3 Simple Steps For Clarity In Trying Times
This week I accused someone of muddying issues, then throwing mud balls. The sentiment wasn’t well-received, but then again, neither were the sentiments that had provoked this determination from me in the first place. These are highly charged times, and I believe we are all feeling it. Waking up means learning to walk again, stumbling some, and preparing for a new and steady gait.
Having practiced Clinical Psychiatry for ten years, my ear for clarity and that which is the opposite of clarity is well-honed. Whether we like it or not, our mammalian brains are wired for reactivity. Thankfully, we are also capable of effectively managing this phenomenon. When entering into dialogue I might refer to as muddy, and by that, I mean emotionally or energetically charged, our risk of ineffective engagement is high. In fact, each of you reading this might be able to recall a constellation of cringe-worthy moments without having to dig too deeply into your memory banks.
In light of our common mortal constraints, here are three steps we can all take toward greater clarity:
One: Untangle the Issues
How many issues are on the table? The mud throwing I referenced involved a mixture of five completely separate topics: parenting, politics, misogyny vs feminism, divergent datasets, and several individuals’ personal trauma narratives. While it’s easy to see how these came together to form a hearty soup, clarity was not in the recipe. Tackle sensitive matters one at a time, if you really aim to get anywhere productively. Say, “I can see we’re talking about several things at once. Which one can we do well right now?”
Two: Listen to Your Body
Is your heart pounding? Are your limbs buzzing? Are you in a state of general physical activation? If the answer is yes, it’s likely you’re not going to represent your Highest Self. And that’s OK if you are well-practiced at speaking your truth from this place, with pockets full of grace and accountability. Our most honest, humble, and imperfect responses are sometimes exactly what the moment calls for. Other times, the physical charge is a clue that we are on the verge of unnecessary self-exploitation.
While you may be prepared to speak your truth, not everyone will respond usefully. If it’s clarity you seek, be aware that some individuals will be spun into their own physical reactions by your raw truth. Even the people you least expect may become triggered. And while you may not particularly care in these bare moments of truth, be aware that some people will react to protect themselves first. This virtually guarantees your story will be handled without the dignity it most definitely deserves. Proceed with intention, and then use that energy or save it in honor of yourself.
Three: Ask Before You Assume
Inquiry is a suffering art; a forgotten etiquette. In America’s toxic post-election climate, we must remember how to hold mutual truths for and about one another. For instance, someone can be pro-Black Lives Matter and pro-Law Enforcement. An individual can be conservative AND deeply disturbed about what’s going on. Someone can be a Democrat and understand your reasons for voting for our current President. We do not need to agree in order to understand. People are not as simplistic as we want to make them. Our threat systems are on high alert right now, and as much as we’d like to pretend everything’s fine, they’re busy sorting things without our explicit conscious permission. At this deep, primal level, there are just two categories–things and people marked for us or against us.
We must be intentional about crafting a third category, Striving For Greater Consciousness. Let’s practice together.
Photo by Ashley Batz on Unsplash.
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