“It’s Alright Ma, I’m Only Bleeding.”
That Dylan line came to mind as I wrote about a painful experience recently.
This about how to stop the bleeding.
It was our first Toastmasters meeting online. We had had a training session earlier in the week, which gave me confidence. But, as you will read, it didn’t end well. At least in my mind.
Apparently, it was much worse in my head than it may have appeared to others. I often have people at Toastmasters tell me how relaxed I appear when I am speaking. For me, it’s usually more like that picture of the duck. Calm on top of the water and paddling like hell underneath.
Here is the email I sent to my fellow Toastmasters a week ago last Wednesday afternoon. I mention some of the feedback At the end, I mention some of the feedback I received, and lessons learned.
But first the story.
Dear Fellow Toastmasters
I felt that my talk this morning was the worst I’d given in years. I thought I’d write about my experience for the therapeutic value, and in case something may be useful to you. I say that without knowing right now exactly what I’m going to say. I’m trusting the process.
When I have a bad experience I try to learn from it. In some cases, I can find that I can develop a story that can be useful in coaching. It can be useful to examine a bad experience to look for how I was responsible. So here goes.
First things first, I was not well-rehearsed. In the days prior to my speech, I was finding it difficult to be clear about what I wanted to say. Things kept changing so fast with the virus and becoming more serious. I noticed that it felt somewhat intimidating to think that I had something to say that would help you with your wellbeing. That’s called reaction. But I didn’t see it clearly for what it was. My shadow of insecurity showing up.
The thing about ‘reaction’, is that it’s often transparent. Difficult to see it when you are in it.
Of course, I’d been taking in reactive energy, along with everyone else, for the past few weeks. I think I underestimated its effect. My big mistake is too much social media. It makes me crazy. Plus every conversation is about the virus.
In my speech, I talked about the key idea of ‘focus’… of changing your focus to get out of a reactive state. It’s true enough, but…in my experience, it’s impossible to do when I’m in the ‘grips’ of reaction. Once reaction changes your body chemistry your toast. Your cortisol levels rise to put you in fight-flight-freeze mode. You can’t just stop that like the flipping of a switch.
You have to let it subside. Give it space and time. Take a break from the whole thing. Get back to balance to be able to shift your focus to a better way of being and begin to generate new action that boosts your dopamine to cause you to feel better.
After the meeting this morning, Raymonde and I went for a walk. Then had some lunch and watched a bit of TV. Here it is about 3 pm and I feel ready to write about the experience.
At this point, most of us may be close to our ‘stress threshold’. Which means it won’t take much to tip us over. I’ve noticed myself being a bit edgy. That’s a sign. Having our routines completely turned upsidedown is very disruptive to our nervous systems. It makes us fragile. But again, we may not see it.
As a result of not being able to decide what I wanted to say, I left it too late. I’d told myself that it would come clear to me just in time. After all, I’ve been doing this stuff for years.
But I was still changing my talk yesterday. I talked to Raymonde about it and she got me straight. “Just talk about ‘reaction’!”… Right. “Stick to the basics”. It’s not about training it’s about informing and encouraging. I rewrote my talk did a few run-throughs for timing yesterday afternoon. It felt pretty good. I thought I’d be ok. Kidding myself perhaps:)
Morning came early. I woke up at 4:30 am and felt anxious. Lack of rehearsal haunting me. I did a run-through about 7:30 and it didn’t feel good.
8 am came and off we went with Neil leading the way on Zoom. About 30 minutes in, my wifi connection to Zoom dropped out. My reception varies from day to day and today was a weak day. I moved around my office and reconnected and lost connection several times. Finally, I went into the house where the modem is and reconnected just in time to hear my intro by Sarah and Neil.
I plunged in with notes in hand. I was having a strong case of imposter syndrome. Here I was in a state of reaction, completely jiggled, and having lost my concentration, blathering away about wellbeing and how to manage your reaction. And the new feature… being able to watch myself on camera at the same time! Perfect.
I also realized that I had not pinned Sheila, who was our timer, and so I couldn’t see her and I Iwas wondering where I was with my time. More distraction.
I just wanted it to be over!
And then to cap it off I had my evaluation from Sarah. She seemed perplexed. I thought she was kind. She called me later to ask if I was ok. I was a long way from OK. We talked. I assured her that her evaluation was fine.
So there you have it. I feel better:) I hope it’s of some value to you too.
See you next time. “
I received a variety of responses with different themes.
You think your day was bad.
Get back on the horse my boy. ( I liked that one best.)
Wow, I had no idea. You looked so relaxed.
Amazing to hear what was going on as you were speaking.
Thanks for sharing. I can relate.
Two Ways to Rebalance
A Breath Practice: The practice is from the Institute of Heartmath. “Breathe feelings of peace and love through your heart area for a few minutes to set a calm and genuine tone.”
Notice it says breathe feelings. That means you have to access those feelings by recalling a time when you had those feelings and then bring those feelings to your heart area. You do that with an image of a pet or a baby or someone you love or a scene that elicits feelings of love. This is immediately effective and the more you do it the more beneficial for your immune system and feelings of wellbeing.
Name Your feelings. Sometimes, like in the story I shared above, we feel overwhelmed. A blur of powerful emotions. Know that It’s not what is happening now. That’s just the trigger. The source is your childhood emotional imprinting (and learned personality ego defences). You may have thought you were over it. But here it is rushing back uncontrollably. You may be so overwhelmed that you can’t think clearly. It may be way out of proportion to what just happened.
If we can be present enough to see what is happening we can use writing to clarify the cause. Once we settle down a bit. When you start you may not know what you are going to write, but if you begin with a question such as… What words name what I am feeling? Name your feeling, It may surprise you. Then you can begin to write out your story.
Usually, it’s something like this. You had a ‘feeling’ goal and a story of how things were to be. And then life happened and the story was shattered. And it was out of your control. And you got caught off guard. And you were triggered into reaction. Embarrassment, fear, anger, rage, depression. Start by naming it and you will take back your power.
The benefit is not only clarity. It is also that you feel better because you have your story out of your body and on paper in front of you. You have it now. It doesn’t have you.
More about the Heartmath practice…