I’ve been doing a lot of self-coaching recently around a situation with a former friend. She wrote me a letter accusing me of some things I hadn’t done, and I wrote back and explained that I hadn’t done them – but the situation did not feel resolved. I was still having a lot of mind-drama, anger, wanting to go over and over all the ways she’d betrayed me, wanting to make her a massive villain…and none of it was bringing me any relief. Then I realised: my keenness to blame her and defend myself had two strands to it: 1) the more I defended myself and claimed I had done *nothing* wrong, the more in the wrong I put her – therefore, I was able to defend myself against my own sadness in response to her letter – because if she’s a huge villain then her attack can’t possibly mean anything bad about me, right? But also, 2) I see now that I was *also* defending my mind against the realisation of this truth: I had handled the overall situation that preceded and followed her letter in a way that was the best I could do at the time, but that was not a way I would choose to handle a similarly difficult situation again. If I could turn back the clock, I would choose to handle the situation very differently.
I was determined to defend my brain/feelings by pushing away the truth: that I would do it differently in future. The reason I couldn’t allow myself to realise this is that I knew that I would then beat myself up for ‘handling it badly’. But this unwillingness to beat myself up was preventing me from realising that a) I never need to beat myself up, even if I want to learn lessons from how I approached things in the past, and b) I can accept the past, forgive myself, and resolve to respond differently to similar situations in future.
So, then I made a list of all the things I actually did that I would not choose to do again:
– I smiled and pretended to be fine and happy and untroubled when I was angry and objected to things. I did this in order to people-please and because I was scared of the discomfort I would have felt if I’d responded more genuinely.
– Although I didn’t do any of the things my friend accused me of, I *did* sit across a table from her and pretend to have only friendly feelings while secretly feeling angry with her and disapproving of her.
– I didn’t act like a true friend when I tried to manage her/keep her at bay instead of being truly honest with her about my feelings.
– I responded to a letter that was vicious and unkind out of fear, and in doing so, I sought only to neutralise the attack-threat. I forgot all about taking time to choose how to respond based on wisdom. My primitive fear-brain took over, and I let it. If I hadn’t been scared, I’d have said, ‘I’m happy to talk to you, as a friend, and answer any questions you might have, but I don’t respond to letters like this that are the kind of thing one writes to an enemy, based on an assumption of guilty, because I’m not your enemy and I did not do any of these things.’
– I continue to have moments of intense anger towards her and to occasionally want her to get some kind of come-uppance, because I’m human.
– I continue to have moments where I’m focusing more on my manuals for her, and getting into her models, than on my own models about the situation.
I can now acknowledge all the above things without beating myself up! Of course I got it a bit wrong and will continue to sometimes – who cares? I was scared. Then I was defensive and sad. It happens. So now my Models are:
C – the letter from my friend and how I handled it.
T – We both did some things wrong, and that’s okay.
F – Accepting
A – do more self-coaching to get even more clarity; make a concrete plan for what I’m going to learn from this and how I’m going to apply it in future; make sure that I benefit from this experience, and that people who have relationships with me benefit too.
R – In future, I will be increasingly proud, in retrospect, of the way I handle difficult situations.
C – the letter from my friend and overall situation.
T – although she was inaccurate about the particular accusations she made, she was kind of right to say I hadn’t been a good friend – because I *had* been thinking unfriendly and condemnatory thoughts about her long before this episode.
F – peaceful.
A – do thought work to accept myself for the fear and people-pleasing that caused me to drift out of integrity in my behaviour towards her, and then to change my scared, people-pleasing tendencies.
R – I realise it’s good for both of us that we’re no longer friends: our values don’t match at all.
Am I missing something here, though? Sometimes I still drift back into this Model:
C – my friend’s letter
T – How dare she accuse me of things I didn’t do, with no evidence?
F – anger
A – spend a lot of time disliking her, bitching about her and wishing for Karmic come-uppance to visit her.
R – I waste time and energy gathering evidence to support my victim status and her villainy.
My inclination is not to judge myself, though, when this Model reoccurs – and instead, to just think ‘Ooh, here’s that 100% primitive brain model again’ and focus my attention on the other models (higher up ones) that feel so much more peaceful, accepting and enlightened.