Emotional Hostage Negotiations

I’m scared. Really scared. I feel like he’s got me right where he wants me. The ropes are excruciating.  Tied so tightly, I definitely don’t feel like there’s any hope of escape. I try to reason with him, but honestly…how do you reason with yourself — your mind actually?

I’ve decided to take on three different challenges to stretch myself a bit this fall. I’m coaching cross country again this year, and as full-filling as that is, the focus and energy required are non-negotiable.  I also signed up for a 50-mile race in November. The distance is familiar, but I know enough that if I do not respect this distance and the training it requires, serious ramifications aren’t just possible, their coming. Then there’s the little thing of continuing to grow my career as an emotional resilience coach, author, and speaker.  Although I have been blessed with successful talks, workshops, and coaching opportunities, and I’m fueled with a “calling” like passion to follow it, it requires energy, courage, and commitment by the truckload. And let’s not forget, I still have my acupuncture practice, I’m a father, a husband, and still have a few friends who are willing to put up with me. With all of this going on, I feel a little bit closed in.  What do I mean by that? My old friend, Anxiety, has me pressed up against the ropes!

Now truth be told, do I believe, intellectually, that I can I handle these three things or more at once? Sure. But, since I have uncomfortable emotions like every other human being on the planet, they seem to get a vote as well, and to be honest…there’s a strong feeling of fear that I can’t ‘do it all’. Then there’s the other feeling that keeps showing up: anxiety.  Anxiety about whether or not I can do them all well. There’s also a lot of change.  If Fear, Doubt, and Anxiety were all throwing a party, Change would be the guest of honor.  Lucky Change, right? :). 

With all of this discomfort, my mind feels like it’s on fire, and reacts by telling me that we are in a life-and-death situation. In fact, it’s really just Friday, and I’ve had plenty of time to do the work I need to do.  But my mind and the thoughts it’s housing have been hijacked by fear, doubt, and anxiety.

What I need is an emotional hostage negotiator. This is the one time it can’t be my ïnternal coach; hell, not my internal anything!  Reason being? My mind has been compromised. I need somebody on the outside to have my back. Someone who will tell me the truth. A friend, colleague, or loved one who’s only stake in the whole situation is to see me feel a little bit better, and gain some perspective, so I can move forward. 

We can’t trust ourselves to have our own backs when we are held hostage by our own emotions to this degree.  And What I mean by that is: turning to our thoughts to help us in this heightened fear producing situation would be a perceived ‘conflict of interest’ by our brains. It would be like trying to trust the ice cream man the keep our diet for us. Or a bartender to only serve us club soda. Our brain’s primary function is to keep us alive. If it feels threatened (by change, in this case), it’s going to flood us with anxiety, fear, and doubt. It will then send us the message that what we’re doing is nearly impossible and we should run away, even if it’s something we really want to do. Period.

My loved one shows up on the scene. She sits with me and goes over the situations that I’m having difficulty with in a calm and unemotional (detached) manner, because her emotions are not triggered. An emotional hostage negotiator has incredible skills, but different than what you might think. There’s a lot of listening. A lot of allowing for the emotions to come out all messy and jumbled, but to come out nonetheless. Judgement is non-existent. Suggestions may be made, but usually they coax those out of you too, so the beliefs about yourself will actually stick. They are trying to talk you off your emotional ledge, so you can continue with actions that are helpful not harmful to you, and free yourself from those restricting information your uncomfortable emotions are pummeling you with.

So, what’s the catch?  Why don’t we all have these emotional hostage negotiators running around and rescuing us from the 10-story drops into the depths of our fears and doubts?  Well that’s simple…

We would need to ask for help.

What is the most powerful and courageous kind of resilience in the world? Social resilience.  That doesn’t mean just walking around parties and bleeding out emotionally by over-sharing to strangers who just happen to be in your vicinity. It means building trust with others, taking the time to give of yourself to those with whom you feel close.  Trusting them with how you are feeling, even though you may fear judgement or persecution. It requires you to be vulnerable. To open up to others without always knowing if they will be able or willing to be an emotional hostage negotiator for us. There is no braver act to gain resilience from my perspective.

I’ve been released. My fears are smaller for the moment. My mental-emotional ropes have been loosened. My anxiety is there still, but it’s lessened and no longer has the reigns.  I’m able to work and move forward. Phew! My loved one has successfully helped me find my truths and reasons for taking on such bold and new changes in my life. And this has all been done with such selflessness that I almost feel like I did it on my own. But I know better. It was my courage to ask, and her willingness to give of herself and sit with me, that allowed for the negotiations to succeed.  Hopefully I can answer the call when her emotions get the better of her. That way she doesn’t have to be on the emotional ledge alone.

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