried about asking for help, so thank you for being so kind’, going on to share that they felt ‘like an idiot’ for not knowing what to do and didn’t want to ‘waste my time’.
I’ll admit I was taken aback by their comment as I always do what I can to help others and was concerned that they felt they couldn’t ask. Upon further gentle exploration, it emerged that they had written a whole story around why I wouldn’t help them and how was probably much too busy to ‘waste my time’ (their words) on them.
This encounter left me pondering the impact of our internal narrative, I hold my hands up, I am just as likely to write a complete work of anxiety ridden fiction around a task that worries me as they did, but, never before had I consciously experienced the impact of that from the other side.
In psychology and counseling we call it ‘monstering’ – creating a huge scary beast out of something, so much so that it is the monster we create that incites fear and not the experience or situation itself.
Asking for help can trigger memories of ridicule and inadequacy, creating feeling of inadequacy, but it doesn’t have to be that way. When I sat and considered my side in the exchange I acknowledged that I was very happy to help, feeling respected, valued and honoured, to be asked.
Then I reflected on situations where I had done just the same thing. Faced with an issue I could not resolve alone and anxious about ‘getting it wrong’, I had constructed fictional narratives around the task, making it weightier and far more scary than it was ever likely to be!
I realised that, within my narrative, I had written dialogue for the other people involved, deciding that they would avoid me, and, if I did finally manage to make contact, they would refuse to help me or make up reasons that they couldn’t or, worse still, sneer and say ‘oh, don’t you know?’.
Getting tangled up in this constructed dialogue, It’s too easy to believe our own anxious hype when, in reality, the people we approach are more likely to be helpful, kind and supportive, happy to share their knowledge and expertise and help us along the way.
Then it struck me, I had done some people a huge disservice by failing to acknowledge that there are 2 sides to every story, allowing my anxiety to put words in their mouths. Words they would just NEVER say, not to me, or to anyone. They are decent people and, in my anxiety, I had chosen to ignore that.
I realised that, every time I have engaged in that destructive and unsupportive internal dialogue, I have created words, emotions, actions and intentions for other people that are simply not who they are or how they would act.
I felt sad about that, having experienced it from both sides, so I have decided to consciously start a different conversation with myself, one that acknowledges my fear and accepts my vulnerability while seeking help and support from others without creating any ‘monsters’.
Maybe there are situations where this might help you too, do let me know, it’s great to hear your thoughts.
Claire Cutler-Casey is a professional Kinesiology Practitioner and Touch For Health instructor as well as delivering a variety of business and well-being workshops designed to help you navigate the process of change.
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