Don’t Get Mad; Get Curious

It’s 9:30 on a Tuesday night, I just finished watching the latest live stream from my YouTuber friend Henry Resilient. I got up from bed, stretched real big, and finished another breathing exercise suggested by Dr. Nicole LePera. How to Meet Yourself is Dr. LePera’s second book in workbook format which helps you to connect with your inner self and meet your needs so that you can meet other’s needs more efficiently therefore becoming the best version of you. I reached for my phone and read a text message I received from a long time friend. More on that later but first, some context.

Last summer, without getting into too much detail, I had hit a figurative brick wall in my self healing journey. There was a lot of unresolved and painful past trauma which was showing up repeatedly in my present day life. It overwhelmed me and reeked havoc on me emotionally. As somebody who gave entirely too much of themselves to everyone else in their life, who was seen as one who had their “shit together”, the perfectionist, and the ball of sunshine it was very hard for me to admit to those around me that love me that I struggled and needed help. My anxiety had gotten to a point where even things that I would rationally never even consider could be true were seeping into my consciousness and leaving me in a constant state of fight or flight.

When I found Dr. Nicole‘s book, I was skeptical. After all, therapy can be very helpful to some, but I didn’t believe I fell into that category. The idea of telling a total stranger about my struggles with anxiety, ‘good girl’ syndrome, and perfectionism seemed foreign to me. So, I picked up this book in a very unsuspecting way. Little did I know, these exercises would be very helpful to me, so that I could help myself. The book changed my life.

Dr. LePera’s psychological practice centers on the self and “empowerment,” and how personal choices affect our mental, physical, and spiritual wellness. She calls the process she promotes “self-healing,” although the principal central to it could also be described as self-determination. You gotta want to do the work is a central theme in How to Meet Yourself. This isn’t surprising as the fact that her second book is a follow up installment to her first book, How to do the work. Dr. LePera aims to help ordinary people like us recognize how adverse experiences and trauma in childhood live with us, resulting in whole body dysfunction—activating harmful stress responses that keep us stuck engaging in patterns of codependency, emotional immaturity, and trauma bonds. Unless addressed, these self-sabotaging behaviors can quickly become a vicious cycle, leaving people feeling unhappy, unfulfilled, and unwell.

One of the things that really stuck out to me on this journey of self discovery and healing, was how many of us operate from a purely emotional standpoint. We look at things that happen in our lives, as happening to us rather than being merely a reflection back at us from the person lashing out from an emotional place. Dr. LePera encourages us not to look at the action which caused us pain but rather get curious about the pain that person who hurt us feels which caused them to lash out in such a way.

I have come a long way since picking up that book at the end of January. Learning who authentic Brittany really was beyond all the layers of social conditioning and expectations has been a roller coaster of thoughts, feelings and observations of myself and even those I love. Recognizing and seeing patterns have helped me to put myself back in the drivers seat rather than my fleeting emotions. Some days, are easier than others. Some days I am feeling like the epitome of success and self empowerment and others I’m a crying mess on my bathroom floor. The thing about self-healing that nobody tells you is that there’s no timeline for completion. It’s an ever evolving game, like Pokémon Go, just when you think you’ve reached the top there’s more levels added to heal, learn, and grow from. This book really changed the way I view how others treat me. It has helped me to see that most of the time how others treat me isn’t about how I am, but rather how they see themselves. Dr. Nicole ultimately taught me that people’s behavior towards me is rarely about me. It’s about resurfacing trauma in the individual projecting that emotional pain onto you. When we heal these traumas, we heal ourselves, instead of perpetuating behaviors which do not serve us to grow and often result in hurting others. Trauma un-healed is trauma that festers and gets passed down generationally. That is where the term generational trauma comes from.

In one particular situation, a person we’ll call L came into my life that was triggering me and I couldn’t understand why they literally triggered in me a fight or flight response every time we interacted. I did not like L something felt off about them and it drove me insane. I tried to ignore it as my husband enjoyed the company of L and their partner but the more I repressed it the worse it got until one day, after a failed attempt to flee from the situation which plagued me, I exploded on everyone involved. It was ugly and although my feelings were valid (everyone’s are!) how I reacted to those feelings was not okay.

It was only after reading Dr. Nicole’s book that I discovered L reminded me of someone from my past who deeply wounded me. I felt like I was a teenager again with no voice or no concern showed to how I felt and well, it hurt. I also realized because I felt disempowered and invalidated, because I felt like a teenager I dug my heels into that proverbial dirt and acted as a teenager would. I never realized how often this plays out with people, when they experience trauma similar to what they experienced in the past, they literally revert and react in the same way they had at whatever age they were in the past. If we look closely, we can see how trauma sends us all on a journey through time and space right back to a time where we felt unloved, unworthy, unheard and invalidated. When we learn this about ourselves, we learn not to shame ourselves for feeling such things. Most of us, react to situations and people on pure emotion alone, without actually sitting with our emotions and trying to determine the root of why we feel the way we do. When we step away and allow ourselves to feel how we feel, and give ourselves time and permission to articulate those feelings without letting those emotions drive our actions and reactions then we validate and empower ourselves.

I wondered how that hurt me might have reacted had L not reacted in a similar way as the person who caused me the pain to begin with: would the outcome have been different ? Had I communicated my feelings and needs better would L have dismissed my feelings like the person from my past they reminded me of who had always dismissed and invalidated me? I’ll never know. Perhaps if L got curious instead of insulted by my reaction it would have prompted a more deeper conversation and knowledge of how one another operates. People-it turns out-aren’t mind readers and a knee jerk reaction when feeling slighted isn’t to try to understand why. Again, we see things as happening to us rather then traumas being triggered and reflected back at us. Patterns-as it also turns out-become habit and when L reacted in the same way as the person who hurt me would have I found myself reacting in the same way that I would in countless disagreements with the person who hurt me. I was no longer seeing L as a separate person from the one who caused my trauma-I saw them as one in the same.

Understanding this allows me to show myself love and compassion. After all, we do the best we can with the knowledge and tools we have at the time but we’re only human and there’s always room for growth. The girl inside of me who was hurt and invalidated still deserved love and validation. Seeing my reaction as a trauma response rather than a problem was empowering. The experience of that situation with L, despite the pain, was beneficial to my emotional growth and allowed me to take steps to heal the parts of myself that were damaged at the hands of others (who I reflect compassionately were also damaged). This has really given me a level of compassion that I never had before. It is leveling up in the best possible way.

That is not to say I wasn’t a compassionate person before, I just had never thought of people’s “overreactions” as triggers which had nothing to do with the person they were lashing out at but everything to do with them being reminded of a person or an instance they were hurt in by their past. I saw this objectively, as I studied my own past behavior from adolescence all the way up to present day adulthood. Very rarely, were my passionate rants, defensiveness, bursts of irritability, need for reassurance, and stubborn attitude about the person it was directed at, but rather it was stemmed from a feeling of being unheard, unable to regulate my emotions and not feeling safe to express them, finally, I felt invalidated. At the core, every person wants to feel validated. At the core, every person seeks love and acceptance for who they are. This is the reason if you go on Reddit and read different content a page called ‘Am I The Asshole?’ exists. People naturally seek reassurance from others that their emotions are valid and justified.

Remember that part where I said ‘more on that later’? Here’s how it all ties in. Tuesday night, I was given a very rare opportunity to put into practice what I had been learning. For roughly 21 years I had a friendship that meant a great deal to me. For further context, my friend we’ll call J and I met in middle school and the nature of our friendship has and always would be more like siblings. After all, I’m a happily married woman with a 9 year-old Jack Russell and a husband who is literally my whole world. Tom and I have been together for the last 15 years and I’m lucky because I’m truly married to my best friend & soulmate. J and Tom got along well too and I counted myself lucky to still have J around since we had essentially grown up together had seen each other through some happy and difficult times. Our friendship was also strictly platonic, even before I met and fell in love with Tom and always had more of a sibling vibe to it than anything else. When my husband and I relocated, my friend J, was there to help us move in. When J needed a place to stay for a competition he was competing in that was nearby our home Tom and I not only allowed him to stay over but we went to cheer J on at his competition. So when I reached for my phone and saw the text I received I took a moment to collect myself before responding.

I can’t have Snapchat anymore. It is a problem for my relationship and I cannot keep in contact with you anymore. It is disrespectful to my girlfriend and I can’t keep it anymore, thank you for understanding’

And just like that, after 21 years my friend J shared with me that we can longer stay in contact out of respect for his relationship with his girlfriend, A, who I had yet to even meet. I took a few moments to feel the myriad of emotions which flashed within me before replying. To be honest, I commend him on his willingness to put his relationship first. As someone who has been in a committed relationship for 15 years I understand the value of trust within a relationship. Although I must admit I was and still am rather confused as to what made A so uncomfortable about his and I’s friendship. We were never inappropriate towards one another in all the years we’d known each other and I would never intentionally want to be the cause of stress between the two of them.

When J told me about this new relationship I was really happy for them both and looked forward to meeting her. I would ask how A was doing every time my friend and I talked. I wanted her to feel welcome, accepted, and included. J and I had a Snapchat streak for over 1,500 days where we usually sent pictures back and forth of our first cup of coffee in the morning or our dogs. I send my friend the same things I send my 26 year old brother Joseph (who was also at one point good friends with J’s younger brother) just for context of what our snaps are. I also am 100% guilty of sending him (along with my other friends) funny 90s nostalgia videos on Instagram.

After sending my reply to J I reached out to A on Instagram sharing all of this because I know that she does not know me but I would have loved a chance for her to get to know me. Sure I could’ve gotten angry and for a little while I allowed myself to feel those emotions many feel are bad emotions called anger, hurt, disappointment, and indignation. I allowed myself to sit with those feelings before I got curious about why A felt disempowered by my mere presence in J’s life? After all, if she had met and disliked me I would have stepped away from the friendship no questions asked because at the heart of it, J’s a great person who deserves to be happy and not some third wheel like he was for years when he, Tom and I would go places. I was looking forward to getting to know A (alongside my husband) and building a friendship with her like I’ve had with J over the years.

I closed my direct message to A in saying that while I disagree with them, I do respect her feelings and at the end of the day, I want all of my friends, including J, to be happy even if that means I’m no longer a part of their story. To date she has not read the message I sent her in defense of my multi-decade spanning friendship and I’m not sure she will. I made my closing statement in defense of a friendship I struck up with a shy new guy in 7th grade English class 21 years ago and I chose to defend myself with compassion instead of malice towards the person who took free will from J and I ending our friendship in the most inorganic way. I chose to meet her decision with curiosity and attempt to understand what made her feel that way. I aimed to see beyond how hurt I felt as a result of her decision.

Sure, I was and still am disappointed that my friendship with J has become a casualty of he and A’s relationship but it felt empowering to reach out to her and say that I respect that decision despite my disagreement with it. Ultimately, we all feel invalidated at times, and we all crave security. Insecure people tend to have controlling tendencies, they’ll try to tell the people closest to them whom they feel is worthy of their time and attention caring very little if it infringes upon someone’s free will and sense of self. This sense of control empowers the insecure individual because most of their life they felt very powerless.

In the end, being the bigger person made me feel like a better person inside and certainly made me see all that growth I experienced and knowledge from Dr. Nicole and even my past experiences put into practice. I had every right and opportunity to lash back out at the injustice of the whole situation but I did not. Instead as I sent that message to A on Instagram and felt an incredible sense of a full-circle moment. I also removed J from my contacts and all of my social media platforms. I’m a woman of my word and one who does her best to live each day with integrity; so I graciously stepped away from a 21 year friendship out of respect for J’s relationship. It is my sincere hope that A reconsiders her stance on this decision but if that’s not the case I wish she and J lots of health, happiness, growth and love.

Although it hurt, in the end I gave myself a wonderful gift when I allowed myself to process my emotions, gave myself permission to feel them, and chose to get curious instead of mad .

P.S. If you’d like to check out my friend Henry Resilient on YouTube he can be found here: . He’s a former investor turned content creator who’s covered Jason David Frank, xQc and Adept the Best, & Andrew Tate. He values facts over feelings and gets the answers based on facts!

2 thoughts on “Don’t Get Mad; Get Curious”

  1. It suck’s losing friends. I just recently kind of lost a blog friend. Sounds silly but when you connect with someone even online it still kind of hurts..

    1. Hey, it doesn’t matter whether it was an in person friendship or an online friendship. It still meant something to you and if it meant something to you, it’s something absolutely valid in being upset about. I’m sorry you lost your blog friend and I thank you so much for taking the time to comment on this post!

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