Turkey with a Side of Tension

This political election has divided many friends and family members. Just to get a break from the heated rhetoric, people have had to unfriend their own parents or siblings on social media. Friendships have been severed and tension is present in the workplace.  No time in recent history has a more divided ideology been present in our culture. We simply do not agree with the “other side” and cannot wrap our thoughts around how the opposing viewpoint can come to the conclusions that they have recently. Now, welcome to the holidays where we are expected to come out from behind our computer or phone screens and interact with people that we previously withdrew from out in cyberspace. Face to face, in the same physical space for hours or even days at a time. Heaven help us! I know many of you are nervous about it and with good reason, honestly.

If you find yourself dreading getting together with your family members who see life very differently than you do, let’s talk about some of your options and a few coping skills that might help.

#1: Just Don’t Go

You do have the right to say that given the tension that is already present because of this election, you are simply going to sit this holiday out. Your relatives might not like that decision but as an adult who has complete domain over themselves, you get to choose where and when you engage with people. This is especially true if these family members have been abusive or very ugly to you about your beliefs. There are consequences for being unkind to people and maybe you choosing to not join them is the feedback they need to hear.

#2 Set Boundaries Ahead of Time

If you decide that going is the best option for you, then maybe consider a family group text or email letting everyone know that you are looking forward to seeing them and under no circumstances do you plan to stay if anyone brings up the election. Weren’t we supposed to stay away from discussions of politics and religion anyways with people? This year has taken that etiquette suggestion and put it on steroids.

#3 Simple Answers

You have decided to go to the festivities, sent your group warning to talk about anything but the election (and religion), and someone decides to ignore your boundaries. What do you do? You could immediately put your fork down, stand up, and walk out but that’s a bit dramatic for most people. Let’s at least try to defuse and redirect before you grab your coat and head home. Simple replies such as the following might be helpful:

“My text (or email) was very clear. I am not talking about this. Thanks.”

“There are many opinions on this topic.”

“We will have to wait and see what happens.” 

“Did you know the Cowboys are 9-1?” (that might only work in Texas but you could reply with a very random fact that shows you are not going to take the bait to get into a political argument.)

The absolute worst thing would be to start talking about the popular vote or protests or God’s specific opinion about America’s election.  Back away, back away, back away.

#4 Don’t Drink Too Much and Don’t Stay Too Long

Get in, get out, and don’t get drunk. That’s actually really good advice for many of life’s situation but especially around the holidays in the middle of the social climate we have now. If you find yourself wondering how this holiday will go, then don’t stay too long and wear out your welcome. Quality and not quantity will be your friend. Maybe by Christmas tempers will have cooled and you can plan for a longer visit. Right now for Thanksgiving, let’s not add any new wounds. It might feel odd being a bit more formal and emotionally distant with your family, but I assure you it is a much better option than allowing emotions to spill over and letting it get out of hand.

I wish you well as we head into this holiday week and don’t forget self-care if your plans include extended periods of time with family who might want to drag you into discussions you do not want to have. My hope is that most people are more obnoxious while hiding behind their social media accounts and will soften as everyone sits down around the table to give thanks. If that doesn’t happen, know that you have the power and right to leave any environment that is not safe for you.

Happy almost Thanksgiving. I am thankful for each of you!

Shannon

 

Things to Remember When on Empty

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…” – Charles Dickens

Almost three weeks ago I published my first sole-authored book. The lead up to launch day reminds me of this famous quote by Mr. Dickens. It truly has been the best and worst of times. Through each season of life we get to glean a little more wisdom and, sometimes, a little thicker skin. Now that I am a couple weeks out of the post-launch vortex, it seemed like a good time to encapsulate some of what I have noticed while running this intense sprint to complete the book and get it into the hands of readers.

As an entrepreneur, there are times when not only the candle is burning at both ends, but in the middle and just about melted down to a puddle of wax. That basically sums up my energy levels during the book project. It was a slow slide into chronically living on fumes. Many of us can recall times when we would have to muster up enough energy to get through the must needed tasks of adult living, and the fluffy extras just dropped off the cliff into the abyss of not going to happen.

When we are in seasons like this, it is a great time to watch ourselves and the attitude of those around us. For our own self-reflection, we need to be aware that our reactions may be more exaggerated because we are crazy tired. Little life annoyances that would have left us shaking our heads before, may now be dealt in ways that are unusual for us. Example? While driving on a busy street that resembles a slow freeway, I was first off the blocks at a light and apparently I did not gun by car’s engine quite fast enough for the lady behind me so she kept incessantly honking at me. When I jerked my head up to look in the rear-view mirror, I saw that she was wildly waving her arms in the manner as if to shoo me forward and then, she gave me the middle finger salute. Oh no she did not! Oh yes she did!! I would like to say I just shook my head in calm, I-have-my-emotions-under-control disbelief and drove my car normal from that point but, I did not. Remember, I have been living life on empty and right at that moment, rude-lady-driver was the tipping point of my patience. So I very passive-aggressively slowed waaaaaay down and continued to check my rear-view mirror to watch this lady alternate between waving me on, to flipping me off again, to then jerking her mini-van into the lane next to me and zoom past. Did I just keep my eyes on the road and my hands at 10 and 2? No, I did not. I jumped into the cesspool with her and we exchanged “friendly” gestures.

Did our road rage stop there? Nope. It continued light after light after light. After a while I started to worry that perhaps she was headed to the same school pick up that I was and good grief, was this rude-lady-driver a fellow school parent?! Oh, please say it isn’t so. Reality set in of just how ridiculous I had behaved in response to this extremely annoying person. Luckily she kept going when I turned left to head to the school and I really felt stupid by my exhaustion induced actions.

Now, being in a busy season does have some benefits. Maybe not the most patient while driving but living on empty can bring into crystal clear clarity who we want to spend time with and who is a soul drain. When we find ourselves very thin on time and attention, we see which individuals are there to walk along side of us and who is there for their own benefit.

When we have nothing to give, the takers seem to vanish and that’s a good thing.

Often times when we are well-rested we have the energy to make excuses for people’s poor behaviors or attitude towards us. We may fill in the gaps where they failed to do what they were supposed to do and our actions cover up the truth about them. When we have normal energy, we will do the heavy lifting to maybe keep a broken relationship limping along. This can occur among family, friends, or in the workplace. During normal energy times, we may take on more weight than the other person. Now, enter into a season of spinning deadlines or high stress and no way are we expelling time or resources to make a bad situation slightly better. Sweep the issues under the rug? Nope. Have the desire to bounce back again and make something keep going that needs to end? Nope. Going to spend time with people who have shown their true colors? Nope. Nope. Nope.

Your true friends and your true foes become a lot more clear during and after a season of living on empty.

When you have sorted through who is there for you, these people become like little breaths of air in a stuffy room. They shine like gems of many beautiful colors. They are your people and your appreciation of them runs at an even deeper level. Relationally cleaning house is a good thing and a time of being on empty will help facilitate healing changes.

If you find yourself in a tough, busy season, I hope that you will give yourself the gift of acceptance for where you are right now. Make a plan for when your busyness will end so it doesn’t feel like a never ending dark tunnel.  If you are working on a project (like I was with the book), I hope it is a huge success for you. Trust me when I say that you will learn about yourself, but mostly about how other people relate to you going after your dreams.

Keep dreaming big!
Shannon

Radio Show Guest with Alise Cortez from Working on Purpose

Working On Purpose

I had a wonderful time visiting with Alise Cortez on her radio show:

 Working on Purpose.

To listen to the show: Click HERE

A Quest to Improve the Lives of People Who Have Experienced Psychological or Spiritual Abuse

Episode Description:

“Let’s face it – relationships of all types can really be difficult. That’s especially true when we find ourselves living, associating or working with individuals who use psychological or spiritual abuse as a method of harm. A surprising number of people exhibit various personality disorder characteristics that manifest themselves in behaviors toward those closest to them. Our guest in this episode has a unique window on this world in her counseling practice focusing on recovery from hidden abuse. In this episode, we discuss Shannon Thomas’s choice to enter the field, how she developed her career into her own business today, the six stages she uses to guide her clients toward recovery, her perspective of how and why psychological and spiritual abuse occurs today, and the signs we might use to recognize that we ourselves are in a toxic relationship and then what we can do about it.” – Alise Cortez

Sometimes…

As I looked at this picture on my friend’s phone, I had the thought of “sometimes we need to put on a pink tutu and run through bubbles.”

It got me thinking about some of the other “sometimes” moments that happen.

Sometimes we need more sleep.

Sometimes we need to sit on the couch and watch a marathon of Marvels on Netflix (a Boy Mom thing to do for sure).

Sometimes we need to have a bag of popcorn and glass of wine for dinner.

Sometimes we need to take time away from work.

Sometimes we need to jump in the warm ocean waves.

Sometimes we need to share our opinion on a topic.

Sometimes we need to not take another person’s irritation personally.

Sometimes we need to stop waiting for someone to get emotionally healthy.

Sometimes we need to say “Go away.”

Sometimes we need to not feel guilty for saying “Go away.”

Sometimes we need to trust our gut.

Sometimes we need to welcome new people into our lives.

Sometimes we need to know that everyone has a story.

Sometimes we need to remind ourselves of how far we have come in our personal growth.

Sometimes we need to not care what other people are doing in life.

Sometimes we need to laugh loudly with our friends.

Sometimes we need a couple of friends who love us unconditionally.

Sometimes we need to not be a part of a person’s life just because they invited us in.

Sometimes we need to say “No.”

Sometimes we need to say “Yes.”

Sometimes we need to act silly and not care about our age.

Sometimes we need to take someone’s name and contact information out of our phone.

Sometimes we need to take a nap.

Sometimes we need to push ourselves out of our comfort zone.

Sometimes we need to tell our story.

Sometimes we need to not sit on the sidelines.

Sometimes we need to stop making an excuse for being mistreated.

Sometimes we need to buy ourselves a bouquet of flowers.

Sometimes we need to buy a plane ticket.

Sometimes we need a new stamp in our passport.

Sometimes we need to know other people love us.

Sometimes we need to face our fears.

Sometimes we need to listen to other people’s viewpoints.

Sometimes we need to fight for a relationship that is important to us.

Sometimes we need to know when to let go.

Sometimes we need to buy a Groupon to something we would never think of trying.

Sometimes we need to realize we are doing better than we think we are.

What are your “sometimes” thoughts?

Keep dreaming big!

Shannon

Stay In Your Lane

boundaries

It’s frightening when someone crosses the yellow line and drifts into your lane; coming at you head-on. This can apply to driving a car or emotionally. Emotionally? Yes. There are people who don’t know how to stay in their own lane of life and they cross relational boundaries. In my company (private practice counseling), I typically write about the experiences of being in contact with clinically toxic people but for today’s discussion, this sort of behavior can definitely take place from folks who are not personality disordered but just good old fashioned, rude.

We all should be aware of our actions and perhaps we have been guilty of swerving into someone else’s life lane when they never really ever asked us to. Definitely use this post as self-reflective but I really intend it as a resource to help us deal with those folks who feel the need to come at us in a way that is annoying, if not emotionally dangerous.

I have found myself murmuring in my own head thoughts like “My goodness, stay in your lane!” or something similar. I assume that if I am frustrated by encounters with these lane changing people, that surely someone else out there has experienced similar life intrusions. I have lately noticed two types of relational bad drivers and wanted to share them with you in the hope that if you encounter these sort of individuals, that you might not feel guilty getting off the same road as them.

The first scary driver is what I will call the Overstepping Their Role individual. This person might be a family member, friend, colleague, acquaintance or really any level of regular contact with them. Your first awareness that they have crossed the line with you is when you find yourself really irritated and can’t quite put your finger on exactly why. Perhaps you found yourself irritated and immediately knew why. If you encountered an Overstepper, they will have come at you as an expert of your life in some aspect. They may have tried to position themselves in a role of dominance to you or wanted to speak into your life in a way that you never previously opened the door to them. Let me pause here and say that we all need authenticity in our relationships and that includes hearing things that might be hard to hear. However! Those little nuggets of life truths must come from the people that we (and let me repeat WE) have welcomed into our lives in the role of adviser, mentor, leader, confidant or whatever we choose to call them.

The Overstepper does not have the right to position herself or himself in a role that we have not granted them. I highly encourage you to take swift action the very first time that the Overstepper shows their true colors. Sure, you can choose to clear up the fallout of the very first unwanted lane change. This will have you continuing to drive on the same road with them until the next time the Overstepper decides to go for Round 2 of undermining you. For me, I like the saying that says when someone shows you their true colors, believe them. I am long suffering with people who may have had a bad day or are just not themselves for a season but the Overstepper typically has been watching and waiting for just the right opportunity to position themselves in some headship role over you. No. Thank. You. Stay in your lane Overstepper!

The second type of relational bad driver, who likes to target your lane, is the Direct Hit person. Some of the characteristics of this individual include:

  1. Being the ultimate example of  a “Frenemy” or “Famemy” (you know the oxymoron of friend/family and enemy because they behave like both, depending on how it suits their moods).
  2. Uses triangulation to exclude you from activities with other family members or friends. They get satisfaction from stealing relationships away from you and probably never even noticed someone until you did. Then the gloves come off and they purposefully set out to rob you of your connection with that other person.
  3. Gloats and gets pleasure from your failings. This is enjoyed by the Direct Hit person because they cannot be truly happy for other people’s successes. They dart over into your life lane with the purpose of knocking out your good things in order to feel better about themselves. They are the equivalent of the school bully but in an adult body.
  4. They purposefully create situations to make you look bad and then laugh at you in front of others. They have no problem publicly mocking you so others will not like you as much. The Direct Hit person believes this makes them more popular.
  5. They swing between being nice and a good companion, to hitting you head-on in an attempt to inflict some dings and scratches on your car. Stay in your lane, Direct Hit person!

Some of the behaviors of the Direct Hit person definitely can sound like a personality disordered individual and they just well might be. For the purposes of today, let’s just go with the idea that the Direct Hit person is to be avoided; regardless of any other underlying bigger issues.

Have you been cruising down your own life road and had one or both of these types of people try to cause damage to you? You are not alone. The next time you see the oncoming hit approaching, I highly suggest you flip on your blinker and make a right turn completely onto a new street. As you get away from them, roll down your windows, turn up the radio and sing along to a good song. Life is way to fun to waste time on the Overstepper or the Direct Hit person. Far too many other drivers know exactly how to stay in their lanes. Why continue on an unsafe road with people who don’t have the good sense to know their place in your life? Not a very wise idea for sure.

Happy driving and Keep Dreaming Big!

– Shannon