I don't know about you, but myself and everyone in my spheres of life are reporting that they are feeling the heat and the pressure right now. The microcosm pressures of the uncertainty of this school year, which is impacting home and work life, the emotional heat of being in close quarters with family members for so long, the unknown associated with financial pressures, and the straight up fatigue of having lived this way for nearly half a year with what seems like could be a long road ahead.
Layer on top of that the macrocosm stressors and pressures of an upcoming US presidential election (which always breeds contention), a global pandemic demanding an immediate shift in human behavior, and an emergence of long suppressed anger regarding race and ever-widening economic disparity....and you've got a recipe for what feels like a whole lot of chaos at once.
In the midst of this, (for some insane reason) I have felt called to make this year the year that I set the intention to practice "harmonious integration." Since I've turned 40, I've decided that I will set a clear intention on each birthday to practice a way of being for the next 365 days around the sun.
This year it is "harmonious integration." What do I mean by that? I mean that I will practice staying open to different viewpoints, ideologies, and internal states. It means that I will practice being less reactive, less judgmental, more open, and more accepting of myself and others--especially when I get triggered. It means that I will recognize and allow for what I perceive to be "darker" aspects of self and others to be accepted and integrated into the whole of myself and the life experience.
So instead of resisting or pushing away what I perceive to be "bad," I will allow it to be there, I will get curious about it, and I will recognize that it is part of the symphony of life. My birthday is on August 1st. So I am now 15 days into practicing the intention of harmonious integration. Here's what I've found thus far.
At least it is hard when you are relatively new to the practice. I'm sure it gets easier with conditioning....it's really just like building a muscle or any other skill, but dang....I have found myself emotionally and physically EXHAUSTED by the end of each day. I think part of it is that there is so much dissonance in the environment right now...it's A LOT to process.
But....there is one conversation that I had this week that was particularly insightful, educational, constructive, and that I was proud of myself for engaging in because it was out of my comfort zone and I went there anyway. I'm going to use a different name so as not to reveal my conversation partner, but she is a woman who I engage with on a weekly basis. She is someone who I have known for roughly 5 years, and she is someone who I respect, in many ways admire, and who I trust enough to approach sensitive topics with. As is happening with many people in my life as things have heated up over the past 5 months, I have learned things about this woman (we'll call her Tracy) that I had not realized were part of her belief system. I am hearing this from more and more people. That all kinds of underlying beliefs and aspects of people you thought you knew are coming to the surface in ways that surprise and sometimes initially horrify you.
What I started picking up on as I would scroll through social media and glance at Tracy's posts was that perhaps she was a supporter of a different political candidate for president than I. This was interesting to me because we connect on a deep level in so many other ways, yet we are seemingly quite far apart of this particular topic. I must admit, I was triggered by it. I started telling stories in my head about how wrong she was, how uninformed she was, and I wondered how it would impact the work that we are doing together if this is really what she stands for. And then I remembered my intention, "Harmonious integration. This is what you said that you want to practice this year, Betsy. Well, here you go. Here's a great opportunity."
And so....this past week, when I had my weekly conversation with Tracy, our conversation went something like this (there was more to it, but I'll spare you every detail. This is my best attempt at paraphrasing):
Tracy: "How are you doing? What's going on for you this week?"
Betsy: "Well, I'm actually struggling a bit. [I gave her some context of things that were triggering me and explained that I've set this intention to practice harmonious integration.] You may actually be the perfect person to help me work through some of this. Would you be willing to have an open and constructive conversation about this?
Tracy: "Ya. I am a 100% Trump supporter and I have no problem whatsoever having a conversation about that."
Betsy: "Do I have your permission to perhaps be messy, tactless, clumsy, and confused as we talk about this?"
Tracy: "Of course."
Betsy: "Okay, so even though this is a triggering conversation topic to me, I genuinely want to move from being angry and frustrated to being curious. I encourage people to 'get curious instead of furious' as a way to deal when they get triggered and I recognize that I need to practice this as well. So, I'm curious, what leads you to be such a clear and strong Trump supporter?"
Tracy: "My highest value is freedom and I believe that he is the person who will actually take a stance for that right now in a way that no one else has at least in my lifetime anyway."
Betsy: "Okay, so because your highest value is freedom and you believe that he is the person who will deliver that in a way that others have not, you are willing to overlook other aspects of what he stands for, has done, etc? Your stance is pretty much that the end goal of freedom justifies the means?
Tracy: "Yeah, I guess so. I mean no human is going to be perfect. Everyone has got baggage and aspects of themselves that they aren't proud of. If we're expecting a human to lead who doesn't have any of that, well, that's not possible. I've been watching how our systems have refused to change or keep up with the times and he's someone that will finally take a stand for disrupting and breaking down systems that have been stuck and stagnant for way too long. There are things that are happening now that I never thought I would see in my lifetime because someone is finally willing to crack things open."
Betsy: "Okay, okay. I can see that for you. I can hold myself in a place where I can witness you be strong in your beliefs, accept that that's where you're at, and yet be crystal clear that what hangs together for you, does not hang together for me in quite the same way."
Tracy: "I think part of what makes it easy for me to have the conversation is that I feel so clear and strong and convicted in my beliefs. I don't need you to believe them and I'm not going to try and convince you to believe them unless you ask me my opinion. I don't scroll through social media and comment on other people's beliefs that I don't agree with like some people do. I am just strong in my own knowing of what's right and true for me so I have no problem talking openly about it. I will say, I am extremely disappointed in the American people right now. I'm disappointed that people just keep going along with the herd and doing what they're told rather than thinking for themselves. I'm so disappointed in the American people that I would honestly move to another country if I could."
Betsy: "Huh? Isn't this fascinating...there are a few places of overlap here which are interesting to me:
1) We are both strong women practicing stepping into our personal power, we both highly value freedom, and yet we view it and come at it from different lenses.
2) We both believe that Trump's leadership has served as a disruption to our systems that have too long remained stagnant and suppressed.
3) We are both disappointed in the American people right now. And in many ways for some of the same reasons.
Isn't it fascinating that we can place such value on the similar end goal of freedom and yet have such differing views on how we get there, what that really means, and who represents this in terms of leadership?
What I appreciate is that we can at least have the conversation and have it in a way that isn't blaming or shaming. That is respectful of each other and perhaps even constructive in terms of understanding that there are points of alignment between us here."
I thanked Tracy and told her what a relief it was to just voice that. To have a conversation with someone so that I can practice this notion of harmonious integration. It doesn't mean that I agree with her or that I've changed my stance on my beliefs. But it did remove the resistance to her that I had felt building up in my nervous system and allowed us to "clear the air" and recover to the work that we're doing together on a weekly basis.
Now, I recognize that perhaps this kind of a conversation wouldn't happen with everyone I know. Both parties must be open and willing and have a desire to engage in this way. That's what makes it a good place to start. With someone who you already trust, have a decent relationship with, and who feels safe.
It's also important to start with the end in mind. My outcome in this situation was that I wanted to practice having a curious and constructive conversation so as to restore a sense of clarity in my relationship with Tracy and diminish my sense of frustration and irritation. Having now had this conversation with Tracy adds to my confidence that I can have difficult and sensitive conversations with others and that every time I do, I strengthen my "harmonious integration muscle." It is very much like going to the emotional gym. Gotta practice, do lots of reps, ask for supports/spotters, take breaks, and BREATHE.
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Live Your Light,
Fulfillionaire Facilitator, Educational Psychologist, Inspirational Speaker