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Your circle or mine?

Updated: 2 days ago

Somebody asked me once if I was a member of the "General-Manager-Of-The-Universe-Club". Hand on my heart, I had to admit that this wasn’t a question taken out of thin air. I had been a participant for a long time. At that time, I often found it difficult to trust that it is enough to have good intentions when we do or say something with the aim of contributing or being of help to someone else. What I would prefer then was to be able to control that my help really helped or that what I said sat well with the other person. No harm done there, except it was quite tiring at times because I was constantly putting effort and energy into trying to read other people and figure out what was the ”right” thing to say or do. In my mind, I held thoughts like, ”Should I have said something different? Are you okay? And are we okay?” What I often forgot to ask, though, was, ”Am I okay?”

Then one day I visited Birna, one of the wisest and most loving people I know. She took a piece of paper and draw a couple of circles on it. Then she used those circles to show me what took place when I met and talked with other people and why it often felt energy dragning.

She said something like this: Imagine that you are standing in a circle, and that everyone else is standing in their own circle too. These circles are our personal rooms: our feelings, thoughts, and experiences. When you meet someone else (in the same physical room or, for example, over the phone), to some extent your circles will overlap. This overlap is your shared room and this is where your exchange takes place. Each of you is responsible for what you choose to bring into your shared room in the form of words, actions and how you choose to look at things.

It's a bit like playing ball. You can throw a ball into your shared room. The other person then has a free choice to do whatever they want with the ball - look at it, reflect upon it, bounce it, throw it away, throw it or another ball back. You are responsible for how you handle the ball but no more than that.

“Your job when you meet someone, Karolina,” Birna said, “is to be centered and in touch with what you feel and experience in your own personal room, in your circle. The problem is that you often step into the shared room and then farther into the other person's circle. You do it mindfully and with good intentions in order to better understand what the other person is thinking and feeling, but the result is that your own circle is left empty. You abandon yourself. What takes energy from you is that in the end you cannot tell the difference between your own experience, your feelings and needs and the other person's.”

I know today that what was also energy draining for me was my resistance and my fear of letting go of how others receive, experience and interpret what I bring into our shared room. I can choose what I want to give in the form of words and actions, but not how the other person experiences them. For someone who resists letting go of the feeling of control, this insight has been quite hard to digest.

But it also comes with an invitation to tune into my own needs when I’m in a shared room. I can ask the other person how I can best be of help rather than getting lost trying to figure it out. I can ask for feedback about how what I said or did landed in the other person. And I can explain and clarify if I notice that it was in a different way than what I intended. Instead of trying to control someone else's experience when we are together in a shared room, there is now an invitation to take care of myself in mine.

What do you need?


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