There’s Nothing “Just” About Jealousy

aloneOh he’s just jealous. He’ll get over it. It’s a growing experience. Act jealous back and see how he likes it. Jealousy is a sin; there’s something wrong with you if you feel jealous. Get over it. 

Sound familiar?

The above statements are very common and usually applied in the context of romantic relationships. Today I saw variations of the above applied to discussing a child whose formative infant years included separation from his mother. Of course he’s jealous.

Whether it is this situation, or romantic jealousy, or other scenarios, the one thing we all need to remember is this:

Jealousy is a symptom – usually of needs being threatened or not met.

  • Insecurity – needing reassurance of one’s own value or that one’s needs will be met.
  • Need for time, attention, nurturing, and both physical and emotional safety.
  • Fear of loss, abandonment, and/or being replaced.
  • Competition jealousy – usually another symptom of any of the above. We want to be uniquely valued.

So how do you deal with jealousy?

If you are helping a child, the first step is to talk about the fears that the child has and ways to address them. That takes patience, spending one-on-one time, reassurance of love, and discussing the fears in a respectful way.

If it is a romantic partner or other relationship, it is much the same. Discuss the fears and where they are coming from. Explore ways to counter the fears. The fears could be real too; the person feeling jealous might have real reasons to fear loss, and this fear can even lead to behaviors that are self-fulfilling. If the fear cannot be eliminated, let’s at least deal with the issues in a respectful manner.

There is that word again: respectful. The worst way of dealing with jealousy is with judgment; compassion and respect are required instead.

Yes, some people have a greater tendency for jealousy. And you might decide that you cannot be in a relationship with someone who is prone to this symptom of their fears. Just understand that it is a symptom, especially if you are the one who experiences jealousy because your solution will be to build your self and your life in a way that allows for greater levels of security.

We also want to help our children avoid or counter jealousy, and this is important. Telling them that it shouldn’t happen or that it is just wrong is going to reinforce the jealousy. They are not “just jealous” – they are just exhibiting a symptom of some underlying issues that need to be dealt with. 

Those of us who learned as children that we could not trust that our parents would be there or protect us have some extra challenges. Some of us just don’t allow people to get close enough to hurt us and can proudly claim we don’t get jealous. Can’t be jealous when you don’t have a source of that fear! For those of us who do take that risk, it’s soul-deep.

Personally, I have the benefit of being aware of all of the above from a young age, so I used to not understand – and was admittedly irritated with – people who would get jealous. I had very little patience for it.  That doesn’t mean that I never had fear or hurt or even anger; it means that I always targeted the source of those emotions. Now that I understand why people experience jealousy, I can be more understanding. I can also help prevent jealousy of loved ones by being mindful of the sources, and having a clue on how to address issues when they do come up.

Because they are never just jealous. There’s no such thing.

 

 

 

Revisiting Past Trauma: Let the Voices Speak

quotes_silence_writing_1440x900_17474When I try to talk for the first time about a traumatic event from the past, especially childhood, I find it difficult to get any words to come forth. I will open and close my mouth several times, like a fish gasping for air. When I do manage to speak, the word choices are those that I would have used when that age. I am not talking about “baby talk” because I had a ridiculously expansive vocabulary at a young age. I mean that the words reflect my perspective of the time, such as a lack of understanding or what to call something. I can then switch to my current self’s perspective and analyze what was, but I have to leave the mode of describing the actual event itself.
 
When trying to write about events as part of my focus this month, I shouldn’t have been surprised that this same struggle happened. It wasn’t until I allowed for this dual voice to “take turns” that I started to get any flow to the writing coming forth. There are some events that I still haven’t tried to describe yet, and there’s a fear there that causes me to hesitate. I think it’s because I have to, at least once, “go back” to that time and place for at least the first telling; after that, I can retell from more of a distance. There are some places that are very difficult to revisit and I wonder if there is such thing as being strong enough.
 
Why do this? I have found that the events I have been able to describe no longer hold power over me, plus I gain a source of wisdom or power from facing them. If you think of it as a game, this is a way to level up. I have helped hundreds of others, and this is a way of helping myself (which, in turn, enables me to help others even more).
 
Meanwhile, I have to live current day life, so I have to pull myself back together after writing – sometimes easier said than done – to do other things, even go places and see people. There’s been some tough days, but so far I’m making it. Luckily there is a finite number of these stories to transcribe, and this won’t take me forever to do. And then what will I do with them? Stash them away, throw them in the Beltane fires, or share them? Not something I have to decide today. 

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My daughter wants to be Neil Gaiman, and I’m good with that.

Note Cass left me before taking off on her adventure, promising to not die.

Note Cass left me before taking off on her adventure, promising not to die.

My daughter Cass is traveling the country with a cat named Juan and a chicken named Vanna. I could blame Neil Gaiman, but it’s probably my fault.

Here’s what I think happened.  Over the years, I would frequently ask my daughters the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” We would then talk about how they can be anything and many things, even all at once.  And how they could change their minds along the way. It was a question that would inspire smiles, sometimes giggles, and I enjoyed how the answers changed over the years. Physical therapist. Astronomer. Teacher (where’d they get THAT idea?). One of my favorite responses from my youngest daughter, Heather, was “Scooby Doo.”

One day, however, my daughter Cass gave this answer: “Neil Gaiman.” That was the one she finally stuck with into adulthood.  It reflects her varied interests and creative pursuits. She saw a video of Neil advising aspiring writers to go live life, so Cass is on the go, working various jobs and having adventures.  And writing. And hopefully meeting Neil at an upcoming event.

Cass is what Emilie Wapnick would call a multipotentialite – someone with varied interests and creative pursuits. Emilie recently gave a TED Talk on multipotentialities where she explained that “the problem wasn’t that I didn’t have any interests — it’s that I had too many.” She described anxiety of the question, what do you want to be when you grow up (oops – sorry kids!).  However, she explains that this way of being doesn’t have to be a bad thing just because it doesn’t align with our current culture’s ideal of having one single true purpose.

It might even be in line with a reality that’s been around since the Baby Boomers who, per the USBLS, have held on average over 11 jobs in their lifetimes. Now the number of careers – not just jobs, but careers – is reaching the same level in our dynamic society. I know of people who have stayed in the same career so long that they found themselves among the long-term unemployed because their field of expertise or way of doing things disappeared.  Brian Fippinger of Q4 Consulting echoes this observation, and offers some great advice in his article The Job of a Lifetime No Longer Lasts a Lifetime.

The bottom line is that it is more important than ever to prepare students to be lifelong learners.  Being curious, exploring new pathways, and building a diverse resume can be a strategy for our modern world.  And when you ask them that question – as many of you will – use it as an opportunity to also discuss how life is really an adventure with lots of bends and forks in the road.

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Pictures of Cass

Cass and her partner Dan dressed up for a special adventure.

Cass and her partner Dan dressed up for a special adventure.

 

 

 

Cass after participating in a Run or Dye marathon.

Cass after participating in a Run or Dye marathon.

 

 

 

Cass and her kitty Juan on the road.

Cass and her kitty Juan on the road.

 

 

 

 

 

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Cass has been in 6 or 7 states her first year on the go.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Person First vs Identity Labels: Which Do You Use?

HELLO_I-amIn an autism awareness conversation, the question is asked, should we say a “person with autism,” or an “autistic person,“ or an “autist?” How about an “Aspie” versus a “person with Asperger’s?”

My take: whatever that person wants. Not everyone agrees with me on this. Yes, it can get confusing, and it’s hard to keep track of individual preferences. A large number of people believe we should adopt the one, best way and stick to that. But what is that, and who gets to decide?

A pattern emerges on whether or not “person first” language is preferred (a person with ___). If the person sees the label as part of his or her identity or sense of self, then wearing the label is more likely the choice; if the label is seen as an unfortunate condition or burden, then it is more secondary to the person.

Sometimes it doesn’t matter. For example, you could say that I am a person with synesthesia, or that I am a synesthete. Since the implications of synesthesia are typically considered benign, most synesthetes are fine with either phrasing.

Other times, it does matter. A person with gastro-intestinal disorder, meanwhile, would likely find it absurd to be given an identity label for this (and what would that be? A gastrite?). On the flip-side, a person who identifies as an Aspie might find it undermining to be called a person “with Asperger’s”, or even more so “with autism” if being an Aspie is part of his or her core identity. It can feel similar to saying one has an ethnicity versus is an ethnicity. For example, I will say that I am Celtic, but that I have other ethnic heritages that are part of me genetically but less of my identity.

This pattern isn’t perfect. People have varying opinions about whether a condition or set of traits is a “disorder” and even those would who label it as such might still see the condition as part of who they are and own that identity. It can also serve as a way of seeking camaraderie and support from others who share the label. An example of this would be the term Lupites for people with Lupus, which has caused some amusing confusion among roleplaying gamers. I don’t know of a single person with Lupus who would choose to keep the condition, but it can definitely define a person in profound ways, and a tribe of others sharing that label helps.

So what can you do to make sure you phrase things to never insult anybody? First, I’m pretty sure this is impossible. We can, however, do our best while also being patient with each other in the process. I tend to use the pattern described above, which relies on my biased perspectives. I then adjust when I realize the predominate preferences of a group, and then adjust again for individuals regarding their own personal identity.

It’s not a perfect solution! What are your thoughts on this? Do you have any strategies to suggest? What about examples from your own experiences?

 

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Aspies Don’t Lack Empathy – Just the Opposite

Art work by Aegis Mario S. Nevado

Art work by Aegis Mario S. Nevado

A common trait that people associate with Asperger’s is the lack of empathy.  This misconception could be due to “normal people” lacking the ability to empathize with Aspies.  Chew on that irony for a moment.

First let me give you two sources who can explain this idea better than I, and then I will give you a glimpse into my own brain.

This has been an emotional topic for me. I am neurodivergent, and my world is rich with sensory perception sensitivity, compounded by forms of synesthesia and living as an empath. Sometimes I feel so much that I have to brace myself. It’s not just my own emotional and physical feelings, but those of others. If I care about the person, it’s intensified, but even a stranger’s emotions can touch me. And I mean touch me — where I am feeling the joy or anger or – sometimes – physical sensations that are supposed to stay put inside of that other individual. Add in synesthesia, and my eyes can strain from the changing lights that surround each person.

If I ground myself against the emotions, or motion with my hands as if to push away the feelings, I can come across as uncaring. Sometimes I have to the leave the room, regroup, and come back prepared for what I am walking into.  And sometimes I even feel anger and hurt at being assaulted by that other person pushing his or her emotions onto me, worse when there’s a demand that I only listen and “take it” instead of letting me try to fix it, to eliminate the source or to heal the person so we can both stop hurting.  However, sometimes it is important that the person go through that whole process, and it also isn’t always my place to “fix” anything.  Luckily there is a way I can meet this need without such harm to myself.

When allowed to be who I am and to use the strategies available to me, I can be my most powerful self – the self who is loving, nurturing, mentoring, healing, and creating.  It just needs to be on my terms, and – with the help of others able to empathize with me – I am learning what those are.  For example, I have honored some requests by parents to advocate for their student in a public school, and this usually involves sitting in a room with emotions running high from the teachers, parents, and especially the student, making sure everyone’s feelings and needs have been heard and understood. I can calmly direct that conversation with a balance of using empathy to guide me but, as far as people in the room can see, a gentle but solid power. They don’t know I’m trembling inside as I take each blow. If I weren’t allowed to put on my armor beforehand, I wouldn’t be successful.

A former boyfriend once described it this way. He sat across a table from me as he expressed anger, and then apologized when he realized he had been mistaken – a fact I knew the whole exasperating time as I tried to “just listen” to him, as he insisted, instead of eliminating the source of his hurt, which I finally did by saying a single sentence.  He described my demeanor during it all as calmly keeping multiple swords sheathed at my belt – a power kept in check. What he didn’t realize was that those were swords I kept collecting from him, sheathing them one by one in an effort to keep us both from being hurt. Either he was going to let me get a word in edge-wise or I was going to (figuratively) whack him over the head with the next one that came my way. Which pretty much describes our breakup.

I’m a messy empath, but I have learned much. The relationship noted above about killed me but served as the catalyst for me to become stronger and a better partner for my current relationships – all of which are a source of loving support and inspire me to be a better person. They are self-aware individuals who value the same traits that befuddle neurotypicals. It finally occurred to me that I had to be picky when it came to dating (and shouldn’t everybody do this for themselves?).  For me, I realized that I can only be that intimate with somebody who is highly capable of empathy, and I was more likely to find that among other neurodivergents. Including Aspies.

 

 

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