When You Get SqueezedMay 10, 2022
“When you squeeze an orange, you'll always get orange juice to come out. What comes out is what's inside. The same logic applies to you: when someone squeezes you, puts pressure on you, or says something unflattering or critical, and out of you comes anger, hatred, bitterness, tension, depression, or anxiety, that is what's inside. If love and joy are what you want to give and receive, change your life by changing what's inside.”
― Wayne W. Dyer
Have you ever been standing in a store and seen an irate customer blow up at a manager? Have you watched an otherwise even-tempered person blow up at the slightest provocation? I have not only seen it, but I have also been that person. I am not proud to admit that it has happened many times throughout my life. It wasn’t until I found physician coaching that I realized that there is another way.
Did you ever shop in a catalog showroom? I grew up with Service Merchandise, but other examples were Best and K's Merchandise Mart. For those who are too young to remember, allow me to explain. These stores would send out enormous catalogs filled with available products. You could peruse the catalog at home or at the store. The items were individually displayed within the store, but you couldn't simply pick one out and purchase it. Instead, you needed to provide the item number to an employee. After placing your order, you would await the arrival of your item down a conveyor belt. An employee would then call out for you to pick up your item. It was the closest thing to Amazon in the pre-internet era. (As you might imagine, Amazon eventually led to the downfall of this type of store around the turn of the millennium.) I loved going through the Service Merchandise catalog, and I loved going to the store and watching my new purchase arrive via conveyor belt.
One trip to Service Merchandise sticks out in particular. That day, the delivery of items down the conveyor belt took longer than usual. There was a horde of people waiting for their items to be delivered. As the time ticked by, my dad got angrier and angrier. I watched him rant and rave while yelling at the workers about how long the whole process was taking. I was incredibly embarrassed by the entire scene. A few days later, I was talking to a new friend at school when he said, “Hey! Weren’t you at Service Merchandise last weekend? Wasn’t your dad yelling at everyone?” I was mortified.
Memories are fascinating. Some are sitting right there at the surface, always available for recall. Other memories are buried much deeper. This memory was buried, and it wasn’t until I started contemplating this topic that it reemerged from the deep recesses of my brain. As this memory surfaced, I winced. It was a combination of the embarrassment I felt as a kid coupled with the shame of knowing that I have behaved in similar ways in my adult life.
When I first heard the Wayne Dyer quote above, it was one of those mic drop moments. Before finding physician coaching, I had always been at the effect of my life. In other words, I responded the way I did because people made me react in that way. As I let that quote sink in, I had to acknowledge that when I was squeezed, anger came out because that was what was inside. Hearing that quote took me out of victim mode and put me in the driver’s seat. Unfortunately, I was in the driver's seat of a car that I didn't want to be driving.
Enter physician coaching. One of the essential skills I needed to learn was processing emotions. When you process an emotion, you allow yourself to feel a feeling all the way through and take responsibility for it. This was not something I was used to doing. I had previously tried to avoid the uncomfortable feeling or pretend that it wasn’t there. Buffering, like overeating, drinking alcohol, or doomscrolling on Facebook, is a way that we avoid feeling our feelings. Other times, I resisted or reacted to the feeling. When we resist or react to a feeling, we tend to yell, blame, argue at the injustice, or embellish the situation. And, if you haven’t figured it out yet, when we react to a negative emotion, as in the example above, we typically get a negative, uncontrolled and unthoughtful result. Many of us try not to process our feelings because it doesn’t always feel very good. OK. I’m lying. It never feels good. If it felt good, we would just allow the feeling to be there. This is the reason why we avoid, resist and react.
How do we process emotions? There are a couple of steps:
- Awareness. First, you need to be aware that you are feeling an emotion. This begins by creating space between the feeling and the reaction. You have to know what you are feeling in order to process it.
- Move towards the emotion and let it exist. At this step, you acknowledge the feeling. For example, “I’m furious right now. I didn’t leave enough time to go grocery shopping and get home on time. Why are these people driving so slowly?” Allow yourself to feel the anger. Just let it sit there. Where do you feel it? How would you describe it? Be curious and do not allow judgment to interfere. As you allow yourself to feel uncomfortable, you will notice that the feeling starts to go away. Maybe it comes right back, or perhaps it stays away. As you practice, this becomes easier and more automatic.
I remember learning about processing emotions during one of my first coaching experiences. It felt like learning a new language, and it also sounded like a terrible idea. Why would anyone choose to feel an undesirable emotion when they can just eat Doritos? The answer is simple: Everything you want is on the other side of that uncomfortable feeling. Courage, vulnerability, empathy, stronger relationships, and the ability to achieve your goals and dreams require you to feel undesirable feelings.
Once you have allowed yourself an opportunity to process the pain, it is helpful to examine what caused the feeling. What are you thinking about? Is there something that was causing you pain or frustration? Again, remember to stay in curiosity. Do not judge yourself for what you are feeling. Ask yourself:
- Could this feeling be helpful?
- How can I use this?
- How is this perfect?
- How can I accept this?
Then, own it. Own your feelings because they are yours, and you are entitled to feel whatever you want. Then, allow yourself to let it go.
I have said it before, but it bears repeating: I am a work in progress. I have not perfected these techniques, but I am getting better at them. I feel the squeeze daily. Sometimes I can recognize and process my emotions in the moment. Other times, I resort to my old ways of avoiding, reacting, or resisting the feelings. But the more I practice the skill of processing my emotions, the easier it becomes to be the person I want to be. And once you become the master of your emotions, you get to be in control of the feelings you want to feel and how you respond. You get to open the catalog of feelings, place your order and deliver it to yourself on a conveyor belt. Maybe some days it will take longer than you would prefer, but once you master this process, that won't seem to matter as much.
How could learning to process your emotions transform your life? Are there feelings that you avoid because they feel too uncomfortable? Do you buffer with food, alcohol, or social media? Maybe it is time to see if physician coaching might be a solution for you.
Are you interested in creating more balance in your life? I want to invite you to check out my FREE TRAINING. Click here to get: How Busy Physicians Can Stop Trying To Escape Medicine And Start Living Their Best Life Today.
This training will teach you the five essential techniques physicians need to stop feeling stuck, burned out, and trapped in medicine. You will also learn how to stop racing toward retirement and start using tools that empower you to practice medicine your way.
PS. I get a lot of inspiration from music lyrics. Many people use inspiring quotes (and I do, too), but music really speaks to me. I hope you find inspiration in the songs too.
Michael Jackson - Man In The Mirror
If you want to read the lyrics, click here.
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