Ever notice that, sometimes, people aren’t in a conversation with you, per se, but more with a script running in their head that’s loosely based on you? (Also: ever notice that it's not "people," but you running that automated script?)
Yesterday a friend of mine observed that she introduces herself to new people as Samantha….then they immediately ask if she prefers Samantha or Sam. And she often wonders, “hrm, if my name were Sam, I would’ve introduced myself as Sam, no?” And despite her saying she prefers Samantha, they proceed with calling her Sam.
This may not seem like a big deal to you if your name is one of those blessedly well-understood ones, but I can totally relate, having spent a lot of time coaching confused/uncomfortable people on how to say my name (hint: just go with something like “Ay-may,” and, really, don’t sweat it! I don’t actually care how you say my name, because it really has nothing to do with me.). Also, receiving email responses that start with “Hey Amy…” even though my name is spelled out previously, in the same email chain, multiple times. This isn't just me, as my friend Melinda is frequently called Melissa in person and emails. For years, I wondered, what’s really going on here???
What I’ve landed on is not that people are jerks or something (the fact that most people will ask what abbreviation or name you go by is, in my book, evidence that they care about your preferences), but that, they’re overly busy, not grounded in their bodies or the present. Someone flagrantly misspelling my name, to the point of using a completely different name, in an email shows me that they are flying through the moment and probably have a million things they feel they need to be doing.
I know this because I’ve totally done this kind of thing myself, a bunch of times I’ve noticed and I’m sure a bunch more that I didn’t, because I am a flawed human person. ("Healers: they’re just like us!") Just last weekend, when working at a fun but busy event, I forgot a few people’s names right after they said them, because I was multitasking, aka not actually doing anything fully or well.
And, full disclosure, I’ve definitely misspelled people’s names in emails and noticed it the moment I hit send, immediately following up with another email being like “ack, I’m so sorry!” And then both laughing at myself and also feeling like a dummy.
Just like everyone else, I make mistakes when I’m trying to do too much, when I’m living more from the to do list in my head. When I stop paying full attention to what’s actually in front of me. When I’m not centered and grounded in the present.
We’re taught that we should be doing 40 things at once, multitasking at all times, uber productive. And most of us were taught, whether consciously or not, that when meeting new people, we should be evaluating them for what we might get -- a friend, a date, a business deal, and so on -- instead of simply being curious about who they are, asking questions for the sake of learning about them, discovering what we might be able to give to / share with them, with no end game. Hence, there’s a tendency to be running through a script about how the conversation is supposed to go, and moving more with that than the person who’s there.
Of. Course. Y’all. It’s always easier to notice, like, every flaw and undesirable behavior in other people than in ourselves, so I’m inviting you to use those moments when it feels like the other person isn’t really present to observe how that’s happening in you. Do a scan of the moment, of your body. Where are you, and how do you feel? What’s the quality of the energy in your body, and your mood? What are you thinking about? Are you really with the person in front of you?
Then scan back through the day, and yesterday, and the past week. I’m sure you’ll pick up a few examples, at least, of having so much on your mind that you weren’t fully taking in what was happening in front of you….and maybe made a mistake, or said something that was a little off. Sometimes we notice these moments right after they happen and immediately take responsibility and correct our errors; others, we notice and don’t say anything, or we may not notice at all. This is an invitation to expand your vision and see a bit more of what was totally beyond the radar before.
Chances are, more than a few of you have been doing a tad bit of squirming in your chairs while reading this post, worrying that you have been calling me by the wrong name for X years. Or maybe you’re noticing, perhaps, that you’ve never been sure how to say my name, you’ve never felt comfortable asking, and so you’ve literally never said it! This is actually really common. I have patients I've been treating for years who have, I'm pretty sure, never used my name in conversation with me.
Possibly, there’s a little shame rising, or defensiveness, or whatever your family or religion or culture taught you to feel when you made a mistake. Maybe you had to be perfect the first time around with everything you did. Maybe asking follow up questions or owning up to mistakes you made were considered a sign of weakness, or unsafe because they led to some kind of abuse, or not allowed.
This is what’s really interesting to me: not necessarily the mistakes we make, though those provide a lot of great information about how present we are, but the feelings that come up when we discover them. Being grounded enough to notice what comes up, being curious about it, and not running away to make the discomfort stop as quickly as possible.
Noticing, making space for discomfort, staying curious : in my experience, this is how we heal, whether from physical pain, emotional pain, relationship patterns, or anything.
The tools I offer (acupuncture, breathwork, and Healing Touch) are all ways into your body, to learn about what your energy feels like. They all take your system out of stress mode and into rest, digest, and repair mode. They change your blood pressure, blood sugar, and brainwave patterns. They help move what needs to be moved (for example, clearing out blockages that cause pain), and slow down what needs to be slowed down (for example, calming the nervous system to counter anxiety). They help you get present to what's happening in your body, right now, and thereby give you the resources to make space for anything to come up.
But you don't necessarily need to come in for a session if you don't want to -- for some support with getting grounded, check out this previous post. Meditate. Play with doing one thing at a time. Make a lot of eye contact with whomever you're with, and focus on really taking in what they're saying, what they're communicating through their body language. See how that goes.
I also offer regular breathwork groups in Brooklyn (2/5/18) and Manhattan (2/16/18), and you can view and register for upcoming groups here. And I'll be at Sun Collective on Thursday, 2/1 for a 2 hour workshop (register here) on how to be grounded in your own energy; we’ll be using some energy medicine basics, a little meditation, and talking about tools like tea, herbs, oils, and stones that can support us in being here, now. Hope to see you there!
(Oh and one more full disclosure for the road -- I changed my name when I was 13, so I take full responsibility for bringing this name stuff on myself. Story for another day!)