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Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Toxic Social Environments: Solutions Beyond Fight, Flight or Freeze

Ever since I have been coaching people towards their own life fulfillment I was also very careful with surrounding myself with supportive and well meaning, successful people. I like to socialize and work with people who believe in the possibilities and blessings of Win-Wins. You could also call it “live and let live”. Once in a while I find myself in a tricky social circumstance where old patterns like fight, flight or freeze want to come forth. Unwilling to give in to any of these options that do not serve me or my goals, I worked through it and found one that does: FEEL!

Isn´t amazing, how on a perfectly alright day a little incidence can change everything and the day is interrupted in a most unpleasant way? In my case it was a flood of e-mails from fellow volunteer people who were spreading around their criticism as oposed to acknowledgements and respect for each other. It really got wild for me once I was the target. All of a sudden old fears resurfaced and weighed heavily on me. So I went through all the above mentioned stages: First I froze and just ignored it. Then I was ready to resign and flee. Then I was ready to “tell them”. Once that was over, I realized that I did not want to be in re-action anymore. I want to be in charge of my life and consciously decide what to do. From that powerful state I can creat my future and realize my visions.

But how do I get from being in the claws of my past to creating my own future? It seemed almost impossible, so strong was the pull backwards into these bad emotions. With all my might did I try to avoid these emotions. Then I decided to walk through them instead of pulling away from them. FEEL. I took a moment to sit with every feeling that came up and to the story that came with it. Then I respectfully thanked them for sharing and came back to 2010 me and who I truly wanted to be. I consciously chose to be in charge, responsible, grounded. Some deep breaths helped to reclaim my own power and to focus on what it is I want to create and how I want to be. I know I don´t want to get back at people, I know I don´t want to be a pushover either. I want to stand up for myself and make that clear in a respectful and loving way. It felt so much better to just stay where I was, without avoiding (flight) or attacking (fight) or letting myself down (freeze). Focussing on my own strength and my goals and most of all, my own VALUES turned out to be extremely helpful.

I also found that with that behavior, all my fears did vanish and everything turned out just fine. At the end I felt grateful for the learning experience and hope that I don´t have to revisit that cross roads anytime soon again. My bigger wish however is, to remember next time and the time after that and again and again, to choose to feel and stand in my own power. I know the first time is the hardest and each time it gets easier and comes more naturally, until one day it is my default mode. Now THAT´s how habits are formed. Oh, and one other thing about toxic environments: Stay away from them as much as possible. A toxic environment in social terms is people who are overly critical, complain a lot, are envious or mean. In one word, not worth hanging out with. If you have no choice (although we have more choice than we often admit) stay strong in your own power and values in order not to be pulled down by these kinds of people. Sometime you can actually improve their situation by just being in a good mental space yourself. But don´t expect it. Good luck!

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