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yes, and… [an alternative to making others wrong]

wreck this journal | antioxidants

“Your only true purpose is to love yourself and others through the ups and downs of their decisions and choices. Everything else is character development in life’s eternal play.” ~ Matt Kahn

On the current leg of my journey, I am trying to just be aware of things and heed Matt’s wisdom. I’ve been noticing a couple of little traps my ego sets up for me more and more often these days. Here’s one. It goes something like this:

A person makes a comment either in person or online that I decide for whatever reason needs to be corrected. I deem their ideas less evolved than mine and self-righteously find a very subtle (or sometimes not-so-subtle) way to set them straight. Mind you, I don’t do this all the time and I catch myself about to do it far more than I actually do it (at least I hope so!). Then, the other ego trap is judging myself for it. Nice little prison, eh?

Another trap is feeling like I need to defend my position when someone says something to me that feels combative. bleh! All of that need to talk talk talk about what’s right or wrong takes me away from love and peace but, hey, relationships are hard. We don’t all have the script delivered every morning with the “right” words so I just keep noticing and learning and, as you can see, writing about it.

Last night, in my improv class, we played a game called “yes, and” that I find really helpful when it comes to conversations in relationships. The idea is to expand on whatever the other person just said to tell a story. It’s a fun way to test your storytelling skills but I found it also miraculously works to diffuse tension in a conversation. Here’s the conversation I had on my way home from class with my friend who picked me up:

Him: “How did class go?”

Me: “Good. It was kind of tiring to do so much work in three hour class with only one 10 minute break though.”

Him: “Yeah, I only get a 10 minute break in a four-hour shift at work.”

[I immediately felt defensive because of how often this person has said things that made me not feel valued and his constant assertions about how hard HE works and how much FUN I seem to have. I noticed this. I would normally go into defense mode but instead I tried this:]

Me: “Yes, and I forget that people live that way because it’s not my lifestyle.”

Him: “Mmm hmmmm” [with emphasis]

Me: “Yes, and this feels a lot like being a trainee at work. I remember when I used to be in the corporate world, when we trained new employees, we made sure they got a lot of breaks and had fun because learning new things is challenging. [I am beginning to feel into my softness and vulnerability and getting in touch with what was hard about only having a 10 minute break.] I never thought that it was hard to only have one break every four hours when things became routine but until they did, it was challenging. Acting always feels like that because the work forces you to move through your walls and creates a lot of vulnerability. Also, I spent my entire 10 minute break talking to the kids on the phone. They were having a hard time and I helped them through it so it didn’t feel much like a break.”

Him: “Wow. That sounds hard. I’m sorry.”

The conversation went from feeling constricted to much more open and ended up with empathy. I built on his ideas instead of pushing against them and it felt like a miracle. My acting teacher told us that in improv, we should avoid words like “no” or “none” or “not” because it closes down the scene or the story. As is often true, we can apply this to life as well.

While there are clearly times I have to say “no”, I’m going to practice, “Yes, and…” much more often to see if I can love my way through the hard stuff, stop trying to be right and just BE.

I think “yes, and…” might be like an antioxidant for my soul. 🙂

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