I sat there in her office listening to her as she tried to soften the tone of our conversation. On most occasions she chose to speak in an abrupt and condescending tone. This time it was apparent that she was strategically calculating the use of each word that left her lips. I listened to her, only out of respect for her position. After all, she was my superior and I did not want to compromise the status of my employment at the firm.
The start of our conversation began with my unexpected presence at her office. Prior to our meeting I had made several reports of my concern regarding the behavior of a specific client. The client had progressively become resistant to our plan of treatment and I was worried that his behaviors would escalate beyond our scope of care. As I had predicted, it did, and boy was it ugly. At this point, I was beyond certain that the client was a danger to those around him. As his service provider, I was presenting a recommendation for his institutionalization. As was protocol, I knew that it was of utmost important to obtain an updated assessment to determine a plan for further care. This, of course, was not appealing to my supervisor. An action like this one would lower the number of clients that the organization was providing service to. Simply stated, my recommendation translated to a loss of revenue for the company. This was not something that my she wanted to hear.
She leaned back in her chair and initiated the use of a soft tone once again. “John,” she said, “I know that you must feel responsible for your client’s actions. It must feel horrible knowing that you contributed this situation. You must feel so guilty.” At first, I did not respond to her statement. All I did was pay close attention to my blood pressure, as I felt it rising, and to my pulse as it grew stronger second by second. I could feel my blood rushing through my jugular and thumping its way across my temples. Unaware of what I was experiencing, she proceeded to say, “John I bet you feel scared of what might happen. I bet this is making you nervous…” At that point, every ounce of positional respect, that I had for her, shot out of my body causing me to erupt like a volcano. My fingernails dug deep into the arms of the chair that I was sitting in and I braced myself for the words that I was about to hear come out of my mouth. “That’s enough!”, I said, “You no longer have permission to tell me how I feel.” I spoke with such authority that I even surprised myself. “You have no idea what is going through my mind,” I told her. “Do you want to know how I feel? I’m disappointed! I am angry! I feel let down by you and others that I reached out to. Your lack of attention led to this conversation!” “Well John,” She said, as she cleared her throat. “I’m not finished,” I retorted, “I feel far from responsible. We both know that I’ve been reporting the possibility of an escalation for weeks. What I feel, at this moment, is empowered. I feel empowered to recommend a course of action that will keep the client and the community safe…. What I need to know is when are you going to make the phone call to make it happen?”
That experience taught me an important life lesson.
I absolutely hate when people try to tell my how to feel.
Yes, I know it might sound petty, but it literally “irks” me. My life has been filled with people who have “lovingly” tried to tell me “how to feel”, “when to feel”, and “what not to feel.” There have been times when I’ve received feedback, about my feelings, and my heart and intuition immediately tell me that it’s coming from a good place. Other times, it’s been quite apparent that the person delivering their opinion is trying to control me. In either case, I have learned that I am 100% free to choose to do whatever I desire. And while the knowledge of that is absolutely freeing, it is also beyond terrifying.
…. So…..here is what I’d like to do….
…. Over the next few weeks I’m going to take some time to address the topic of “feelings”. I’m going to share topics that stimulate an abundance of strong feelings when I think of them (for example: my rocky relationship with my father and the void that comes from not having a child of my own). It is my hope and prayer, that as you look inside my journey of life, you will gain insight on how to deal with the feelings that arise as you journey through yours.
Meanwhile, let me share the following 3 nuggets of wisdom (from the stash of John-Eli) to get you started.
You are not obligated to entertain anyone’s opinion regarding how you ought to feel.
Everyone is entitled to an opinion and everyone takes advantage of their entitlement. Just because someone doesn’t share their opinion with you, doesn’t mean that they don’t have one. However, when confronted with someone’s opinion, what you do with it is 100% up to you. Sometimes people have great insight. Sometimes it seems like the person sharing advice was cross-bred with an amphioxus (In case you are wondering, an amphioxus is a brainless fish). In either situation, you are in control of the ship you are sailing. However, as a disclaimer, I encourage you to sail it well.
Sometimes the only way to get through a feeling is to allow yourself to feel
A few years back I was at a funeral of a young girl whose life ended tragically. To add to the tragedy, she left behind four daughters. As I, and others, sat there crying, we were approached by a relative who immediately said, “You need to stop crying. You have to be strong for her children.” My response was something like this….. “No, what the children need is to know is that it’s ok to cry. They also need to have role models that can demonstrate what healthy grief looks like. There is a time to be strong, but right now is not the time.” Quite often, the greatest insight that we gain, comes through working through our feelings. It’s more than ok to shed tears. Think of this….. When rain-water hits the ground, it gives seeds life. The same principle applies to your life. Sometimes the answer to your personal drought is a little emotional rainstorm. Give yourself permission to cry.
God is big enough to handle your feelings
A few years back, my friend Amy (who has contributed to this blog), was helping me mentor some girls from our youth group. I remember a time when one of the girls expressed her frustration, and anger, with God regarding a personal situation. Anyhow, at that moment, Amy shared one of the most brilliant statements that I’ve ever heard. She said, “It’s ok, that you feel that way. God can handle it.” …. I know that she intended for that statement to minister to the young girl’s heart. However, it was planted as a seed in mine. I’ve come to recognize if King David could question God and ask him why he had forsaken him. Then we can too. God still considered David to be a man after God’s own heart. This lets me know that God isn’t intimidated or bothered by our emotional messes. He’s pretty much committed to us until the end of time. #score
John Eli Garay
John Eli has spent over 15 years mentoring and coaching individuals in life skills, career transitions, and through organizational change. His resume includes pastoral care, behavioral health, and higher-education advising. From an early age, John recognized that God created him to bring hope, healing and encouragement to others. He is currently walking out his purpose by helping others confront, and work through, self-inflicted trauma. His ministry includes blogging, speaking, and personal development coaching. He currently lives in Chandler, Arizona with his wife, mini-schnauzer and an antique piano whom he calls, “Betty.”