Last week I got really peeved at my husband. The issue: stamps. Or specifically, his use of my limited-issue pretty stamps (pictured above.) More on that in a minute.
I learned a great tip from a wise Enneagram teacher on how to interact productively with our own anger (and discharge the stress it brings). She says to drop the object of our anger — in this case, my husband –and instead use the emotion as energy in our bodies.
I suspect this may be even more important for women, as anger is not culturally seen as becoming for the ladies, which may make it harder to recognize and experience within ourselves. Yet anger can be a vital clue about boundaries and an invitation to attend to something important under the surface of our lives.
So back to the stamp incident. When I got mad first thing in the morning I worried it would send my whole day down the negative path… Turns out the incident gave me a chance to observe the power of using today’s stress-grounding tip: external resources.
Sometimes if we are quite stirred up– sitting and breathing doesn’t cut it. Instead, employ the external resource:
Eat a good breakfast.
Read a heart-opening book.
List ten things you are grateful for.
Buy an abundance of stamps (that may just work for me…)
Now clearly there are many other external resources: nature, a bath, essential oils, having a dance party, connecting with a kind friend.
An external resource is simply an experience of life which helps us to move toward greater well-being, especially when our nervous system is overwhelmed.
Later, once calm, we can circle back around with the other person or situation, as needed. (Which my husband and I did that night. In the mean time he actually also bought me songbird stamps. Which means I now have 110 beautiful stamps. I think I’m covered.)
And now that I’m through the situation I can see that “the issue isn’t really the issue.” It almost never is, is it?
This is the joy of real-time relationships. They are a mirror.
What I like about the external resources approach is that there is so much we can do to take care of our own responses or reactivity. And to understand why things get under our skin.
Clearly I’m feeling a little stingy about my special stamps which I use for Bird in Hand correspondence. I’m very particular about aesthetics and enjoy spoiling coaching clients with personal notes and gifts. Which inspired me to locate the vintage seed pack stamps earlier this year, which are sadly no longer in print. Aren’t they swoon-worthy? Plus is there anything more fun than receiving real mail in your very own mailbox?
Which is all well and good, but we can still peel back the layers.
Like a child with a longed-for toy who squeezes it so tight the stuffing comes out: where is that line between enjoying and clinging?
As things start really moving in the right direction in your life it can be hard not to get attached to them. I mean I love my clients. I get incredibly excited about the shifts and growth in their lives. They are the bravest, most deserving-of-good-stamps people I know.
But clearly this isn’t about them either. It is about me—and the high standards I have for my work. Even when it borders on the ridiculous.
As always, here is the spot to drop compassion. Wherever we get hung up again and again is where we need it the most. This is how we expand into a fuller expression of ourself.
So stamps are my growing edge, at least for this morning. And what if rather than trying to force myself to be more enlightened and unattached, I can go in other direction?
Here is a fun exercise: Divine Decadence (from Finding Your Own North Star by Martha Beck.)
“To practice divine decadence, simply get yourself an oversupply of something your essential self really likes. Don’t just get as much as want; get twice as much, five times as much… Obviously, unless you’re very wealthy, you won’t be stocking up on luxury yachts or highly-trained servants; but the essential self is a simple soul, and it can feel divinely decadent with relatively inexpensive rewards (p. 349). ”
Think twenty bars of yummy-smelling soap, one hundred pretty stamps, or several gorgeous scarves (from the thrift store works just as well if it makes you happy!)
I share this little case-study of my own version of crazy-pants so that hopefully you feel less alone in yours.
This is how life works, like a game of shoots and ladders, the little things connect back to the big things.
So stamp-drama ends up an invitation to revisit one of my core themes: how to hold my work in a life-giving way.
And the recipe for growth is not to be harder on myself, but more generous. Which is how I learn to trust that the good things, in this case a coaching business and clients which I love, are not dependent on my fierce vigilance or high postage standards.
The good things are instead a by product of living and telling the truth (as best as we can) about this human journey and helping each other grow at a pace we can handle.
Wishing you a week with lots (and lots!) of the good.
Parenting with the Enneagram: Nine Different Human Energies + How They Live in Children starts Jan 22 2015. This is a live ecourse. Registration and details coming soon… In the mean time you can purchase the audio recording from my Learn Your Parenting Personality to get a taste of how Nancy and I teach together and where we are headed in the six week ecourse. And I hope you will help me spread the word to other conscious parents (they can get on my email list to learn more about the course in the next few weeks.)
Courtney Pinkerton, M.Div & M.PP, is a holistic life and leadership coach and the founder of Bird in Hand Coaching. She holds dual masters degrees from Harvard Divinity School and Harvard Kennedy School, is the host of the Summer of Meditation Challenge and publishes a weekly e-newsletter on real-world mindfulness practices. Courtney teaches regularly on the Enneagram, meditation, and conscious approaches to leadership and parenting. She lives in Oak Cliff, Texas with her husband Richard Amory where they try to keep up with their three young children and remember to water their garden boxes. Courtney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or you can schedule a complementary clarity session to talk more.