“To truly laugh, you must be able to take your pain, and play with it!”
– Charlie Chaplin
Yesterday I finished reading Brené Brown’s awesome book “Rising Strong”.
If you’re not familiar with her work I’ve provided some links to her TED-talks at the bottom of the post.
The experience opened up a whole can of worms.
Around the age of 24-25 I was sorting through a lot of stuff in my life. Let’s just say that I felt kind of raw and exposed.
I got it into my mind that I’d somehow been wronged by a friend and lashed out. I wanted to hurt that person so bad. And I did. It wasn’t pretty.
To my amazement, when I was asked what the hell was wrong with me I didn’t spit out: “Me? You’re the one being an asshole. Fuck you, you deserve this!”
This had been my go-to for about a decade or more.
I was ready to go into full-on “burn all the babies!”-mode.
What got me thinking about this was a section in Brené’s book where she talks about a woman named Pamela.
Now Pamela had gone up to Brené’s at lunch after one of her talks. She was scouting for speakers and approached Brené about possibly working with her company.
During their chat Pamela badmouthed her bosses and said that she’d make a better speaker than most of those on the circuit.
Some time later Pamela sent Brené an email which included some critique.
This pushed Brené’s shame trigger. She wrote a response mentioning her behavior at the event and CC’d Pamela’s boss.
Luckily she never sent off the email.
However, when I read the response in the book I found myself grinning from ear to ear.
It. Was. Perfect!
I laughed and that warm feeling of schaudenfreude came washing over me. Just knowing that this had even existed was enough to send me over the moon.
Until I got to the part where Brené’s therapist asked her:
“So, tell me… when you picture Pamela reading this email, what is she feeling? How do you want her to feel when she reads this, knowing that her boss has a copy of it?”
This was when my mind went back to the incident so many years ago.
I was all ready to lay into how shitty their behavior had been.
Instead, what came out was: “I want to make you feel just as bad as I feel!”
Um, who ordered the truth salad?
I remember sitting on that bench in uncomfortable silence.
As if unintentionally being honest about my feelings wasn’t bad enough, now I had to reexamine how I’d been coping with pain for the last 10 years or more?
This was basically the same thing Brené was wrestling with in the book. Realizing that the only reason you’re doing this is because you want the other person to understand the pain you’re going through.
Couldn’t I have just made a joke about it and moved on? It would’ve been so much easier than this.
See, those were the two major ways I’d learned how to deal with this stuff. Use humor to deflate the situation or just ‘splode.
I’m so glad I did neither.
It started a long and at times painful process for me to get really honest about the kind of person I wanted to be.
Lashing out and being hurtful? It wasn’t going to be my story.
Also, I think it saved a friendship I cherish to this day. Not a lot of people can take a look at that side of you and feel genuine empathy. It took a lot to sit there with me and marinade that totes uncomfortable situation.
Since I was already dealing with feelings of insecurity and not being “good enough” the last thing I needed was to confront someone else’s pain.
For me this is a non-issue with people in general, somehow I can manage to stay objective and be helpful.
But when it comes to friends and family? That’s been something completely different. Fortunately the work we’ve all put in so far has really changed how we communicate and understand each other.
I don’t remember how exactly but after a while we were back to laughing and cracking jokes about it. About how unnecessarily dramatic the whole thing was and that it’d make for a sweet scene in a rom-com or something.
Kidding around in the moment only used to serve to divert attention from the pain. But once I was out of it there was tremendous power and healing there. I got to play around and mold it into something creative.
This makes me wonder.
What books have you read, could be movies or TV too, where you completely related to the other person? What did you take away from it?
Let me know in the comments and hit me up on Twitter.
Have a kick-ass ₢eative day!