This week a client presented a concern she was not certain if her actions were more indicative of taking a healthy time out from a relative that she is having issues with, or if she was avoiding and hiding from them. She knew she needed some healing time, but was not exactly sure how to best go about it.
She has had enough counseling to know that healthy time outs are a necessity for our health and wellbeing, and that hiding i.e., avoidance or withdrawal, is often a passive way of dealing with our difficult feelings or issues.
The latter is the “easiest” however the first is beneficial for our wellbeing. Like an animal in the forest that separates itself from the pack, finds a safe place to lick its wounds, we humans benefit by taking space away from a person or situation that is hurtful or feels challenging so that we may process, heal and consider a different way forward should we choose to continue the relationship.
Hiding or avoiding is what many people choose because they believe it is their only option in dealing with difficult people and challenging situations. This may also be the predominant response witnessed in childhood therefore it is often learned behavior.
What takes more skill and courage however, is to learn and practice self awareness so that one can identify their own feelings and thoughts and then take space to process thoughts and feelings before returning to the person or situation with a well thought out response.
Important to note as well, not every “issue” or disagreement has to be confrontational. This is the story however that many people tell themselves that serve to keep them stuck, passive and/or avoidant.
Increasing self awareness and learning the skill set for effectively sharing your thoughts, feelings, and / or desires, are important people skills both at home and at work. One of the benefits is greater health (from no longer stuffing your feelings) and also enhanced relationships!
WHAAAAT? Can you actually create better relationships by taking a healthy time out and then returning to the person/ situation, and show up speaking your truth in a way that is non- threatening or accusatory?
Unequivocally, the answer is a resounding YES!
I am privileged to both teach this skill and hear the stories of how the very thing that once caused fear and trembling, clients now approach with confidence and assuredness that the choice they are about to embark on will actually have the great potential to make their relationships more genuine, honest, connecting and satisfying.
Hiding creates more fear due to the pressure and inevitability of the person they are avoiding wanting to talk. Taking a passive stance also keeps us stuck and often feeling victimized. We may be hurt and not talking about it, or worse, assuming time will heal all, which sadly, rarely is the case.
If you are someone that is ready to engage with yourself in healthier ways so you can begin to connect with others in healthier and more satisfying ways, here are some suggestions how to begin.
~ Start with You! When you take the time to tune in inwardly and recognize what you are thinking and feeling, then you have a good starting place. Take some alone time to reflect on thoughts and feelings, identify them and write them down.
~ Consider your desired outcome with this person/ situation. Write down what this person means to you and the level of importance to have a better relationship. Then consider what truths do you need to own, and what might you communicate with this person to improve the relationship?
~ Take a healthy time out if needed and communicate this is what you are doing. A time out can be as short as 10 minutes or it may be much longer. The point is knowing what you need and communicating it to the appropriate person. This is a key difference between a healthy time for healing and processing vs. withdrawal and avoidance.
~ Talk with a professional counselor, therapist or life coach to help you navigate these waters.
Sometimes trying to do something different feels more challenging if we do not yet have new tools to help us respond in a different and healthier way. Challenge your own stories, especially if they are keeping you stuck and reach out for help if you are truly ready to learn a skill set to enhance your relationships both at home and at work.
While some people are gifted with great self awareness and communication skills, most people need to learn them. Stress levels often decrease and relationship satisfaction can tremendously increase when we bring new skills to the table. Confrontation not required. A willingness to be vulnerable and take some risk however along with being better equipped for important conversations is, and this when practiced over time can be transformational.