I've been thinking a lot about hurricanes this past week, and talking with clients about them. Not like the hurricane that hit the Gulf Coast, although the kind of hurricane I'm speaking of can also have many devastating consequences. I'm speaking of the "hurricanes" of difficult people, challenging relationships, or dysfunctional family dynamics that we all must deal with on occasion.
Just like a weather forecaster, each of us can detect the stirring of the atmosphere in our lives and point to that "tropical storm" that brews nearby. Maybe the tropical storm is family gossip, a friend who always seems immersed in drama, a loved one who lacks good boundaries and oversteps into another's private life. The markers of this type of storm are intense emotions like anger, desperation, and pain, and usually involvement of more than two people. Storm activity includes offensive remarks, defensive postures, emotional reactivity, and, very often, broken relationships as a result.
Most of us wouldn't choose to walk into these types of storms, but we can find ourselves right in the middle of them if we don't stay aware and watch the signs.
Who are the "difficult people" in your life? Are you a difficult person for someone else? Around what person or event do the storms typically revolve? What do the storms in your life typically "look" like? Do you ever feed into the storm, or do you attempt to calm the waters?
The first step of dealing with the storm is to identify it, which gets easier with time and experience. The next step is to determine whether we can avoid the storm or not. Sometimes it's best to refuse to enter the path of the storm, to maintain firm boundaries in protection of our own peace of mind, our emotional safety, and our relationships. Other times we find ourselves in the direct path of the storm; and in these situations, we should prepare as best we can, keep our eyes and ears open, and be mindful of our own words and behaviors so we don't unnecessarily fuel the emotional energy.
In my next post, I'll discuss how to prepare for the storms in our lives, and how to emerge from them
wiser, emotionally stable, and hopefully with relationships intact.