Whose stuff is this anyway?

stop2“Are you in your business or are you in their business?” Such a juicy coaching question. I *love* this question! It all of a sudden puts the brakes on, causes you to look around and just…stop. Wow.

Well, at least that’s what happens to me when a fellow coach tosses that cookie to me. I slowly chew every delicious bite and then ask for my glass of milk and pat myself on the head. Satisfying.

Sweet clarity. It provides a great way to pull yourself out of the muck and mire – what I like to call the “igh” – and get a clear look at a situation. Dust yourself off, hold that stuff in your hand and look at it. Be the observer. Ask yourself, “Am I in my business, or am I in their business?” “Is this my stuff? Or is this their stuff?”

We can only control ourselves and our own stories – our own business, our own stuff. Other people’s stuff is simply that – theirs. And newsflash…it really says nothing about you! Pause and let that one sink in. … I know, right? Powerful.

fourI’m sure that I will be writing more about The Four Agreements and related books by the family of don Miguel Ruiz, which gets into this concept of our stories. I also wrote about it in my blog post The Power of Story, Creating Your Life.

I know there have been many times in my life where I’ve internalized the stories of others – their views and opinions about me. And what did that result in? All it gave me was drama filled plot twists.

I carried around their stuff, their bucket of igh and made it mine.

Not so fun, right? Let’s take it a step further. Ask yourself some of these questions…

  • Are you one of those people who feels everything strongly?
  • Do you walk into a room and feel the mood of the group as if it were your own?
  • Do you find yourself sensitive to the emotions of others?
  • Do you cry – I mean *really* cry – at sad movies?

empathThere are a lot more questions I could ask, but if you answered yes to most of those, chances are that you’re an “empath.”

Empath.

By the word “empath,” I don’t mean “having empathy” or ” having sympathy” for someone – that’s not quite it. We all do that. Being an empath is like having empathy on steroids. It takes it to a deeper level.

As an empath, you actually feel what the other person is feeling. In fact, it can go so deep for some folks that they even feel physical symptoms when someone they are close to is sick. Have you ever had that happen? It’s a little less common, but it shows how many different ways you can be an empath.

As an empath, if you accept the stories and opinions of others as defining you, you also accept the emotions that come with it from other people. You internalize their stories and you internalize their emotions. Just toss some more igh into that bucket of stuff you’re carrying.

I recently taught a tele-class on this concept for fellow coaches and just had this conversation with a friend over the weekend, where you could almost see the light bulb turn on. Stunned silence. In my experience, when folks hear about this idea it results in silence, quickly followed by something like “Damn, really??! Omg, that’s me! It explains so much of my life!”

Quickly followed by, “omg, what can I do?” My first response is always, ask yourself, “Is this mine? Or is this someone else’s?” – a variation on the coaching idea that started off this post.

empath-a-blessing-and-curseBeing an empath is a huge gift. It helps you to understand others. It also comes with a burden – you lug around that bucket of stuff from others. That is before you know how to work with it.

Pretty cool, huh?

Yeah, I love that a-ha moment. I had a student I’ve been teaching for the last two years who says knowing this literally changed her life. It helped her relationships with other people and got her off of this emotional roller coaster. She set down that bucket of stuff she had been carrying for years.

She told me that she always just called herself a “New Yorker *itch” – she is NY through and through and loves it. But after her “ah-ha” moment, she realized that was never true – it was only that she was always overloaded with the emotions of other people. Can you imagine being in such a big city and not knowing your were an empath and feeling everything from folks around you?

I know that place well myself. It was years before I figured this out. I’ve been a lobbyist for 25 years. Imagine not knowing any of this and being a lobbyist working crazy hours on highly controversial issues surrounded by the strong emotions of others?

Yeah, this realization changed my life too. So I wanted to share it here with you. The next time you are in a situation and feel overwhelmed with emotion, ask yourself, “is this mine? or is this someone else’s?”

If the answer is no, set down that bucket of stuff.

With no offense intended to this cute little skunk! Sweet freedom!
With no offense intended to this cute little skunk! Sweet freedom!
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