In my song Now That You Know, (click here to listen on iTunes) the line at the end of the chorus is “Where do you go once you have released all that was yours, now that you know that way won’t work anymore.” It was a song I wrote for a man I met when I was in Colorado performing at the Rocky Mountain Folks Festival. It was his story of his life turning upside down. However, the chorus of that song could apply to anyone, and has applied to me on many occasions. The nature of being conscious and living in moment-to-moment awareness will show you all of the things that used to be okay but don’t work anymore. Colluding is one of these things.
It might be tempting to think that I’m telling you that you shouldn’t get triggered. That you should just be able to be all spiritual n’ shit, and keep it all inside. Not at all. Just like any habit, it could take time to shift this pattern. Here are some ways to begin that:
1 – Of course, the first thing is to set the intent.
You don’t have to get all woo-woo and light candles and burn incense. If this idea makes sense to you, make a decision right here in front of your computer. Ask your body to begin to alert you gently when you are losing energy to this behavior. Believe me, it will. It’ll be like Frodo’s sword turning blue neon when the orcs are around. Your body will become sensitive to the presence of collusion and your participation in it.
2 – Notice your behavior.
Just begin watching the little ways you find yourself in collusion. Watch how you let people make you insecure, make you angry, make you wish they liked you more. Watch when you are tempted to trash them. Of course, there will be times where you won’t notice the trashing until after it has happened. That’s okay. Just notice it.
3 – Vigilance
After you notice your behavior, and after you know you want to stop, you’ll have to use lots of energy to stop the behavior. It takes lots of vigilance. It takes self-restraint.
4 – The uncomfortable part.
If you do collude, or if you’re about to collude, sit quietly or write in your journal about it. Let your demons out. Let that part of you have a say. You don’t have to shame yourself, or sit for hours gnashing your teeth at the horror of it all. Just notice your stuff. “I feel envious because I’m not doing as well as she is.” “I feel betrayed and small because he found another partner, and I’m still alone.” Just notice it. Cry if you need to. Feel that uncomfortable feeling. That is the growth.
5 – If you do need to talk to a friend about something getting to you, containerize it.
Open the discussion by creating a container: “I don’t want to stay in this place and I want you to help me see how I’m attracting this, or why this is getting to me.” Or “My intent is to move out of this discomfort, but this person is driving me nuts and bringing up all of my stuff, and I need you to hear me out without agreeing that I’m right.”
I remember calling my friend Kathy from Nashville when someone had triggered me and done something I found appalling. I called her and said, “Okay, I need five minutes to go nuts. Don’t agree with me. But I need to let loose because I’m so angry. We can be healthy after that.” And she laughed. And she listened. And then when I was calm, she offered thoughts to help me move away from the rage inside.
6 – Know yourself.
Know in advance what can send you into unconscious behavior. Is it fatigue, or hunger, or too much coffee? Is it just before you give a big presentation? Is it morning time when you’re starting to write? Once you understand this part of you, be gentle in that space. Be aware of those vulnerable times.
What I learned about myself since that night in Texas is that after performances I’m more vulnerable than at any other time. I can sign autographs and talk to people, but after that, I need to be quiet and peaceful in some way. Otherwise, the inner voices that want to analyze everything about the show will start creeping in silently. If I try to push myself to be social, I’ll get more tired and more vulnerable, and the voices will get louder and more Gollum-like, and that is when I tend to engage in unconscious behavior. Now that I know that, I can be much more aware after shows. I go back to my hotel room and take a shower. Or I read something funny or inspiring.
7 – Remember that putting energy on the thing you don’t want makes that thing stronger.
You do have an option to just get off of it. Get over it. Move on. Not everything requires you to process. What would happen if you just didn’t give any more energy to this person and this situation?
8 – Remember that sometimes there’s not an answer.
Sometimes you just have to be aware and allow the situation to open up slowly. Sometimes all you’ll know is that you are getting completely frustrated by someone, and all of your ugliness is coming out. The release might take time.
9 – Set a different intent.
Say it out loud. Be persistent. Once you see the situation clearly, choose to see this differently. Or just be willing to see this differently. Or pray to see this differently. Sit with your original intent again. Just be sure to do something that puts you back into the forward motion, the bigger place where you ultimately want to be, even if you can’t find your way there now.
The Good Stuff
When you stop allowing this knee-jerk behavior to happen, you have less tolerance for gossip, even Hollywood gossip. You get stronger. You have much more compassion. The ‘being nice’ part of this equation begins to come naturally, as ‘being kind.’ You attract stronger friends. You lose the desire for gossip. You see all of this for what it is: addiction, distraction, and a loss of your own energy. You get clear. And clarity feels great. When your heart starts to open, you require less and less vigilance because you simply won’t like the feeling that creeps inside of you when you’re tempted to collude.
And then there comes a point, according to Marty, that there’s not even the impulse to collude or to join in. It just doesn’t come up anymore. It’s organic. My commitment is to join her in that space.