• Ariana Friedlander

How to stop wasting time playing emotional whack-a-mole

Lynn was still new to the company when she participated in a team meeting that made her feel so awkward and uncomfortable she was about to jump out of her skin.

"I just don't agree with that." Margaret said in responses to Dan's comment.


In Lynn's previous job such a remark was a sign of disrespect, an open invitation for all-out combat, followed by the eventual dismissal of that person from the team. Despite the fact that she was triggered, Lynn was equally shocked at the boss's reply.


"What do you mean Margaret? Tell me more." Brianna asked calmly and with genuine interest.


What ensued was a conversation unlike any her former boss would endure. People listening to disagreement, exploring others' ideas, and seeking to find a shared understanding of the problem that was plaguing them so they could resolve it.


There was no defensiveness, no posturing, no laser eyes carrying malintent. No threats of discipline or public humiliation. Just people with different perspectives engaging in real, co-creating conversations that also had a genuine concern for the wellbeing of their colleagues.


This was exactly the type of work environment that Lynn wanted to be in, yet her last job was so toxic that she had become closed off and rigid. Her body automatically responded to past trauma and her mind followed suit with stories of fear that kept her from giving voice to her thoughts and contributing to the dialogue.


Through journaling, Lynn realized that she was projecting the toxicity of her last job onto her current employer. She wasn't engaging with Brianna, she was reacting to Jean (her former boss), which meant she was holding back, afraid to exert herself or share new ideas. Lynn had uncovered a patterned threat response that protected her at her old job and was now obsolete but continued running on automatic in the background, shaping how she was showing up.


This is one example of the kinds of disconnects that journaling makes us aware of. Our minds streamline and simplify our lives by finding and creating stimuli response patterns. Sometimes, these are to our benefit - like when you see that the burner on the stove is on and avoid touching it. Other times, the patterns we establish relate to a specific person or event that does not translate positively in current circumstances.


Lynn uncovered a patterned threat response that was negatively impacting her ability to succeed (and be happy) in her new job. In order for her to rise to this new opportunity, she had to heal her pain and rewrite her patterned threat response. Realizing this created a huge sense of relief for her. Lynn had been carrying around so much anxiety and worry, she was spending most of her day playing emotional whack-a-mole instead of getting important work done.

When we bring our awareness to the disconnects in our lives we take an important step in claiming our agency. Patterns in our lives that become established from past traumas create a powerful undercurrent that often pulls us away from what we deeply want. That is a part of our shared human experience, no one is immune from this reality.


Luckily, we also have to power to do something about these disconnects. We don't need to go thru life suffering the consequences of our actions not matching our intentions because our past experiences have imprinted a patterned threat response in our brains and bodies that's obsolete.

As Lynn did, we can bring our awareness to the ways our past experiences have shaped us and consciously choose to rewrite the story. That while we are creatures of habit, we also have tremendous potential for navigating change by consciously rewiring our brains. Scientists have only uncovered the tip of the iceberg when it comes to understanding the full potential of the neuroplasticity of our brains; the possibilities for bridging such disconnects are limitless - we just have to make the effort and claim our power within.

Are you carrying around anxiety and worry from past experiences that's holding you back? What if you could experience calm and ease with just 20 minutes of journaling? Join us for the next Journal Jam on 2/3, and find out what it's like to rewrite your limitations so you can show up as the leader, friend and partner you want to be.

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