I was thinking about this today because I had the opportunity to buy something on e-Bay and I wouldn’t. The reason is silly, I think. Back in 2010 (12 years ago?) I had an issue with a sale and I ended up losing several hundred dollars. At the time, I could not figure out a way to talk with customer service (critical). My customer was awful, heaping insults on me and outright lying about the product. He was a swindler, he stopped his credit card charge, kept the merchandise and I was helpless to stop him, or even get someone to listen. It was such a bad experience, I ended up sorely frustrated and traumatized.
It reminded me of something that occurred earlier in my life. I am someone who has been in therapy, all of my life. I attend intermittently and I can go for years, or for the six weeks that EAP allows, whatever is needed, I will get it done. I was therefore surprised when I was intimidated by a man that I supervised. At the time, it wasn’t my first Rodeo, I had supervised dozens of men in jobs throughout my career. This man would approach me aggressively, he was tall (over 6 feet) and his hair was white. I could not figure it out and then one day a piece of familiarity struck me. As I was standing there, I recognized my father, inside of me. This man reminded me of my father: 6’2″, blonde hair, aggressive approach. It changed how I interacted with this guy, through no fault of his own. It was my reflection of my father and not my staff member that I was having interactions with.
Not Just Baggage, but Beliefs too!
I notice that I not only bring old experiences with me, but I also bring old beliefs to my relationships. It was another supervisee, beautiful, blonde, the face of an angel, who was a pathological liar. I supervised this woman for a year before I realized what a great liar she was. What a crazy realization that was. Since when are beautiful people less capable of committing sins? What a rube I was! Of course the angel-faced can be liars. Of course the ugly can be beautiful inside and out!
I have to remind myself that the past haunts me in many ways; Just as much in the short term as in the long term. My last interchange was angry and difficult, I bring that difficulty with me into the next conversation. It’s human and inevitable.
How do I avoid this behavior? Better yet, how do I manage this process? Because the truth is, I don’t see myself avoiding behavior that is so natural. Manage it yes: I think my husband has done the best with this skill. Back when we were working, he practiced a sort of Zen interruption into our day, by taking deep breathes at the end of the work day. We would then sit and listen to each other’s rendition of the day. That interruption reset our thinking, we are with each other, not with those who made up our daily experience.
By having an interruption, we get a chance to reset our psyches. This Zen interruption gave us the moment we needed to notice that we are not at work anymore, that we were indeed at home with each other. We didn’t deserve any flak leftover from the work day.
How to handle the childhood baggage that we bring with us into adulthood, unbeknownst to our brain? We need that interruption in our thinking and our stomach will tell us when we need the interruption. In fact, we always have everything we need to bring maximum awareness to our actions and behaviors. We always have everything we need to bring wisdom to everything that we do.