So you’re pissed as hell at your X, who is a narcissistic jerk. He’s using the kids as pawns to hurt you. How do you deal with the situation without hurting the kids or yourself worse? Because you’re hurt, you’re likely to react, even though you know that won’t help. What else can you do?
In IDL you learn to listen to your inner compass and trust it. Why should you do that? Well, if you listen to your feelings you’ll react. Your thinking got you into this mess in the first place, along with misguided feelings. Your friends want to help, but most of them lack objectivity. Therapists may be objective, but they don’t know you like your inner compass knows you. Besides, you’ve probably tried all those already, and you’re still stuck. Why not try something that is not only different, but that works?
In the following interview instead of just steaming, trying to ignore her anger, or lashing out, Ella does something different and highly unusual. She listens to her anger at her X. It’s there for a reason. It’s not going away. What is it trying to tell her? As you read, consider that the anger you have in your life is there for a reason. This can work for you too.
What fundamental life issue are you dealing with now in your life?
I can’t talk to my kids for three weeks. They are with their dad in Mallorca and he won’t let them talk to me. I am furious!
Which issue brings up the strongest feelings for you?
Now watch that color swirl, congeal, and condense into a shape. Don’t make it take a shape, just watch it and say the first thing that you see or that comes to your mind: An animal? Object? Plant? What?
It’s a big, brown stone. Inflexible. Immovable. In front of my nose. I can’t look over it or around it. It’s in my way, like a traffic jam!
Now remember how as a child you liked to pretend you were a teacher or a doctor? It’s easy and fun for you to imagine that you are the shape that took form from your color and answer some questions I ask, saying the first thing that comes to your mind. If you wait too long to answer, that’s not the character answering – that’s YOU trying to figure out the right thing to say!
Stone, would you please tell me about yourself and what you are doing?
I’m not granite, but igneous – thrown out by a volcanic eruption!
What do you like most about yourself? What are your strengths?
I was made out of emotions. I loved flying out of that volcano! Now I’m here. It’s wonderful not to move. I’m sitting here doing nothing! It’s really funny that someone else is angry because I’m doing nothing! Just lying here! I must be really powerful – I’m doing nothing but someone else is really angry! It’s funny but it’s not OK. I don’t really like people to be unhappy because they suffer.
What do you dislike most about yourself? Do you have weaknesses? What are they?
I liked being in the hot volcano and flying through the air but now, lying here, doing nothing, I feel that these people suffer in front of me. I don’t like that.
Do you choose to make them suffer, stone?
No! They choose to sit in front of me. I am lying on this piece of beach. Maybe I’ll be here for three million years. That’s annoying. I can’t move.
What aspect of Ella do you represent or most closely personify?
Her desire to have everybody around her be happy.
Stone, if you could be anywhere you wanted to be and take any form you desired, would you change? If so, how?
I want to fly! I’ll be an angel! I don’t want to stay here for three million years!
Try that…see how it is…
It’s really great. But I don’t have boundaries…
So go back to being an angel… Angel, what do you think about that stone?
We’re all here with our tasks on this world. It’s good that Ella sees this stone! She has somebody to talk to! Being angry is not the solution. Some problems can’t be solved in five minutes. She can’t wait until Arnold changes. Why should he change? Ella should focus on her life. The rest is beyond control.
Stone, what do you think about what the angel said?
As the stone, I don’t care! I can understand her anger; I would be angry as well. Within myself I’m neutral.
How does that feel to be neutral, stone?
Completely relaxed. Emotions are not issues for stones! I don’t suffer.
(Continue, answering as the transformed object, if it chose to change.)
Angel, how would you score yourself 0-10, in each of the following six qualities: confidence, compassion, wisdom, acceptance, inner peace, and witnessing? Why?
Confidence: 9 I don’t have any fear. I don’t have any emotions!
Compassion: 9.5 I care that Ella suffers.
Wisdom: 8 I came out of the volcano from the inner earth, with a lot of energy and still warm, with great joy flying through the air! I’m really happy that I didn’t land in the water. I’m on a beach, which is nice. I watch turtles having their babies. I can see the full moon in the night…
Inner Peace: 10 Very relaxing. I can’t believe that it’s so nice to be ME! People have funny ideas about stones. It’s OK the way it is. I’m a stone!
Witnessing: 8 For a stone I care too much! As a stone, you don’t have to care. I still do.
Stone, if you scored tens in all six of these qualities, would you be different? If so, how?
I would be different. I don’t want to be perfect! But it wouldn’t be so different.
How would Ella’s life be different if she naturally scored like you do in all six of these qualities all the time?
She would be much more relaxed! Being angry is being angry. When she’s angry herself, she can look at it. But when others are angry, it’s not her problem.
If you could live Ella’s life for her, how would you live it differently?
I would ask myself if it’s a clever idea just to put an ocean between herself and Arnold. Maybe have wings? Maybe have feet!
What would I do? I like the beach I am lying on. I would definitely stand up, change places. But I don’t have to move just because Ella thinks I’m in her way.
If you could live Ella’s waking life for her today, would you handle Ella’s three life issues differently? If so, how?
I wouldn’t keep sitting there, in front of her life obstacles, angry. I understand that one needs to look, listen, and understand before one just gets up and flies away. She can’t just put an ocean between herself and Arnold. I wouldn’t stay angry. It’s an annoying emotion that doesn’t help you to have a nice day. Instead I would do what I normally do – I’m just here! Lying on the beach, thinking that my life is very OK. Others won’t leave me alone. But I should be less of a caring stone.
Does that mean you’re a selfish, bad stone?
I don’t have those emotions any more. So people with strong emotions get attracted to me! But when I give up being caring about that, I no longer attract them!
What life issues would you focus on if you were in charge of Ella’s life?
I would have her focus mostly on herself! It’s her life. She has to focus on her life! She’ll see the results.
In what life situations would it be most beneficial for Ella to imagine that she is you and act as you would?
Her biggest fear is that she will become like Arnold. But I’m not like him! He doesn’t score like me! But she thinks if she becomes like me she’ll become like him!
Stone, do you do drama? If not, why not?
It’s Ella that does drama. Arnold does drama. She thinks I’m like him, but he does drama and I don’t.
What is your secret for staying out of drama?
I don’t have the drama! It’s not about me! It’s their problem! I’m not like Arnold because he has less compassion and less ability to witness. So Ella can become like me without being afraid she will fall into drama, lose the ability to have compassion and witness. As a stone I see emotions but I don’t care; as an angel I see the emotions and try to support, find a solution that everyone can live with. As a stone I feel like they have to find solutions for themselves. As an angel I feel like they are not capable of finding solutions for themselves. I’m prone to rescuing but I just want to help.
Why do you think that you are in Ella’s life?
I am here to give her the GOOD news that in a few years she’ll probably be laughing about all these “problems.” Stay calm and carry on; it will be OK. Not going in this emotional upset, because it won’t help. I am not disrespecting her feelings, but they aren’t such a big deal. I will be here for three million years and I still stay relaxed! You can move! I can’t! All she has to do is move a few feet to one side or the other! Then she can see the ocean!
Ella, what have you heard yourself say?
Anger is important. It’s my decision to sit in front of it or go around the stone. The stone has much bigger problems than I have and still copes with them without getting angry.
If this experience were a wake-up call from your inner compass, what do you think it would be saying to you?
I have to focus on myself without getting super-selfish. I have to see that my life works out but still have compassion and witnessing. Not be selfish as a jerk but selfish as an awake person who is here and still cares for her surroundings.
Notice how much more powerful “doing nothing” is than getting angry. Stone says, “I must be really powerful – I’m doing nothing but someone else is really angry!”
Both Ella and her stone, however, cannot remain neutral to the suffering of others. The stone says, “Her desire to have everybody around her be happy.” Think about that for a minute. How likely is that? I call that the “Border Collie Syndrome.” “I can’t be happy until all the sheep are doing exactly what I want all the time.” Now, how likely is that? Isn’t that basically saying to oneself, “I’m never going to be happy, but I will feel right about playing the martyr all my life?” She can learn that when others, like Arnold, are angry, it’s not her problem.
So the stone wants to escape its three million year (not counting time already served) fate and become an angel. Then everybody would be happy, right? Not so likely. But the angel does have something important and useful to say: “Ella should focus on her life. The rest is beyond control.”
Ella’s challenge is that she associates the emotional neutrality of the stone with the narcissism of Arnold. She is afraid that if she becomes the stone she will become selfish like him. But Arnold doesn’t score ten in inner peace or an eight in witnessing and acceptance. Arnold is all about drama. Stone isn’t.
Isn’t it funny that Ella is angry at something that doesn’t care because it is in her way when she is the one who can and should do the moving? And isn’t it funny that it doesn’t take much moving at all – just a step or two – to have the stone out of her way? Still, it makes more sense to stay angry at the stone? What is that???
How can Ella stop attracting jerks into her life? And when one does show up, how can she get them out as quickly as possible? I asked the Stone if it was a selfish, bad stone because it thought it should be less caring. In response, Stone has a great insight: “I don’t have those emotions any more. So people with strong emotions get attracted to me! But when I give up being caring about that, I no longer attract them! So when Ella gives up her emotional volatility, including her ability to get hooked into rescuing people who are only manipulating her, the stone predicts that they will go away and leave her alone. They will no longer be attracted to her. This is a concept Ella can test in her own life by becoming the stone and seeing what happens.
This stone has another audacious recommendation for Ella to test: “I would have her focus mostly on herself! It’s her life. She has to focus on her life! She’ll see the results.”
The “selfishness” that Ella needs to cultivate is assertiveness. If aggression is putting our needs before those of others and passivity is putting the needs of others before our own, assertiveness is considering both the needs of others and ourselves and then acting. If other people then call that selfish, whose problem is that??
You too could do worse than finding your equivalent of Ella’s stone inside yourself – a place that is relaxed, at peace, witnessing, accepting, confident, and detached from the dramas of others. When you do, jerks will pretty much go away and leave you alone, because they won’t have any way to hook you into their drama. Why not try it out for yourself?