The last time this happened, it hit me hugely and created a lot of doubt, over thinking and self-examination. There was an identity crisis. There was also a fair bit of outrage and how very dare they — and quite a bit of confusion ‘how could this have even happened?’ I had a little breakdown and was diagnosed as depressed. I remember I couldn’t get up off the floor some days. Literally.
This time when it happened — by midday I was fine (after a little weep) and after one day, the incident was reflected on, appropriate actions taken and most of all it was in the past and no longer affecting my present experience of life.
What were the incidents? And why was it different this time?
Although the details of both incidents are fairly irrelevant, basically both incidents involved some really unhappy clients. Not just a bit meh, but clients who were not expecting what they got and really didn’t like it. And they complained and they complained in harsh and vociferous terms.
As a professional educator and coach for over 25 years — this really is unusual as I aim to understand and serve my clients and always do my best — but it does happen occasionally. I’d say maybe three times of this memorable intensity and a handful of other times.
The last time it happened big time — 13 years ago, I felt so disturbed about it, it led me to question every aspect of my life and work. I took it personally. I searched for reasons, I angst-ed, I blamed myself, them, the set-up, the venue and the demanding nature of my work and life. I just could not understand it as I had given everything I had to this group and more — I had tried so hard. I had dug deep to create connection and bring about the transformation that they had paid and asked for.
It shook my world. I got sick with flu, I was told to take anti-depressants and my husband sometimes had to step over me to do the washing up. One day in amongst it all I had the thought; ‘We need to do our lives differently.’ And then pretty soon came the thought; “Lets move to Spain’ and with it the slightest, lightest feeling of hope — and so we followed that inclination and the rest is history.
It took a while for me to make sense of that incident and to understand it. In the end I left it in the past with the reflection that trying hard and harder is not what is needed to support people — letting go of how I think it should look might be better at times. This turns out to be a very useful lesson for me in both my life and my work.
Fast forward to last week, I ran a one day training that I have run for years to great acclaim and lots of happy customers. But this time some people really didn’t like it or me. And it was really personal. They hadn’t mentioned anything to me at the time, preferring instead to write to my colleague who had commissioned it. It was out of the blue — and a bit weird as I knew at least half the group had gotten the value I would normally expect.
It was shocking, upsetting and destabilising…. so for an hour or so (then in the background for maybe a day) I searched for reasons, I angst-ed, I blamed myself, them, the set-up, the venue and the demanding nature of my work. I just could not understand it as it seemed to me I had given everything I had to give to this group.
And then it hit me. It wasn’t personal. All people including me are all doing what makes sense to them — given their own thoughts. These unhappy clients and me just had some different thoughts (expectations) about what the day should be. And somehow on this occasion I had missed that.
This time there was no need for soul-searching or moving countries — as this time I now had a simple understanding of how life works — for everyone all the time.
People live in the experience of their own thinking and feelings in the moment (inside) not the world out there (outside). And who we are at core is not our temporary thought-feeling experience — it is something calmer and wiser that is untouchable by external feedback (inside). We work from the inside-out.
Now, does that mean that there wasn’t something for me to learn from both experiences? Definitely — we are always on a learning curve. But do I have to work hard to learn it or feel bad or spend hours in rumination? Not really. The act of rumination will lead to suffering, suffering to low moods and feeling bad, low moods to distorted negative thinking — which leads to more rumination — none of which is very peaceful and for me can lead to depressed thinking.
On the other hand, quiet reflection from a calm place of inner ok-ness however, will usually bring about clarity and insight — which popped into my mind pretty quickly this time as I was able to see that in addition to a mismatch of expectations, my own presence on this occasion was probably diminished down to grieving a recent personal loss. I could see clearly what had happened and why from all perspectives and offered some practical suggestions for the future. No drama. No guilt. No blame. No attachment.
I would even go so far as to say I have found the experience enlightening and enriching.
For the last 8 years I have been working with some fundamental human principles for how life works that help us all have less stress and more wellbeing and resilience in the face of life’s inevitable ebbs and flows. They seem to be working.
Author’s note: When I originally wrote this blog I posted it on my Facebook page and received lots of loving support from people who know me and have experienced my work in the past which really touched me. But this got me thinking about whether or not to send this blog out on my newsletter — as it might give the impression that I was not ok in some way with what happened recently.
The incredible thing and reason why I wrote the blog — is that it astounded me just how Ok I was this time in the face of difficult feedback — and difficult life circumstances — a double whammy. I have always tried so hard to get it right that any negative feedback always felt personal. This time it still felt personal — I am human — but for a lot less time and those feelings ebbed away really quickly. I can only put that down to a deeper understanding of the nature of how the power of Thought works in us all and by seeing it’s nature as temporary it really had less of a hold on me.
I am left grateful for the experience, grateful for the support, grateful for this understanding about human nature. All in all — just grateful.
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