Posted by: scintillatingspeck | September 19, 2013

10 ways to approach me when I’m volatile.

This post is inspired by an article on Elephant Journal, “10 Things Not to Do When I’m Being a Bitch.”  A friend posted a link to the article on Facebook, saying it was useful to him; parts of it made sense to me, and parts of it irked me greatly, such as the author’s suggestion to treat her like a three-year-old.

Another friend commented on the Facebook thread:

“I like what this person has done here; she’s put herself right out there and offered up her imperfections. She’s offered some modes of engagement with her during some difficult moments, allowed for some of the potentially less rational states she finds herself in. It might not apply verbatim to every woman or everyone, but there are some useful observations here in my opinion. It might very well inspire me to offer some similar windows into my own foibles and some likely ways to either engage or not engage me during such times.”

To this friend I replied:

“I see what you’re saying, and I agree that being transparent about one’s imperfections and offering some potential remedies is really good. I think most people, though, would see this piece as intended to apply to all women, rather than just the writer, and it tends to fit neatly into the “all women are illogical bitches who are at the mercy of their crazy hormones” stereotype (and reinforcing the false dichotomy of men as always logical and emotionless and not subject to hormonal influence).
I like the idea of you describing your own imperfections and ways to engage/not engage you. I think I want to do the same. Mine won’t involve the use of the word “bitch.” I wonder how many people could be convinced to follow suit?”

I’ve decided to engage in this challenge to describe my own volatility, those times when I’m difficult to be around, and to offer insights into how to interact with me.  This is intended as a personal endeavor.  I don’t expect that this will necessarily apply to anyone else, but perhaps there could be some overlap here and there, and not just with other women.  I’m foregoing the use of the word “bitch” because it’s not a word that I like; I recognize that it works for some people (clearly the author of the article found it useful) but I think it’s unnecessarily harsh and inflammatory.  I’m already harsh enough towards myself.

Here, then, is my advice, loves, for how to approach me in my volatile moments.  What do I mean by volatile?  This can range from cranky, to furious, to deeply sad, to withdrawn– the gamut of emotions that trip me up and often make communication difficult.  Anxiety and emotional intensity have accompanied me for a long time; it will be a while longer, no doubt, before I learn to fully soften the sharp edges.  If I’m showing you these aspects of myself, it’s because that’s part of my intimacy with you; you’re not just getting a superficial version of me.

10:  Stay connected to me, if you can.  There is little that is more painful to me than feeling isolated, shut out, or abandoned.  If you need space from me, say something like, “I need some space but let’s talk some more at another time.”  Staying connected can be as simple as saying, “I don’t know what to say, but I’m here,” or taking my hand if that seems appropriate.  If you’re angry at me, or have any other feelings, you can say so.  Please, don’t just walk away in silence.

9:  Help me get out of my own head/miasma.  I can get overwhelmed by my emotions and sometimes convoluted thinking.  It can feel like drowning.  If you think this is happening, remind me to breathe deeply.  Ask me to get in tune with my senses, with the physical world.

8:  If we are both becoming more and more defensive or mired in conflict, point it out.  The more you can act as an observer of whatever’s happening, the more I can do the same.

7:  Remind me that my emotions are powerful but they will inevitably shift.  When I’m feeling a given emotion, I usually feel it all the way.  This can be exhilarating and packed with vitality; it can also be downright terrifying.  Helping me to remember that the intensity will wane can enable me to feel the ground under my feet.

6:  Create space, for you and for me.  Do what you need to nurture yourself.  Tune in to your own needs.  Encourage me to do the same.  I want connection, but I don’t want to be smothered.  Look for breathing room, and claim it, and remind me to claim it.

5:  Move beyond language.  When I’m especially upset, I can unleash a veritable torrent of anxious verbosity.  Try not to shut down or respond in kind; point out that it’s happening, and help me to slow it down.  Bring me to my body; ask if you can touch me.

4:  Recognize that sometimes I can’t take a joke.  Remind me that lightness and laughter will come back.  If you can find a way to make me laugh when I’m especially volatile, realize how beautiful and miraculous that is.  Don’t say things like “you’re too serious” or “you’re too sensitive,” even if it’s true at that moment.  Accept it.  Know that I will lighten up when I’m able.

3:  Be tenderly honest, not ruthlessly honest.  Ask for that tenderness in return.  If you see me leaping to conclusions that make no sense to you, or if you see that I need more information, or you want to tell me the impact I’m having on you or others, do so with as much kindness and compassion as you can muster.  If I ask you questions, don’t lie to me.  Consider timing, but be honest.

2:  Forgive me, and ask me to forgive you.  I will never be perfect.  I try so hard, and keep making mistakes.  Please find it in your heart to forgive my human frailties.  I will do the same for you.

1:  Tell me you love me, if you do.  Tell me why you love me, why you choose to continue to be in relationship with me, why my existence makes a difference to you.  Remind me that love is the whole point.  Drag me into the woods, if you must, and put your hands on my shoulders, and turn my face towards the sunlight filtering through the leaves, and say, “Be present.  Be with me.  Be here in this stunning world.  Be in love.”  With your focus and patience, it will beam through.

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