June Converse

Thriving After Trauma - Author and Writing Coach

I don’t have many triggers* but the word ‘disappointment’ makes my heart pound with anxiety. My father told me several times I was a disappointment. He told me he could never be proud or brag about me because whenever he did, I turned around an embarrassed him. So, being a disappointment is a deep wound for me.

My biggest fear is disappointing someone. And this fear has impacted every aspect of my life. My boundaries are hard to maintain because of this. I hate conflict because of this. My tendency to ‘buy’ friends is based on this. Even my eating disorder is grounded in this fear.

It’s going to sound strange, but only recently did I “feel” the difference between –

Disappointed IN versus

Disappointed WITH

What’s The Difference Between “IN” and “WITH”?

  • I am disappointed IN you.
  • I am disappointed IN life.
  • I am disappointed IN our government [or whatever].

Do you see how “IN” is more focused on the internal or the essence? “IN” hits the heart and soul. “IN” is more a judgment of the whole.

  • I am disappointed WITH that decision.
  • I am disappointed WITH that behavior.
  • I am disappointed WITH the outcome.

Do you see how “WITH” is about the external? It’s an assessment of a specific thing or event.

When we are disappointed “with” something we have a chance to identify something specific and work on a strategy to overcome.

IN and WITH Demonstrated

Someone I’ve very close to recently made a decision that was so painful and so wrong, it took our breath away. My first thought was “I am so disappointed IN him.” But that’s judging the entirety of who he is. What I meant was “I am so disappointed with his decision to do this.”

It’s a subtle difference but it’s also huge. “In” attacks the person. “With” attacks the situation.

Had my father told me he was disappointed WITH how I behaved when I did xyz, I could have processed my mistakes. Instead, he told me I WAS A DISAPPOINTMENT.

Not my behavior. ME.

Disappointed IN  … Disappointed WITH … one word, one syllable, one wounding, one helpful.

Click HERE to download the Journaling Activity that goes with this blog.

* Trigger - to cause an intense and usually negative emotional reaction

A few weeks ago, I posted a blog about Grudge Holding. A great friend [let’s call her Amy], who is always so supportive, responded to me via email. With her permission, I wanted to share some sections.

“I think holding grudges is tied to my tendency to not forgive, and sometimes I wish I could forgive more easily. But to your question, I do not believe everyone deserves forgiveness. In deciding if forgiveness is warranted, I consider many factors:  does the person recognize the behavior is wrong?, was the conduct intentional?, was the behavior part of a pattern?, was a sincerely and timely apology offered?, and so forth.”

Where is the line between forgiveness and simply deciding someone is no longer healthy for me?

Amy went on to say: “It was this kind of thought process that led me to finally cut ties with my youngest sister. As painful and challenging as the decision was, she had wounded me too many times, and I saw no hope of her behavior changing. Each time she lied, stole or otherwise wronged me, she would apologize and then repeat. On balance, my life is better without her than with her.”

I think she has forgiven her sister. I think Amy sees that there is something fundamentally broken in her sister and wishes that wasn’t so. I think my friend did an AMAZINGLY BRAVE thing by cutting those ties. We are pressured to allow family members a place in our lives no matter their behavior and it took tremendous courage to stop allowing her sister to abuse her.

Cutting ties is not synonymous with unforgiveness. It hurts Amy to think of her sister and all that’s lost between them. That pain is proof forgiveness has occurred. She has forgiven but she will never trust. There’s a significant difference between unforgiveness and broken trust. I can forgive and never trust.

If we truly truly truly forgive, does that require a new trust? Are forgiveness and trust synonymous?

Maybe I’m totally wrong.

Maybe the pain Amy feels IS the PAIN OF UNFORGIVENESS. When I think of the one person I have no intention of forgiving, it is a physical pain. A clutching of the heart, a tightness. But mostly a wave of anger. That’s what I think unforgiveness feels like.

I have a couple of other friends who declare, “I have forgiven her, but I never want to see her again.” Is that what forgiveness looks like?

If we’ve been significantly wounded by another, is forgiveness possible? Reasonable?

In my past religious life, I learned that forgiveness is God-ordained and modeled by Jesus – the turn-the-other-cheek lesson (Matthew 5:22-24, among others). I also learned that forgiveness is FOR ME more than for the offender.

What I was NEVER taught was how to offer this forgiveness.

Back to Amy … I believe the fact that she wishes forgiveness was possible means she has actually forgiven.

When our hearts hurt because someone can no longer be allowed in our life, then we have forgiven. When our hearts don’t wish it were different, we haven’t forgiven.

Let me make this clearer: 

  • I have not forgiven “her”.
  • I have no intention of forgiving her.
  • I don’t hurt that she’s not in my life. It’s a profound relief.
  • I’m actively glad she’s not in my life.
  • This is what unforgiveness looks like (for me).
  • Does this hurt her? Nope. Not at all.
  • Does it hurt me? I have no idea.

Thank you, “Amy”, for always hearing me, for accepting what I need to say, for challenging my beliefs. Thank you for being brave.

Click HERE for the Journaling Activity that accompanies this blog.

About two years ago, I spent several months working my way through several of Brene Brown’s books and watching her YouTube videos. In one interview, she pulled out her wallet and retrieved a tiny piece of paper. She explained that it was her list of people whose opinion mattered to her. Those few people, she continued, held her best interests in their heart so she trusted them with her vulnerabilities.

Immediately I began to consider who would be on my tiny slip of paper. I narrowed the list to seven. I wrote their names on a notecard, which is posted on my wall just inside my garage door. I see it every time I leave, and every time I return.

I see it but I don’t see it. As with any sign you have in your home, it quickly fades to the background. I walk past that littlenote card and never look at it anymore. Until yesterday.

As I sit at my table and write this post, I’m staring at my list and consider who to delete and who to add. Which leads me think about all the people in my life who’ve come and gone.

“So-Called Friends”

Not too long ago, I spoke to my therapist about “friends” who “dropped me”. It was a curious discussion because I was emotional that none of these so-called friends kept in touch. Yet, I was rational in admitting that the phone works both ways and I hadn’t called them either. My therapist leaned back in her chair, pushed her hair behind her ears – both sure signs that she’s about to say something I truly need to hear. I shifted to the edge of my seat and waited.

Basically she said, “Friends come and go. Our paths intersect and then our paths diverge. It’s as simple as that. You went one way. They went another. Both right for right now.”

I literally hit my forehead like Homer Simpson. “Duh.”

I moved. I changed careers. My kids grew up. My belief system changed. I moved to a whole new path. And now our paths don’t intersect. It sounds simple, I know. But sometimes the simple is the profound. I can now let it go – I no longer have to wonder why those friends don’t like me anymore. They like me just fine. Our lives just don’t intersect.

Back to the Super Seven

Yet, there are some friends who stand the test of time no matter what paths we take. Why is that exactly? Why am I still great friends with SP and not VB? Why did I ensure my path continued to intersect with one and not the other? The Super Seven answers that.

Every human desires connection. That explains marriage and small groups and wine with friends on Friday. But, all humans need to feel safe. As a matter of fact, safety is the most crucial need we have. We learn growing up (especially during those awful middle school years) that it is not safe to share our innermost secrets with just anyone. Secrets are powerful and we learn the hard way to hold secrets tight against our chests. But secrets are burdensome if we don’t find some way to share them. So, we test the waters. I’ll give you one or two “easy” secrets and see how you react and if you hold them close or share them with others. I’ll listen carefully and see if you share someone else’s secrets with me.

My list of seven sits on the table right now. Sadly, I will remove two names not because I no longer trust these people but because our paths no longer intersect. I will remove a third name because I realized this person only has her interests at heart. That’s okay. It’s where she is right now and we’ve all been there.

But, the good news, I have two people to add. I’ve ‘tested’ these new friends. They’ve tested me. I know I can safely hand over any secret I need to share and get feedback I can trust. My seven has become six and that’s more than enough for me.

You?

Do you have a list of people you can truly trust to handle you with care and selflessness? Take a minute to write those names on a list. Carry that list with you. When you find yourself worried what someone thinks, look at your list. Those are the people whose opinions matter.

Recently, I had a lady tell me all the things she thought I was doing wrong. I listened and started to get anxious. Then I remembered my list and said, “Thank you for your opinion but you’re not on my list.” Well, she now thinks I’m crazy but that’s okay because she’s not on my list.

One more thing – let these people know how much you value their place in your life. Gratitude is the best gift.

PS – be honest about your list. You don’t have to put your twin sister on the list if she hasn’t earned the spot.

Check out Brene Brown's materials: https://brenebrown.com

Also, check out Brene Brown's TEDTalks: https://www.ted.com/speakers/brene_brown

We all know how that phrase ends ….

If you can’t say something nice, then don’t say anything at all (my father said it better … If you can’t say something nice, then keep your damn mouth shut.)

What the phrase doesn’t say is that if we can’t say something nice then lie!  Re-read that so you have the words correctly on your tongue …. if we can’t say something nice doesn’t mean we should lie.

So, why do we violate our own authenticity on a regular basis?  Are you raising your eyebrows at my calling us all out as liars?  See if any of these scenarios fit:

  • A friend walks in with a new dress that does NOT look good – yet, we say, “Oh that looks so nice on you.”
  • Someone you haven’t seen in a long time crosses your path – do you tell her you’ve missed her (when you haven’t) or that you can’t wait to see her again (when you don’t care one way or another) or that it was nice to see her (when it was, at best, neutral)?
  • Or how about when you tell someone you’d love to do this or that (when if you do it, you will be cursing them and yourself soon)?

I can go on with the examples and I get ‘social niceties’.  But here is what bugged me – and has me on a soapbox – last week an acquaintance posted on a social media this wonderful tribute to her husband on their anniversary.  She went on and on about what a great guy he is, how supportive, how she appreciates him … lovely!  EXCEPT, I happen to know this couple is so unhappy they barely speak. 

Now, I’m not suggesting she should have broadcast what a jerk she thinks her husband is or how disconnected they may be.  I AM asking … why say anything at all?  Why not ‘keep her damn mouth shut’ as my father would say?  Why lie?

Another person on social media had a birthday.  Well-wishers came out of the woodwork … lovely!  EXCEPT I know some of those well-wishers not only can’t stand the birthday girl but actively trash talk her.  So, again, why lie?  Why not just keep your damn mouth shut?  For my part, this person is not someone I want to cultivate a relationship so I simply didn’t post anything.  If I had chosen to wish her a happy birthday, that would have been inauthentic! 

We preach ‘authenticity’, ‘be your own person’, and ‘it doesn’t matter what other people think’ – but do we live it?? 

One last example – and this may be what has me in a tizzy – an old acquaintance (someone I might have once called a friend) posted a picture of me from years and years ago.  She ‘tagged’ me and wrote this sweet comment … lovely!  But, was it authentic?  I haven’t seen or spoken to this person in YEARS.  I can’t help but to wonder what inspired the sudden loveliness?    (*see important note below for a rational mind’s interpretation)

​​How can we play nice and also be authentic?? 

If you can't be nice, be quiet meme

Want me to be super authentic – the picture that former friend posted was one of my least flattering.  My inner critic, my inner bitch, is trying to convince me she intentionally posted that very picture to make me think badly of myself and to make her look good.  My rational brain says that’s crap.  My emotional brain is banging a war drum.  I’ll spend a bit of time calming the beast within. 

Calming that Beast – What Method Will I Choose?

One of the reasons I write this blog is to give people who struggle with Excess Emotional Energy ideas for calming themselves and using that energy to make the next best decision. 

I’m struggling right now because I want, desperately want, to use my writing time to beat up this person and beat up myself.  You see, the picture was from “before” my mental breakdown and it showcases all that I lost (my career, my friends, even my religion) … so it’s very painful to see that picture and more painful to see it on social media. 

I WANT her to have posted that to purposefully hurt me.  Why?  Because then I can wallow in how awful she is instead of wallowing in how awful it feels to have lost so much.  If she intentionally hurt me, then I can focus all my energy on hate instead of healing!  Hate is easier.   Do you see how an emotional mind often becomes about self?

Hate Or Heal?

I have a choice to make – in this very second, I have to decide what to nurse or how to channel this excess emotion.  It’s too flammable to take out and hold right now.  I need to cool it down.  I’m shuffling through all the techniques I’ve learned in therapy, rehab, life. 

Strangely, I have the Wall Street Journal with me (this is the first time I’ve ever bought one) … I’m going to read two articles, circle any ‘big’ words, look those words up and use them in a sentence.  By the time that’s done, I’ll be better able to choose healing over hatred.  I’ll be able to look at that picture and hurt.  It’s okay to hurt – it’s a part of being human and emotional.  But the difference will be that I hurt because of what I’ve lost not because of what someone else said or did.  But, I also am able to remember that picture and remember some of the wonderful moments of ‘before’.

If it still hurts, I’ll take it therapy!  Eventually, I have to deal with all that my career was and how badly it hurts to have lost it.  That’s one area that stays too hot to handle! 

**Important – Please read!

First, my husband was reluctant to have me post this blog.  He’s worried that the people I’m mentioning will recognize themselves and I may cause problems.  He’s right.  But, I promised authenticity and that’s what I’ll give.  And, seriously, if they recognize themselves then maybe that’s okay.

Second, my husband operates out of a rational mind most of the time.  He said that maybe the person posted an old picture of me in an effort to “have a genuine and safe way to reach out and see if there is any mutual desire to reconnect or mend.”  Every thing we see, think or believe can be viewed from a different lens.

I’m a bit disappointed – I’ve read six articles and no ‘fun’ words.  But, the desired effect was met.  I’m calmer.  I will NOT be wasting time on hating … and, I think I’ll have to take the career loss into therapy – it’s just too hot for me to hold by myself.

I learned a lot reading those articles – I learned there is a lot more to learn!

June Converse with purple hair
In April 2012 I had a mental breakdown. The real thing. I have about 36 hours that I don’t remember....
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