Are there places in your life that cause you to get lost in your emotions — fear, anger, sadness, anxiety?
I have experienced many different kinds of environments like that --- places where I was afraid to speak because I thought I would set someone off and I wouldn’t know how to handle their reaction. Places where I just wanted to hide because I was sure that my voice would cause reactions I didn’t want to deal with. There are other places where all I feel is anger whether it's because of how I am treated or how I perceive others are treated. There are other places where I'm just sad. It seems hopeless to be there.
I would say that those experiences are all or mainly in the past.
Finding Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) and learning how to approach my environment with emotional skills has changed everything.
There's an image I've seen in my DBT training called the Cycle of Change. We are all on it. Some of us look at these difficult environments and our fingers are pointed at everybody else. The truth is, the cycle of change is for us. Where do we fit on it?
image from socialworktech.com
The first step is to recognize that the only person that we truly can change is ourselves.
That was a very difficult lesson for me to learn. At home, my interactions with my son were very hard. He struggled with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, which caused me to walk on eggshells much of the day, worried that I would set him off. Once I learned the skills that we teach in SILA Skills workshops, I recognized that my relationship with him could be much better if I changed a little rather than always expecting him to be different.
In my classroom, I have also changed. I have often had students whose explosive emotions I have feared. I would avoid their corner of the classroom just to keep from triggering them. I've had parents that I avoided contacting, even though I know I should send an email or pick up the phone. The truth is, the better I interact with those people or situations that I fear, the fewer challenges there are. I have learned to be compassionately curious and focus on their story, rather than my own.
I have learned to be compassionately curious and focus on their story, rather than my own.
This has also occurred with my colleagues. There are times I've wanted to hide and have felt inadequate in expressing myself in difficult conversations. To avoid any confrontations I would often go into my classroom and shut the door. Not a very effective strategy!
I'm learning that it's better to practice my skills. One of which is using opposite action — making a choice to act in a way that is opposite to how you feel. This skill helps me to respond to my fears rather than to hide.
Now, I finish my days without feeling regret. I can sleep better because I know I did my best and was as skillful as I could be. Sometimes people seek me out to talk about their day. I think it’s because I am able to approach situations mindfully and am effective which helps me foster positive relationships at my work. I have learned that hiding is not effective.
I could go on and on as I have struggled with both student and adult relationships. It's not easy living in this world and interacting with different people. We suffer a lot and it doesn't have to be that way.
We suffer a lot and it doesn't have to be that way.
Four years ago I started learning DBT skills and I have been trying to practice them every day.
They have changed my life.
They have given me hope and peace and the ability to be the person I've always wanted to be. They have given me relationship tools so I don't need to hide or respond in anger or walk on eggshells. I'm not perfect, but I'm a lot better than I used to be.
These skills work.
If any of my words connect with you, I encourage you to look at the cycle of change. Where are you on it? If you see that you need to change, you’re on the right track. You can start by attending a SILA Skills workshop and learn about these transformative skills. They will help you move towards growth in how you communicate more effectively with those in your environment. I know taking a SILA Skills Workshop will make a difference in your life.
You can be the change factor in your environment.
So the question is, to change or not to change?
The answer is up to you.
Are you ready to be transformed? Check out a Transforming Classrooms or Transforming Connections workshop today - www.SILAskills.org