Five years ago I chose to end my contract of marriage. I did so after a thorough and considered exploration of who I am and what I wanted in life.
Confidence in this true source of choice enabled me to navigate through a painful and chaotic process of separation, knowing I was on the right path. My ex-husband and I did okay. We managed to navigate the usual pitfalls of blame, hurt and spite (his and mine).
But when it came to telling our children, I tripped over my own fear. I didn’t want to be seen as the bad guy. My feelings of pain and guilt overwhelmed me and I could never find the right time or right words to tell them.
Then it was too late. My kids learned of our separation from someone else.
I have two children; a boy and a girl who were aged 18 and 16. I can still hear my son today: “not one of your better parenting moments Mum”, but it was my daughter who suffered most. She felt betrayed and humiliated. And I felt ashamed.
I have an incredible relationship with both my kids; strong, loving and open, but the shame of that moment would come back to haunt me. It was a feeling so painful that each time it arose, I’d stuff it back down.
That’s the thing about feelings. We’ve never been taught what to do with them or how to process them, so they lurk in the shadows of our mind and trip us up at the most unexpected moments.
Then, one Saturday morning a few months back, my eyes shot open. My brain was alert to one singular thought. I called my daughter, and after confirming it was a convenient time to talk, I began:
“Sasch, I want to acknowledge that I avoided telling you that Dad and I were separating, and that it was my choice. It was a cowardly thing to do. I was scared. I didn’t want to be seen as the bad guy. I am so sorry I did that and I’m so sorry for the pain you felt because of it.”
Definition of Acknowledgement: a statement of what’s so without reason, excuse, false sympathy or speaking on behalf of someone else – ownership of something done.
She had been heard and she cried.
Her pain released through the process of acknowledgement and my feelings of shame were discharged.
My phone rang on Friday a few weeks back. It was Saschy asking whether it was a good time to talk. It was her turn to unhook us from the past using the same process of acknowledgement she’d heard from me. Our bond continues to evolve with more love, trust and connection.
Acknowledgement of what’s so is the ‘hearing and healing’ foundation on which an apology can be heard. It doesn’t matter whether it’s personal or professional; a deep wound or a superficial cut. Acknowledgement always works.
Our emotional, intellectual and physical wellbeing are intertwined. Nothing is more valuable than equipping yourself and your team to process feelings. If people stuff them down and pretend they don’t exist, then they’ll play havoc elsewhere in life.
Your work culture can no longer be quarantined from what’s happening at home. Each will influence the other and that’s complicated. The fear of the unknown seems to be settling in.
What could you acknowledge to ease the way for your colleagues and peers to find peace and security within this chaos?
You could start by acknowledging the facts:
Fear of job losses, pay cuts and reduced working hours
Fear of colds, germs and pandemics
Fear of economic collapse
Fear of investments and losing money
Fear of lost freedom
Fear for our children
Fear for change
Each of us has our own particular reaction to fear, but there is one thing you can know for sure:
Fear causes fear
Fear cannot soothe fear
Fear cannot combat fear
Do you have the skills to equip and empower you and your team to process and manage fear and insecurity?
I now have. And I can show you how.
Elevate your EQ and you’ll elevate the way you work, relate and communicate.