burst bubble

Ow Ow Ow Stop Poking! (It hurts when the bubble bursts)

A friend of mine recently closed his yoga studio and went back to wearing a suit to work. (I mean, is that every yogi’s nightmare or what?) He said something about financial stresses and taking care of his family, but I can’t help thinking about something else that happened a while back.

About a year or so ago his teacher told him that he wasn’t “ready” to teach internationally. He wasn’t “ready” to become a well-known, well-respected teacher. I’ve watched his enthusiasm drain and his energy crumble in the time since then. I’ve watched him second-guessing and doubting himself. Himself, his path and his abilities.

Another friend is in distress right now because her teacher, whom she has been tirelessly promoting for ages, actually asked her to take her own fitness DVD off the market so as not to be in competition.

And another client recently decided not to do something with her music (even though all her teachers said she was a phenomenal talent) because her parents told her that those teachers were probably just being polite.

No fun!

Teachers, parents, mentors. Those special people we respect, admire and love. We want them to like us. And to clap their hands when we ride a bike for the first time. They’re “supposed to” support us and be there for us. We would like for them to be our biggest fans, and in an ideal world they are.

But sometimes they shoot our ideas down, or actively try to keep us from growing, or bring up a hundred and one reasons why the thing we’re so excited about will go horribly wrong. And we feel hurt and anxious because we need to know that we are supported and safe. Yuck, yuck, yuck. No fun at all.

I’ll talk some other time about why the people you admire so much do this (sometimes even — annoyingly and ironically — because they truly think it is the best way to love and protect you). I’ll also discuss how to make sure you align yourself with the right kind of teachers. For now, though, I just want to address what to do when what you need most is support and what you’re getting instead is criticism and censure.

When you need support but all you’re getting is criticism

Guess what? Life can be like that. People will raise questions that shake your great ideas. People will make criticisms about your dreams and plans. People will say things that set off your stuff and push your all buttons. It’s gonna happen, so let’s work on shifting the focus from how much it sucks (and yes, it does) to what to do about it.

Here are five techniques to consider:

Technique #1: What can you do to separate?
Right now their “stuff” is interacting with your “stuff”. One of the most useful things you can do is to practice separating what’s yours from what’s theirs. Your criticism from their criticism. Your judgment from their judgment. Your hurt from their hurt.

Sometimes it’s enough to just name it. As in: “Wow, I’m really angry right now. That’s clearly my stuff. They’re feeling worried. That’s their stuff. I need to know that they want me to succeed. My stuff. They need to know that they are going to succeed (or that I’m going to be careful). Their stuff.” And so on.

This act of conscious separation creates some space for you to acknowledge and identify with first your own pain and then theirs. Ironically, this extra little bit of distance is going to be the thing that will allow you to get a little closer to yourself and maybe even to them — instead of getting closer to your own distress.

Technique #2: How can you get better at building your own tower?
One of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever received was from one of my teachers from when I lived in Israel who said: “Instead of being against them, be for yourself.”

I thought about it and it seemed like it would be a pretty hard thing to do. It is. The good news, though, is that positive energy gets you where you want to be a lot faster than negative energy, which leads you back to brooding, moping and general stuckification.

You’re allowed to mourn when someone knocks down a piece of your tower. And then you go back to building it up again. It’s not about knocking theirs down in return. It’s about building yours up.

Technique #3: Who will you choose to spend your time around?
It hurts to say goodbye to a teacher. Or to realize that certain friends or relatives shouldn’t be the ones to first hear about your plans and ideas. It’s going to be up to you to start consciously, actively bringing support and encouragement into your life.

Start actively welcoming some encouragement into your life. Start asking for it. I know you will find the right people to give you support and rejoice in your successes. In the meantime, repeating conscious reminder phrases or affirmations can be very useful, such as, “I am ready to be surrounded by people who believe in me.” or “I am ready for support, comfort and acknowledgment in every aspect of my life.”

As always, if that’s not something you’d ever say, tweak it until it doesn’t make you roll your eyes.

Technique #4: How can you “do unto others” (right now)?
Ask yourself, what can I do to be supportive and encouraging for other people? How can I get better at mirroring the sort of loving acceptance that I want to be receiving in my own life? How can I practice getting good at this business of letting people feel good about themselves?

(Added bonus: this technique will also help you identify more with the people who are not being supportive right now AND it will help you get better at explaining to people how you want them to support you.)

Technique #5: What if there is no enemy?
Even though you’re allowed to be feeling hurt and disappointed, agree to try taking a break from automatically thinking of your detractors as “bubble bursting joy suckers”, as another friend of mine calls them. Yes, it’s funny. And yes, it feels so true sometimes. What if they weren’t, though? What if there is no enemy in this situation?

Are they really “bubble bursting joy suckers”? Could be. It’s possible. More likely, though, it’s just, you know, people with “stuff”.

We all have “stuff” (emotional and mental stuck bits of hurt) and sometimes our stuff sets off their stuff. Sometimes their stuff sets off our stuff. So instead of sticking the BBJS sticker on their foreheads, it’s going to be more helpful to shift the attention and focus to the things that do help.

Such as? Giving yourself as much love and encouragement as you can stand without forcing it on yourself. Actively seeking out mentors and teachers who do think you’re that great (you are!). Working on your own stuff instead of of raging against theirs. Letting yourself have your stuff and letting them have their stuff. Staying in the practice.

That’s what it’s all about. Techniques are great. But it all comes back to taking a deep breath and coming back to the practice.

Resources and recommendations

When dealing with people who seem to be acting like Bubble Bursting Joy Suckers, communication is key! Communication is power. Communication is also a door to empathy. The better you are at expressing your needs and recognizing their needs, the smoother everything in your life will go. Three books you should really read:

How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk” is one of the most useful communication books there is. Ignore the “Kids” part. This book is for anyone who ever was a kid.

The Last Word on the Gentle Art of Verbal Self Defense“. Suzette Elgin is a genius. Great tactics for verbally outwitting any Bubble Bursting Joy Suckers and for taking care of yourself.

Marshall Rosenberg’s book “Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life.” A fantastic formula to help you deal with conflict or any potentially uncomfortable situation, for that matter. Work to live by.

The Fluent Self