My phobias: Pooping in public bathrooms, spiders, drowning, tornados and confrontation.
Spiders, because of obvious reasons. Drowning thanks to my brother and his tendency to hold my head under water whenever we were in a pool together. Tornados? I think that comes from the Wizard of Oz, because I've never actually been in a tornado. They terrify me, though.
The pooping? A delightful tale of two older girls bullying a first grader in the school bathroom when there were no adults or other students present. Having two girls stand on the toilets on either side of your stall and mock you while you perform a perfectly normal human function apparently puts a mental lock on the sphincter. For years.
Confrontation. That might surprise some people. In my comfort zone, not much of an issue. Competition is part of my nature. On the basketball court, any kind of game or contest, no problem. I'll go toe to toe with you. With strangers, often not a problem. With people I really care about or spend a great deal of time with, though, I've spent years choking on my fear whenever I've had to deal with others in a confrontational way. I've gotten amazingly creative at hiding how absolutely horrifying it is for me to deliver bad news or confront someone's behavior.
This is not in any way a poke at my parents, because like most parents, they had the tools they had and they did the best they could with them. I can't fault them because I tend to use the same parenting toolbox. The downside of this is that I had to learn as an adult how to find the language to explain my boundaries. "You have to stop doing that because I said so" is really not the most useful way to confront a problem.
Developing a lexicon to communicate about uncomfortable things is hard work, but I find it is also important work. SG and I are a normal couple, which means we fight, we have bad days, we get cranky with one another. Sometimes things get blown out of proportion. Like everyone else, we either have to find ways to wind back down or we jeopardize the survival of our relationship. In the same vein, learning this lexicon helps me to communicate better with my children and my family, my friends, people I work with.
Sometimes you have to find a way to express feelings, and I'm just as uncomfortable with that as anyone. What I used to be really bad at was identifying the real what behind my emotions and learning to deal with the what instead of transferring or projecting. I also have to remember in a conflict that the other person may also be engaging in transference or projection. I might not know why, and instead of throwing gasoline on the fire by being angry, pointing fingers or placing blame, it may be more productive and compassionate to ask some questions, to seek understanding. That doesn't mean I have to accept or condone certain behaviors, but I find it serves the relationship I have with another person for me to spend some time working on untangling that knot.
There are other times where you have to transcend feelings and cope with things on a more practical level, times when you need to let yourself and the other people involved be responsible for taking care of their own feelings and attending to the current issue with maturity and poise. Its easy to say, harder in practice. My children, who are not yet practiced in managing their emotional responses, are a perfect example of how feelings get in the way of progress. The moment things go in a way they did not anticipate or expect, their emotions rise and so does their volume. This of course is counterproductive toward achieving whatever end they had in mind, but they already lost sight of that the minute those emotions took hold. They haven't yet developed the ability to delay reacting to an emotion in order to give themselves time to understand what is happening and how they might best react.
I meet plenty of adults who have the same problem, which I would guess is a result of never having had the honor of being around someone who was able to provide a better model of behavior, or perhaps they have not yet reached the point of being comfortable enough with self-examination to identify how and why this might be a problem.
What is interesting is the more I am able to witness other people modeling good confrontation skills the more I am able to find ways to practice those skills and have more positive outcomes. As a result, though I still have old habits that it would serve me well to discard, I'm no longer afraid of confrontation. I find I look forward to the opportunity to solve problems and seek resolution because I'm better at both listening and expressing myself. No wonder -- just as it is often not much fun to have to do things you're not very good at, the opposite is true as well.
We all have different paths to walk; my path led me to the writings of David Richo, Wayne Dyer and other wise folks whose writings and lectures engaged my interest and had me wanting to learn more. I've been privileged as well to encounter some very mature people who possess terrific conflict management skills. Those individuals have provided me with many opportunities to learn in real-time by observing their ability to navigate situations that might have gone terribly wrong otherwise. I've learned from my husband, who when he isn't being silly or stubborn or just a pain in my ass is remarkably compassionate and dedicated to trying to understand me and to nurturing the positive in our relationship.
If I could only apply the same principles to spiders and tornadoes.
Not bloody likely.