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The Challenge of Speaking Up For Yourself

What do you do when you get a knot in your stomach in response to someone being subtly inauthentic, angry, judgmental, demanding or needy? You know in your gut that this person wants something from you – you can feel the pull on you – but it is not overt. Another person, even a therapist, looking at the interaction, may not pick up the wounded, pulling energy.

What most people do in this situation is either go along with what is happening or withdraw – or both. It is very challenging to speak up for yourself in this situation – challenging to even know what to say.

It doesn’t work to ask a question, saying something like, “Why are you being judgmental?” The other person will generally deny it and you will be hard-pressed to explain it, since it is subtle.

One way of taking care of yourself is to move into compassion for your own feelings. Become aware of the knot in your stomach and trust it. Don’t analyze it. Don’t tell yourself that it must be your issue. Just accept that something is happening that doesn’t feel good to you and then, coming from honoring your feelings, decide on the loving action. Below are two examples of what you might say and do when you trust and honor your own feelings:

“Something doesn’t feel good. I don’t want to have this conversation, and then disengage, walking away or hanging up the phone. It is important to be coming from what we call in Inner Bonding “your loving adult”, who you are when your intent is to be loving to yourself, giving information rather than attacking. If you attack and leave, then you are blaming and withdrawing, rather than taking loving action on your own behalf. If you are in the car, it is always a good idea to have an iPod handy to put in your ears if you want to disengage from a conversation.

If it seems appropriate to open up to learning with the other person, you might say, “Something here doesn’t feel good. I’m wondering why you are telling me this?” You would need to make sure that you are being your “loving adult” so that you are truly curious rather than blaming. If you say the same thing from your ego wounded self, the energy behind it will feel attacking to the other person and the chances are he or she will become defensive. The other person may become defensive anyway, in which case you would need to disengage from the interaction.

While these seem simple, they are not at all easy to do. First of all, once the knot is in your stomach, it can trigger the fight or flight reaction, and then you will probably forget all about taking care of yourself. You will do what you normally do, which will probably be to ignore, comply, withdraw or attack – none of which are loving actions toward your self or toward the other person.

It takes a lot of practice for many people to even notice their feelings. You may have responded to the knot in your stomach from your wounded self with your protective behavior for so long that you don’t even consciously know the knot is there. Learning to stay tuned to your own body and compassionately honor your own feelings is the first part of the challenge in speaking up for yourself. You cannot speak up when you are unaware that there is something to speak up for. The next step after awareness? Take loving care of yourself in the face of others’ subtle or overt unloving behavior.

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