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Embracing Embarrassment: Feelings Part Deux
The first time I remember being embarrassed was in the 4th grade.
 
My mother had decided I’d be better off in another classroom and transferred me after the second week of school (what could possibly go wrong!?), which meant I was the new kid. 
 
I remember we were asked to read a section of a particular book during Mrs. Costuma’s English block. I was paying about as much attention as any 10 year old, when all of a sudden she called on me to share what I had learned from the reading. I hadn’t raised my hand, and had never been put into a situation like this before. While I had read the passage my 4th grade mind, gripped by the sheer panic of the situation, drew a complete blank! 
 
I went numb. I could feel my face reddening, my heart pounding, and my skin starting to sweat. Surely this was it: it had been a good 10-year run, but this was where it all ended. 
 
Luckily the merciful Mrs. Costuma, who ended up being one of my all-time favorite teachers, took pity on me and turned to another student, allowing me to recover from my ordeal. 
 
Seeing that I was only 10 years old, I didn’t know how to fully process, or even understand, the embarrassment I had felt. I just knew it was a painful feeling to be avoided. However, because I didn’t come to terms with the emotions I had felt, they stuck with me. Throughout my life, whenever I didn’t have an answer or couldn’t think of what to say, I instinctually fell silent. 
 
This paired quite well with my introverted personality; instead of drawing any attention to myself, I would see how invisible I could possibly become. I got pretty good at it too, I think I would make a wonderful ninja. 
 
Later on, when I began learning Nonviolent Communication (NVC), I realized I was one of those students who honestly could not identify what I was feeling. 
 
Others seemed to so easily express their frustration, elation, confusion, or joy. For some reason, unknown to me at the time, I just didn’t have access to that place. Where others felt this entire spectrum of complex emotions, I just felt...numb. 
 
Now, if you read my post last month (which I encourage you to do! No worries, I’ll wait….) you may recall that it wasn’t until I fully reflected on my origins, on how my family processed emotions as I grew up, that I began to understand where the numbness came from. 
 
Since the statute of limitations for blaming my parents had expired, the only remaining option was to do the hard work and reclaim those numbed feelings. I vividly remember the first time in my 40-something years finally saying out loud to someone: “I’m embarrassed about that.” 
 
The response was the socially mandated, “Don’t feel embarrassed.” I made sure to quickly retort (much to her surprise):
 
“Actually, I want to feel that way!” 
 
Here’s something I’ve learned about my habit of avoiding embarrassment: It’s kept me smack dab in the middle of my comfort zone for most of my life. 
 
If I don’t make mistakes, if I don’t take risks and possibly do the ‘wrong’ thing, then I can avoid the face flushing, heart pounding, skin sweating, painful experience that 10-year-old me learned all too well in Mrs. Costuma’s 4th grade class. I don’t have to confront that fear and that panic, the memories of all the embarrassing experiences I numbed out.
 
I also don’t grow. 
 
I know that I have missed out on valuable life lessons, on wonderful experiences, by not trying something new for fear of not understanding or not belonging. There are opportunities where I could have spoken out, maybe even impacted people’s lives, but chose to remain silent. All for fear of embarrassment. 
 
Recently I ventured boldly into the uncharted waters of embarrassment by sharing some vulnerability in a meeting. I felt that full flush of embarrassment with all (Zoom) eyes on me, but instead of trying to suppress it I simply allowed it to be, without wishing it to be any differently.
 
And guess what? I didn’t die!
 
It simply passed through me, and I was able to put myself out there like never before. 
 
In his poem “The Guest House”, Rumi reminds us to treat each feeling as an honored guest in our home, a guest that offers us ‘a new delight’. Befriending this particular emotion, this newly welcomed guest, has delighted me with more freedom of expression and the courage to more fully be myself. 
 
Ever since COVID-19 broke out, I have found myself hoping and wishing for more courage. However, these recent experiences have taught me something profound: I had every ounce of courage I could ever need right there with me all along.  
 
It was just waiting on the other side of embarrassment. 
 
- christine
How are you Feeling...Really?

By Christine King, Co-Creator, GROK products   

 
When someone new asks, “How are you?” do you find yourself answering “Fine?” The word ‘fine’ is a culturally expected response, especially in casual circumstances like when in line at the grocery store, bank, or post office. Although Webster’s dictionary defines fine as a “satisfactory condition,” we often use the word when we actually feel quite different than fine.
 
So…what if you dug a little deeper and responded by sharing what you are truly feeling? 
 
Lately, I have risked sharing my real feelings in public venues. When the bank clerk asked, “How ya doin’?” I told him I was tired and a little sore. He told me he was tired too because there’s a baby at home who was waking up during the night. I was able to give him a little empathy and connect with him over loss of sleep. Our conversation became more real and personal. When purchasing groceries, I responded to the clerk that I felt hungry and a bit grumpy which led to an interesting, albeit short, conversation on blood sugar and carbs. 
 
There may be times you do choose to say ‘fine.’ And if you do, consider taking a minute to ask yourself what you truly are feeling. Are you really ‘satisfactory?’ Then maybe use a more descriptive word like content, comfortable, or even peaceful.  If something painful or difficult just happened in your life, you may choose not to share it with a stranger (especially because they may not know how to response). You may feel guarded or sad or confused. Acknowledging these feelings to yourself might bring more self-connection and compassion. 
 
When I began learning NVC and familiarizing myself with the feelings vocabulary and the felt sense of them in my body, I realized most of the time I had no clue what I felt. Looking back, I believe it came from years of hearing, “Don’t feel that way” or “You don’t really feel that way” or “You shouldn’t feel that way.” In my family of origin, the acceptable and safe feelings were to be OK, good, or fine. I opted for a kind of inconspicuousness and stayed within the boundaries of “fine.” Needless to say, this decision did not support a rich emotional life.
 
It wasn’t until I learned Nonviolent Communication that I was able to put words to the body sensations I was feeling—hurt, embarrassed, shame, frustration, confusion, joy, contentment, flummoxed. Those feelings were like a telephone ringing. By answering the call, I could understand what needs were behind those feelings. Suddenly, I felt more self-connected and alive. I learned to trust my body and the signals it sends.
 
Small children are ‘body beings.’ They live fully in their bodies. Their emotions are up front and center. They easily cry, laugh, startle, scare, and become upset. Conscious parents will allow their children’s full range of emotions and even help them name what they are feeling. 
 
My daughter and granddaughter spend a good deal of time in the local children’s park where other parents say things like, “You’re OK” or “Don’t cry” after their child has hurt themself. When my granddaughter gets injured, my daughter will soothe her. “It looks like that hurts. Would you like to me rub it or blow on it?” She will sit with her daughter as long as it takes to feel better. When parents are able to accept all of their children’s feelings, the child learns to trust their emotions to guide them through life.  
 
For myself, I was able to overcome stuffing my emotions, which took practice and patience. By paying attention to my body and interpreting the messages, and connecting to my needs, I reclaimed my innate emotional experiences that children have naturally. Observing my daughter and granddaughter, I feel joyful and gratified witnessing the next generations trust body wisdom and honor emotional intelligence. 
 
- christine
10 Tips for Relationship Communication by Christine King, M.A.
Ten tools and techniques that can support positive, harmonious, and compassionate relationships
 
1. Connection before Correction If you find yourself in a position where you want discuss an issue with someone, begin by taking time to connect with them. What is important to them at this moment? What is their need or value instead of “Why did you do that?”, consider “I can imagine you needed to be heard how strongly you feel about that situation.” It will be much easier to understand their motivation before sharing what you are wanting from them.
 
2. Just the Facts When talking about challenging behavior, you can keep it neutral by using observational language free from evaluation or interpretation. Instead of saying “you were being disrespectful”, say “you were talking in a raised voice on your cell phone.” People can much more easily hear what they said or did rather than your interpretation of their words or actions.
 
3. There are no Difficult People...just people you are having difficulty with. Labeling someone as “difficult” or “a problem” makes them a problem. Instead, realize their behavior may be challenging for you. This challenge is an opportunity for self-reflection, growth, and skill-building.
 
4. It’s NOT Personal What others say and do is a reflection of their perspective, needs and values. When we take other people’s words personally, it’s easy to get defensive, reactive, and want to protect ourselves.
 
5. Be a PRO, not a JEDI When stimulated, our habitual response is often to Justify, Explain, Defend, or Inform. A more powerful response is to be a PRO.
• PAUSE. Take a deep slow breath. Exhale fully, slowly, calmly.
• RELAX. What’s happening in your body? Release any tension or tightness.
• OPEN. Release your judgment by empathizing with yourself the need motivating the other person.
 
6. Reflect, Reflect, Reflect When you are unsure of what to say or do, reflective listening is a great tool. “Let me see if I understood what you said....” or “I want to make sure I got you. I heard you say.... is that accurate?” (and remember to refrain from interpreting or evaluating what you heard the person say).
 
7. There is Only One Person you can Change Wanting the other person to change and be different can be a set up for more conflict. Instead, why not take self-responsibility and ask yourself ‘how can I see/do this differently?”
 
8. Self Care is the Highest Form of Service Be sure you have your oxygen mask on before giving air to others. If you are stressed or overwhelmed, it will affect those around you. Take time for self-care and stay connected to your own feelings and needs. Take on only as much as you can handle. Know when to ask for help. Ask yourself “who, what are my resources here?”
 
9. Gratitude When people feel they are acknowledged, relationships improve and there is more cooperation and harmony. It’s worth investing your time to acknowledge and appreciate others. Bring attention to things going well. Make gratitude a habit.
 
10. Kindness and Generosity According to Psychologist John Gottman, these two traits are the biggest indicator of healthy relationships. When we can stop being defensive and allow ourselves to be in the spirit of kindness and generosity, relationships can dramatically improve.
 
- christine