What do you project into the silence?

The email that goes unanswered for several days. The phone call that doesn’t get returned. What do you project into the silence? They don’t love me. They hate me. They’re mad at me. They think my idea is stupid. I’m bugging them. Maybe they didn’t get it? No, they got it, they just don’t like my idea. I asked too much.

Does any of this sound familiar?

It is so tempting to project our own story into the silence. Isn’t it interesting that we often project the most painful scenario? The one that hurts us and diminishes us the most?

I recently had an awkward conversation with a friend and became convinced later that day that she was mad at me. I texted her an apology, a general one since I wasn’t quite sure what to apologize for, and then felt really vulnerable. I checked my phone obsessively for the next hour. Nothing. The silence became incredibly agitating. I decided to call her and got her voicemail. Crap. Then I left another message on her voicemail, telling her I was worried that she was upset with me.

Nothing. No call back.

I spent the rest of the day distracted, not able to work, sobbing intermittently. I was convinced, not only that she hated me, but that I was a horrible person. That whatever I did or however I was being was totally unacceptable to other humans. I wondered if anyone would ever love me considering I was such a horrible and unlovable person. I was in a total shame spiral!

But this time I did something new. I called a really wise friend, right in the white hot heat of that fire. I sobbed like a crazy person, intermittently choking things out like, “I think she’s mad at me but I don’t know what I did. I’m afraid everyone is going to go away…” She listened and then asked me something with so much compassion. “Can you simply be with the possibility that she is upset with you? Just sit with it?”

I considered it for a moment, and then responded through more tears, “No… I don’t think I can! Not even for five minutes. I think it’s one of the hardest possible things for me to be with.”

Then she said, “So that’s your work then! You’re being with it now though. You’re doing it. It’s painful but you’re being with it in this moment. You’re growing your capacity…”

The friend called the next day and it turns out she wasn’t mad at me at all. She had been having a rough and busy day and just wasn’t able to call back. It wasn’t personal and I hadn’t done anything wrong. I had worked myself up into a froth for nothing!

Do you ever do this?

Our woundedness can creep up at unlikely moments. For me, something as minor as someone being irritated with me can send me into a really dark place, and fast. I am so grateful I was able to reach out this time, right in the thick of it, and get support.

This is what wisdom is– Creating even the smallest bit of consciousness around our responses so that we have some room to breathe, to choose, to see things for what they are. And if we can’t do it ourselves, the most loving choice is to reach out to a friend. Someone who can nod their head and say, “Oh honey, I’ve been right where you are… It’s so painful.”

Is there anywhere in your life you are projecting into the silence? Are you making up a story about the person who hasn’t called? the friend who hasn’t emailed back? Did you go out on a limb and got left hanging? What story are you telling yourself?

69 Comments

  1. Posted April 24, 2012 at 10:45 am | Permalink

    Do I ever do this? Hell, yeah. I am so glad that I am not the only one. If there were Oscars for doing this, I’d be Meryl Streep.

  2. Posted April 24, 2012 at 11:12 am | Permalink

    My mobile is not superglued to me. So it can be hours before I respond to a text message. In this world of instant communication, we all expect instant reaction. As an oldie, sometimes I had to queue at he phone box, to call a friend to say I was sorry, I forgive you, time to reflect rather than the knee jerk mean text, out of character. Ah, those were the days.

  3. Posted April 24, 2012 at 11:26 am | Permalink

    What a true statement of an experience I have to imagine we’ve all had. This was such a great thing to read today. Thank you.

  4. Posted April 24, 2012 at 11:44 am | Permalink

    As I read this post, I kept saying to myself…”this is me!” Great insight. And so very, very true.

  5. Posted April 24, 2012 at 12:03 pm | Permalink

    OH GOD. This is what I do 100% of the time when I don’t hear from people or things seem weird. I’m absolutely the best at inventing issues where there are none. I am absolutely not saying that YOU do what I am about to type, but I used to do this all the time. My therapist totally called me on the carpet about this and asked why I enjoyed creating drama: what was I getting from it? How was having so much (imagined) conflict filling a need for me? Whenever I catch myself inventing scenarios, I do what SARK suggested you do: sit with the worst. And then I hope for the best and try not to dwell, asking myself (lovingly) what I need if I’m making up this story (attention from my boyfriend, love and reassurance, time alone, etc.). It helps me get better at meeting my own needs and not being so dependent on others.

  6. Sandra
    Posted April 24, 2012 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

    This was a weird synchronicity. I was just reading my email, or rather, looking for a reply and projecting a certain story about why I didn’t have the reply yet, and starting to feel bad about it. The story I create is about how much the other person doesn’t want to hang out with me, and how uncomfortable they feel about having to tell me. It’s been my experience that these stories relate directly to experiences I’ve had in childhood. Writing the “story” above makes it clearer now where it came from for me. I find it helpful to cry and cry about how bad it feels with someone who can listen, knowing it relates to earlier times. Slowly, it becomes a little clearer and easier. It catches me over and over a million times though. It’s so helpful to hear people talk about this – thank you for your honesty.

  7. Char
    Posted April 24, 2012 at 12:34 pm | Permalink

    Andrea, you have the courage to express what we all feel. Thank you. I hope you write a book someday.

  8. Susan
    Posted April 24, 2012 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

    I did this very thing this morning…that voice in my head saying “I guess I’m not important enough to her for her to respond to my email”…and the email happened to be one in which I put something of myself out there…and how quickly that self-talk spiraled downward to such negative things.

  9. Erin
    Posted April 24, 2012 at 1:07 pm | Permalink

    Andrea, you shine the light on things that can only grow in the dark. Thank you!

  10. Posted April 24, 2012 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

    Thank God for THE WISE FRIEND who will always hear us out, and if busy will at least say I love you and I’ll call you back ASAP- AND SHE DOES!!
    I admire the way you are so candid with writing about “your visits to THE DARK PLACE” (quoting you!) I wish i could just stop editing myself and write my heart out on my blog, but whenever I’ve tried i force myself to think positively and write a happy ending when it’s not always that way…I’m glad you’ve got all these people sending you good vibes and reminding you that you are not alone in this, after all, most of us started a blog looking for kindred spirits, empathethic souls to walk along with…read you soon (p.s. this is the down side of being so creative, sometimes it just gets out of hand and we get tangled up in our own stories: BRIGHT SIDE!)

  11. Posted April 24, 2012 at 2:21 pm | Permalink

    Thank you SO MUCH for being honest about this. It really helps to know I am not the only one (it feels like that sometimes) and to read about your reaching out and staying with it/moving through it.

  12. Debbie
    Posted April 24, 2012 at 2:49 pm | Permalink

    I’m a new, grateful reader of yours and “discovered” you thru Brene Brown :)

    Yes! I do this.

    What I also do is if *I* am the one that, for whatever reasons am not able to respond right away, will create the drama *for* them in my head! (They must think I don’t care … am terrible … etc., etc., etc.) It’s craziness and while I knew that I did it, I’m not sure I realized just how crazy it is until you named it for what it is . . . Projection. It was also good to hear your friend’s invitation to sit with what you were thinking they were thinking. It really, *really* does help to simply be with it as it “is,” doesn’t it?

    Thank you for your honesty, new friend.

  13. Erin
    Posted April 24, 2012 at 3:31 pm | Permalink

    That was EXACTLY where I was yesterday with a friend!!!

    I chose vulnerability and courage and (after creating some space between my friend and me) I went over to her house to talk about it. She was very gracious, understanding and didn’t laugh at me for being silly.

    It is moments like this that help reframe the paradigms of my past and know that those kids that hurt me as a child have no power over me anymore. I’m an adult and no longer a victim. I now choose what to believe about myself. SUCH FREEDOM!!

  14. Posted April 24, 2012 at 3:32 pm | Permalink

    OMG…I thought I was the only person who did this! Thanks so much for this…

  15. Sandy
    Posted April 24, 2012 at 3:39 pm | Permalink

    Wow. This basically describes the past two years for me. Very much a “dark place”- the murky muck of projections. Though I’ve learned to keep moving through that “silence”- after over 2k job applications and seeding a million ideas with a million people and organizations, if I stopped to ponder the downward spiral projections and internalized them into the vortex of self-loathing, I most assuredly would have jumped from a cliff by this juncture.

    I’m much more confident in my vulnerability. The shame of circumstance does leave a tenacious residue that squelches my imagination and leaves me quivering at times. However, I’ve learned that the projection- complete with dialogue scripted by the angst-ridden screenwriter of my ego- is a distraction, often a self-indulgent one at that.

    I’ve stopped caring what those people- even loved ones and dear friends- “could” be thinking. It’s been a true surrender. Plus it has left me with time for more generative activities.

  16. Posted April 24, 2012 at 3:45 pm | Permalink

    Oh, this is so good. I totally do this! And you know what I’ve noticed? the person never responds until after I have let go in some way. It’s like a magnet. When I am creating the negative story and totally freaking out, I am repelling the other person – creating a force field and they don’t respond. When I am able to flip the magnet – so to speak – which is to say that I let go somehow (maybe by calling a wise friend or going for a run or taking a nap!) it seems that’s when the person finally responds.

    They respond when I no longer NEED them to :) That need is like grasping to me — and when I need something too much, it eludes me. That’s my experience anyway.

    I also just want to add that there is nothing more heartwrenching to me than believing that someone is upset with me. I want to fix it right away. Something I am learning to sit with as well.

  17. Posted April 24, 2012 at 3:49 pm | Permalink

    Wow, you haven’t been crawling around in my mind have you? It seems like I could have written these words. My yes, I can do exactly all the things you said and I bet if we had a race, I’d be very competitive in the time it takes to get there.

    Recently, I was away on business and I tried calling my partner at home. There was no answer. I became irritated and upset. How dare they avoid me? Do they just not really love me? Maybe I’m not important enough to them to take my call.

    The scenario and questions played out in my mind until I drove myself silly. All the time, they were busy and weren’t near the phone. Silly me, I thought – here I chose to go down this road of abandonment again just like I learned as a weee little child. I can no giggle about this, but on that day, I thought the world had ended.

  18. Jeanne
    Posted April 24, 2012 at 4:35 pm | Permalink

    This is something I’ve been trying to teach myself after hearing it in a class a few years ago. All about writing other people stories when we truly have no idea what’s going on in their lives. We barely know what’s going on in our lives. The stories we write are really our deepest fears about ourselves. P.S. As an introvert I have a feeling a lot of people think I’m mad at them when it takes me a couple of days to get back to them. :)

  19. Posted April 24, 2012 at 6:07 pm | Permalink

    Oh this post is so totally in tune with that vulnerable soft wounded side we all must struggle with from time to time. I love… That you reached out for a rope to pull you back in. And I love your friends wise guidance.. To sit with it. We are so driven to solve and mend, when it’s really ok to be with it. Brilliant! Great great sharing Andrea…I know these words will come in handy.
    Thank you Txo

  20. elizabeth
    Posted April 24, 2012 at 6:45 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for this…..thank you so much!

  21. Jennifer
    Posted April 24, 2012 at 7:36 pm | Permalink

    Great post — and great comments.

    I am another master storyteller, and it helps to see that so many other people do it too. You can’t always tell from the outside, but it seems we’re all walking around on this earth, each of us living out our own little personal dramas — written and directed by us and starring us. You’d think we’d write comedies or tales of heroism and superheros, but nope, we construct tragedies and tear-jerkers.

    I heard a great quote the other day by Bryon Katie that I think applies here:
    “Reality is always kinder than the stories we tell about it.”
    Let’s all try and remember that the next time we start to write another scene :)

  22. Posted April 24, 2012 at 8:31 pm | Permalink

    You would think with the quickness that the stories develop in my head, that I would never have writer’s block. Alas, all I do is write stories about that, too.

    As usual, your post comes at just the right time … thank you, once again, for your courage and truth and your ability to share with us even the most difficult times — and the shame that accompanies those times.

    I am trying to hold myself close and apply a salve rather than a reproach … and this helps so very much.

  23. Posted April 25, 2012 at 6:00 am | Permalink

    THANK YOU for this post, Andrea!!! I’ve been mired in the midst of this for a week now – things are up in the air with a guy I was dating (he took a small step back, I overreacted and threw up a wall, then realized it and tried to make amends – he left things with “we should do something when our schedules calm down in a couple weeks,” so things were left on a high note). Emailed him a photo of us together at a formal event… and no response. Nothing. A few days later I texted him a video clip from a concert he’d wanted to go to, and it felt like his response took FOREVER (even though it was really under two days), and it wasn’t a stellar response at that.

    Needless to say, I’ve been stressing out about it, feeling like it’s OVER, there’s no hope, he’s not interested. I haven’t heard more from him, so who knows on that front – but a wise friend who read the text last night said he sounds tired, not over it, and to give him the benefit of the doubt, just like you said. It’s so, so, so hard to do that and to remain open and vulnerable!!! I keep wanting to just slam the door on the possibility because it’s less scary and more sure to just do my own thing… but I know I’d be missing out on some wonderful things if I did. So here’s to soldiering on with hope. :)

  24. Helene
    Posted April 25, 2012 at 6:02 am | Permalink

    Letting people live in my head, and determine my “mood” is something I work on daily. Perhaps it’s none of my business what other people think of me. I find this very difficult. It brings me back to public school….and feeling different and not fitting in. It’s an old wound, and I’d love it to heal!!!

  25. Seth
    Posted April 25, 2012 at 6:10 am | Permalink

    Have you watched that hour long YouTube clip “an interview with Anne Lamott”? As you undoubtedly know, she is amazing, and one of the things she talks about eloquently there is the power of someone saying, “me too.”

  26. Posted April 25, 2012 at 6:11 am | Permalink

    I do this all the time. And since I am the “creative type” I can imagine a great story. I am working to change that. I absolutely related to the ““I think she’s mad at me but I don’t know what I did. I’m afraid everyone is going to go away…” I take the story to the most outlandish place it can go in my head. I will even get mad and swear I will never call or email them again. What is that old saying? “I’ll show you–I’ll hurt me.” Thank you for being inside my head today and reminding me work on this behavior.
    Cathy

  27. Posted April 25, 2012 at 6:18 am | Permalink

    Thank you for your beautiful post. This one is a slippery slope that’s easy to fall down and take things personally. Learning to be with the discomfort of someone else’s upset, learning not to take things personally and reaching out for support (even when it feels messy) are all very courageous life lessons, I’m glad to know I’m in good company and we’re all on parallel paths.

  28. Marie
    Posted April 25, 2012 at 6:22 am | Permalink

    Most often I find others’ silence is more reflective of their unique challenges, schedules, and assumptions. Once I let go of my expectations and remove myself as the center of the silence I open myself to acting as a friend rather than a wounded party.

  29. Posted April 25, 2012 at 6:51 am | Permalink

    I have done this too often to count. I now just tell myself that everything is okay, that I have no idea what is going on in the other persons life. Usually this is true. They got busy, the e-mail didn’t go through, their cell phone died. Then it started happening with my husband. He would leave an important e-mail or voice mail and literally stress himself into a sweat if he didn’t get an answer. I was able to calm him down and guess what..the person was on vacation, or just out of town or had technical issues.
    Still its so good to know I am not the only one..I try to keep myself centered but its not always easy. Great post and so relate able.

  30. Kate
    Posted April 25, 2012 at 7:22 am | Permalink

    This post has come at the right time for me as well. This happens to me often and in fact has been happening for the past few days with friends whom I am close to. I’ve been imagining all kinds of things and feeling bad or trying not to feel bad. I realize it is the residue of past hurts/rejections. Thank you!

  31. Posted April 25, 2012 at 7:52 am | Permalink

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for this post. I absolutely do this! I’m right in the middle of it and it’s so painful I can’t bare it. Really makes me step back and think though after reading this post. I find that I hold on to these(sometimes irrational) expectations out of people and I don’t even communicate my intentions and then when I am let down I lash out and get hurt. After reading the comments, it is comforting that I am not the only one.
    Again, thank you for this post. Gave me another reason to step back and rationalize with myself that everything will be ok and that phone call will come soon enough.

  32. Posted April 25, 2012 at 8:01 am | Permalink

    Uh…guilty! Great way to get us to think about the space of silence. Bravo!

  33. Posted April 25, 2012 at 9:20 am | Permalink

    Excellent articulation! My business motto is “Change your story. Change your life.” As a conflict coach I am so often encouraging clients to be conscious of what they make up in their heads and then to weigh it against the what’s so … the facts. If what you’re making up doesn’t empower you, create a new story in your head! Before reaching the end of your story, I had made up that your friend’s phone was having problems. Being human is fascinating!

  34. Mickey
    Posted April 25, 2012 at 9:56 am | Permalink

    This is something I still deal with from time to time. So frustrating to be in the middle of the dark energy and very challenging to get out of. Yep…..like today! Don’t know what sets it off and never quite sure what clears it but typically reaching out to help someone else is a good cure for me.

  35. Susan
    Posted April 25, 2012 at 10:05 am | Permalink

    My daughter is a college freshman and this year has been so frustrating for me because….she does not answer my emails. She will respond to a text (not my favorite form of communication) or phone call(maybe) but my emails sent off when I find an article, picture, quote, etc., that I think she will enjoy simply go unanswered. She acts completely benign when I ask her about it. I don’t get it.

  36. Posted April 25, 2012 at 10:44 am | Permalink

    Love this article! It has given me another peek at the many facets of our self talk that I will be sharing with my clients. Your story will be shared…

  37. marina sorr.
    Posted April 25, 2012 at 12:49 pm | Permalink

    I am so grateful for this post, Andrea. this happens a lot to me as well. your courage in telling your story first to your friend and then on your blog is a great inspiration. and your words will stay with me and be of help. thank you, Andrea, you are a very brave and beautiful woman.

  38. Posted April 25, 2012 at 1:21 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for this. It really spoke to me today and helped shift things :-)

  39. Posted April 25, 2012 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

    Isn’t it amazing that such small things cause such heartache? A few days ago a writer acquaintance put out a call for a flash fiction piece, 100 words + the word sunshine included for a lighthearted Sunshine award. I was one of nine people who submitted and the flash was posted. Then the award was given to all 9 of us and put to public vote but my name and piece not included. Was it an oversight? Deliberate? The trouble is that I’ve avoided exposure quite a lot and now I’m delving into it in the most terrifically brave way. When I put my heart out there for everyone to see it might get stomped on here and there. Great post Andrea and exactly what I needed to read this morning.

  40. Jan
    Posted April 25, 2012 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

    This is SO true! I am in this very place with someone. I don’t have someone to talk to about it, so it was wonderful to read this today so I could name it. Thank you!

  41. Posted April 25, 2012 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

    Last night I suffered from worry-induced insomnia, courtesy of my “projecting into the silence”. Why? Because he said he’d call at 9:30 and he called at 10:15. That was 45min of pure projection hell that I allowed to linger into the wee hours even after an amazing phone call. But I’m happy I can laugh at my own neurosis and know that I even have company.

  42. Cris
    Posted April 25, 2012 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

    This happened to me recently where I didn’t hear from a friend and I was sure she was mad at me. I finally sent her a vague little email and she wrote me right back apologizing for not getting back to me because her husband’s grandmother was in the hospital. Boy, did I feel like a schmoe. Thank you for bringing this to light. I, for one, am going to be watching more closely what I’m projecting into the silence.

  43. Bob
    Posted April 25, 2012 at 3:07 pm | Permalink

    Excellent post … which definitely came at the right time for me as well. As if you were speaking directly to me. I’ve told myself stories of this sort for many years. Recently when calls were unanswered and emails unreturned, … I’ve just had to “be with it.” While it is very painful and it hurts deeply … there is nothing else to do but “be with it” and “breathe.” Thank you!

  44. Debbie
    Posted April 25, 2012 at 4:48 pm | Permalink

    Enjoyed…and needed….the post! Thank you! We are our worst enemy at times!

  45. Posted April 25, 2012 at 5:17 pm | Permalink

    Rings so true. Thanks for being brave and posting this story. I have been there so many times, I jump to apologizing for myself sometimes just to fill that silence, it creates so much drama! I’ve been working hard for the last couple of years at just not going there, stopping myself in my tracks and reminding myself that my intentions are good and I cannot assume what someone else thinks or interprets. It’s so good to hear from so many others who struggle with this. Particularly in this age of so much instant communication that can actually confuse things because it’s so truncated.

  46. Posted April 25, 2012 at 5:27 pm | Permalink

    What do I project in to the silence? I project every single fear of being inadequate that I have. I am learning – very very slowly that if someone is mad at me THEY have the responsibility to communicate that to me. It’s kind of the mantra that I can’t fix it if I don’t know it’s broken. But, on the flip side it has to be MY responsibility to not assume it is broken because I am feeling ugly, lonely, fearful, inadequate.

    I fall short in this many many times a month. It is like I somehow KNOW it in my head but can’t quite get to the believing it in my heart. It feels like right now I am in a weird place of faking it until I make it ingrained in myself.

    Thank you for coming up with the most eloquent ways of expressing the things I am struggling with and sharing so much of your story.

  47. Posted April 25, 2012 at 5:30 pm | Permalink

    yes, I do that often. I have made something out of nothing and later feel embarrassed more than I can say. We’re human, we error. I am a work in progress…

  48. Posted April 25, 2012 at 6:33 pm | Permalink

    You are not alone. You could have been describing me. I go to dark places when there is silence. And I try really hard to remind myself that the other person probably isn’t thinking about me as much as I think they are. ;) But I still go to that place. Love your honesty!

  49. Lilly1
    Posted April 25, 2012 at 6:58 pm | Permalink

    Sadly sometimes the story is true. In my case, I thought the person was a friend and since I send out emotive pictures and stories to all my friends and family I don’t really expect a response. But I noticed that the person did not respond to holiday wishes or birthdays nor did they send any wishes. I asked the person one day why they appeared so cold with my and warm with others and she said it was because she did not want anymore friends in her life and did not want to get attached to me. That there was a reason she never responded.

    I promptly removed her from my email list. Then she came around quoting some of the emails I’d sent and saying that nobody wrote her and dropping hints as to wanting to be friends. This cycle has actually repeated to different degrees over the past couple of years. At one point, she said she wanted to play that words game in the phone but that that did not mean we were friends. She said she just played with people. I stopped playing and she started talking about how she played with this person and that.

    At first I felt bad because I know she has experienced great pain and trauma in her life. But now I feel like she enjoys playing the push people away and feel them back in game. I am in the process of trying to get away from her, but it is kind of difficult because this “friend is also my boss” and I have watched her tear into people, well myself included. Plus I genuinely care for her. But I feel like it is just to painful and costly.

    For me the stories came after she said those very hurtful things. Now when I do send something and include her or write her as I did congratulating her for a nice event in her life I feel rather dumb. Although she does at times throw a response to let me know she has received the message. With some people, maybe the story is true?

  50. B.
    Posted April 25, 2012 at 7:41 pm | Permalink

    Eek. This is really timely for me right now. Thank you so so much for sharing your experience.

  51. Liane Sparks
    Posted April 25, 2012 at 9:06 pm | Permalink

    You have a good friend. If I could try to add anything to her wise words, it would be to follow the question path of Byron Katie. Formulate your thoughts into a statement eg “She hates me” or “I am the worst friend ever” then ask yourself Is That True? REALLY investigate it. Find 3 examples in which the opposite is true…

    I won’t try and explain it through typing here. Instead, I direct you to her website:

    http://www.thework.com

    With good intentions to help myself and hopefully others too x

  52. Liane Sparks
    Posted April 25, 2012 at 9:10 pm | Permalink

    Lilly. You have noticed this lady is playing a game. Will you continue to play it too? Really investigate what is going on. What role does SHE play and what role do YOU play?

    Do The Work.

  53. Posted April 26, 2012 at 5:06 am | Permalink

    I love that I found this just now… in the midst of doing just this in multiple areas of my life. So freeing when we come up for air. Thank you.

  54. Kisty
    Posted April 26, 2012 at 10:01 am | Permalink

    I was a master at making myself miserable until I saw this poem at a memorial service:

    –by Piet Hein, a Danish poet

    Do remember to forget,
    Anger, worry and regret.
    Live while you have life to live,
    Love while you have love to give.

    When I start obsessing, I repeat this poem to myself and it reminds me what a waste of your life anger, worry and regret are. Then I “remember to forget.”

  55. Lilly1
    Posted April 26, 2012 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

    Thanks I see what you are saying about the work. I registered. I think part is my seeking approval, being clingy, and not thinking I am good enough. I am learning. :) I am deserving.

  56. Sarah
    Posted April 26, 2012 at 4:47 pm | Permalink

    I did this repeatedly over the last two weeks. I sent two emails that left me feeling really bare and didn’t get a reply to either one. And I filled the silence with negative stories that may or may not be true. Thanks for the reminder.

  57. elisa mikiten
    Posted April 26, 2012 at 10:06 pm | Permalink

    So how do we parent our teens through this? Having been raised on “instant” communication, they will be even less able to handle silence.

  58. Posted April 27, 2012 at 3:46 am | Permalink

    Thanks for writing this – I waste so much time on worrying about this sort of thing it made me realise that I really do just need to let it go and not worry! Great blog! xx

  59. Andrea
    Posted April 27, 2012 at 9:35 am | Permalink

    Love that question of how to parent our teens through this.

    I think we parent ourselves FIRST, do our own work around this, and then when they are faced with these moments we can see these moments for what they are– a very natural way we humans try to protect ourselves from vulnerability. (Making up stories and feeling right about them seems to be preferable to our egos.)

    I don’t have a teen yet, but if we can guide our kids by naming this stuff– “It’s so hard to not know what’s happening, isn’t it?” “You really put yourself out there and it’s so hard to wait…” or even letting them identify the story they are creating in the silence…

    I think the key is understanding it ourselves. If it’s in our blind spot, we can’t guide them as powerfully.

  60. Posted April 27, 2012 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

    I do this all the time :( I totally think & imagine the worst. I am at least more aware of it now & try to not take things (rejection or ignoring) so personal these days.

    Thanks for this great reminder!

  61. Posted April 27, 2012 at 6:16 pm | Permalink

    This has happened to me more times than I can count! I’ve been generally better about it lately, but there have been periods of my life that I will totally stress myself into a frenzy if I don’t hear back from someone right away if I think they’re angry at me.

  62. Posted April 27, 2012 at 9:42 pm | Permalink

    I just sent out a bunch of scary vulnerable emails and I’m waiting to hear back. Trying not to project into the silence. Thank you for this post. It was so perfectly timed. <3 Much love.

  63. Shannon Born
    Posted April 27, 2012 at 10:51 pm | Permalink

    My projected story is that I am never enough, academically, professionally, as a mom, as a partner… and then I become so consumed with the narrative, I neglect the very things that I worry about and my thoughts, my story becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

    It happens less and less as I remind myself that I can change my “reality” by changing my “fiction”.

    What a wonderful post! I will be looking for others :) Thank you for sharing!!

  64. -L
    Posted April 29, 2012 at 1:01 am | Permalink

    Once again Andrea, I love this! I don’t know if you remember this or not but I did reach out to YOU a few years (when my 5 yr old was only a baby) ago via email about a close friend of mine who I felt deeply hurt by when I was pregnant w/ my 1st born. I reached out in the dark of it to you because the way you wrote so honestly and lovingly about your close friendships, your life and Ben . . . I could SO relate to your spirit. I trusted you might offer some good advice and you did!! Thank you for being there!!! I was so hurt over this friendship and I was so hurt by how things went. I went out on a limb and it broke. I can tell you that what you offered made perfect sense to me! Yet, I ultimately couldn’t follow through w/ it because I was so shaken up by how things went when I tried to talk to her the 1st time (@ almost 8 mos pregnant) . . . I couldn’t risk any more hurt as a vulnerable new mom w/ very little female support around me. I couldn’t take another potential blow. So still after all this time I wonder how it could have gone or wish I could still let her know just how I truly felt/ feel. Perceptions, projections, hurt feelings, disappointments, frustrations, loss, truth/ heart of the matter . . . I ultimately decided I had to protect myself based on previous experience. I even tested the waters a few times by making myself vulnerable regarding what I was going through as a new mom after an emergency c-sec and no extended family support. She criticized and judged me. Her responses felt harsh and un-supportive, lacking in compassion or understanding. I realized she was not safe to be vulnerable with. I had to focus on our baby and my own well-being but I know from the bottom of my heart that what you offered me in your response was heart felt and honest and would truly work in a relationship w/ two open-hearts and a desire to heal the friendship. I fully wished that I could see my friend being willing to hear me and have a gentile open loving talk but my instincts or the story I was telling myself was that her ego would get in the way and I would be the target of her anger. You suggested that unless we could talk openly and address it all it probably could not be resolved or work out. That i needed to feel heard and that yes it would have been nice if she could have been more open w/ me, as well. Anyway, I fully agreed w/ you but then realized that every time I had tried that I got shot down harshly and it would affect me too deeply when I needed to be a new mom and focus on our precious baby. I was too vulnerable and tender to deal w/ it again. I kept trying to just be there for her though I felt so wounded. She kept not being there for me and it really just died. I have grieved for the loss. I think in my initial honesty w/ her at 8 mos pregnant w/ my 1st child . . . I knew I had to take the risk that she might not respond well and that she might abandon me in some way when I really needed her. I was abandoned as a baby and as a small child. I think I needed to face it before my 1st child was born. I think I knew all along that if I set a boundary w/ her and stood up for myself that she would ultimately reject me and she did and it hurt really bad but I have survived it. I think the silent treatment, rejection, being blamed . . . scape-goated . . . these are ancient wounds for me. Three out of four showed up in that friendship. Once again you have brought up such a though provoking and significant topic. XOXO -L P.s. something I tell myself these days when people do pull the silent treatment thing if they are mad at me or not . . . . it’s not really about me. If they are mad let them be mad, they can talk to me about it but if someone is trying to be punitive in that way . . . maybe it’s a blessing sometimes? Just sayin’;)

  65. Sarah
    Posted April 29, 2012 at 1:19 am | Permalink

    Do I ever do this?! This is the only thing I ever do in that situation.

    And no, I can’t just sit with the idea of someone being unhappy with me at all. I must fix it! Fix it by hassling them more!

  66. Liz C.
    Posted April 29, 2012 at 7:17 am | Permalink

    I so know this place!! Your post inspired mine for this week: http://enjoyandlove.blogspot.com/2012/04/i-love-everything-andrea-scher-writes.html

    Thank you!!

  67. CoraD
    Posted May 2, 2012 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

    Thank you. I really appreciate you sharing this, for many reasons. I often idolize the bloggers I read and it’s so comforting to hear that I am not alone in my struggles. And it helps me have compassion for myself, since I’m given proof it’s not just silly ol’ Cora who does these things.

    I had an epiphany the other day, when in the midst of obsessive, anxiety frought thoughts, this thought floated to the top: “which fire are you feeding?” Meaning, am I feeding the anxiety fire or the peace fire? The fire that sustains, warms, brightens or the fire that weakens, confuses, panics? And I realized I wanted to be feeding the peace fire and to change my thoughts. It was such an empowering realization – mainly because it gives me a choice.

    It’s also helping me work on accepting that the anxiety fire is there, always has been and might always will be. And that’s all right. Both fires serve their purposes and I imagine, on occasion, I’ll want to feed the anxiety fire.

    So, thanks.

  68. CoraD
    Posted May 2, 2012 at 12:26 pm | Permalink

    One more thought – I really like that your friend acknowledged your pain and didn’t try to whisk it away or trivialize it. Sometimes things are painful and the best thing you can do for yourself or others is acknowledge that it is indeed painful.

    My pain, of late, that I’ve been trying to avoid is summed up by this quote: “We have to accept the fact that some people are going to stay in our hearts, even if they don’t stay in our lives.” The people not in my life didn’t die, they just aren’t a part of my life anymore. And it hurts, a lot, that they aren’t there and that I can’t or won’t change that fact. Now, I have to embrace that sadness.

  69. Posted May 8, 2012 at 11:59 am | Permalink

    First, thank you for your vulnerability. You consistently offer so much insight and wisdom, and when someone as amazing as you shares a moment of weakness, I don’t feel so alone! Second, yes, I have been there many times, projecting into the silence…and it’s amazing how most of the time it isn’t at all what I thought! Much love :)

7 Trackbacks

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