In her latest Share Your Stories post, Holly Elissa Bruno reflects on the emotional knots that are so often tied when we hold on to yesterday’s pain. Join in conversation with Holly Elissa and share your thoughts on the second chances you’ve encountered after you’ve loosened the knots, extinguished long-held resentment, and moved on.
This Dollar Store twine circling my left wrist is knotted into a rough bracelet. Why would I, lover of sea glass green and luminescent opal, bother with a fading and frumpy beige adornment?
If you have a trusted friend who reminds you to get over yourself and move on, you know how my twine bracelet helps me.
Do you, as I do, have a knack for:
- getting in your own way?
- making a decision more complicated than it needs to be?
- over thinking simple situations?
Because I am expert at all of these practices, I tie myself up in knots. Unnecessary knots.
Touching my rough knotted bracelet reminds me that, just as I tied the knots, I can untie the knots.
May I tell you about one of my familiar knots, how I tie it, and how with conscious effort I can untie it?
Despite my “what the hey?” attitude, my feelings can be easily hurt.
Recently I was presenting a workshop with two colleagues. We each had an allotted time. I went over my designated time. I get so exuberant I lose track of time; for that reason, I ask my colleagues to signal me when I need to wrap up. I did not see a signal.
My colleague who spoke after me stated her displeasure twice at having less than her designated time.
Yes, I went over time. But, I counted on her to let me know when I needed to end.
Publicly embarrassed, I wilted in a shame attack followed by feeling betrayed.
Looking back, I see this was a simple miscommunication of expectations. I expected a signal from my colleague and she expected me to know when to end.
When I feel shamed in public, alarms blare. Outwardly, I put on a professional face; inwardly, I beat myself up and want to run away. My colleagues had no idea!
That’s where the knot comes in: I was overlaying past painful memories on a current event and returning to a time when I was all of sixteen years old. My father, bless him, announced in front of others that I was not intelligent enough to win scholarships to universities.
His pronouncement wounded me. My confidence crumpled for days before I could rebound with silent “I am not stupid!” conviction. Soon after, I took that competitive NY State Regents examination and won the scholarship. But, rebuilding my self-esteem is a lifelong project.
When my colleague intimated to the audience that I was wrong, she was right. However, I felt publicly shamed—again. That public shaming shoved me back into a well of unworthiness . . . She became a demeaning parent and I, the kicked-to-the-curb child. The result was knots in my heart; knots in the room; and, a potential knot in our relationship.
One touch to my bracelet reminded me that I created this knot. My colleagues had no clue. I was blaming them for the pain of my childhood. I was expecting them to make the past pain right.
“If you’re hysterical, the problem is historical,” my 12-step groups remind me.
My shame attack was not caused by my colleagues, nor were they responsible for fixing me!
Overlaying past unresolved conflict on today’s misunderstanding does not resolve anything. When I take this path, I feel righteous indignation. I stand on the moral high ground. I surrender my maturity. I lose sight of the present.
The truth is: Each time a wound is reopened, I am given a second chance to heal. I don’t have to turn a simple misconnection into drama. I can separate past from present.
This joint presentation was a simple problem with a simple solution. I apologized to my colleagues, requested a definite way of signaling one another about time boundaries in the future, and offered to go last the next time we present.
I reminded myself that I have a choice: I can choose to live in the present, deal directly with the present misunderstanding, take responsibility for my part in the misunderstanding, learn and let go.
I’ll take that second chance.
Does what I am saying sound at all familiar to you?
Share your stories and tell me:
- Have you overlaid your past pain on a present relationship?
- Can you say how that has tied you and the other person in knots?
- What can you do to untie a painful knot from the past that, if you allow it to, would choke your future?
- Tell me about that second chance you gave yourself to release the knot and breathe free.
Holding a resentment is like swallowing poison and waiting for the other person to die. Life’s too short to do anything but enjoy it daily.
BY LEAVING A COMMENT, I hereby give my permission to Redleaf Press to use my story and quote me (all names will be changed) in Holly Elissa Bruno’s upcoming book on second chances, including in all revised editions of the book, in all formats (including print and electronic) now known or developed in the future, in all languages and territories, and in any other subsidiary editions of the book, and in promotional materials published by Redleaf Press, as it sees fit.
If you’re new to Holly Elissa Bruno’s Share Your Stories series, you can learn more about the project here and read previous posts here. We invite you to share as often and openly as you want—on this post, previous posts, and future posts. Your comments will provide Holly Elissa with unique insight as she writes her next book, and she looks forward to continuing the conversation after the book is published.