Have you ever been in a crowded room of friends, family, acquaintances, and felt so unbelievably alone and couldn’t understand why? I have. This most recently occurred to me over the holidays, a time that I usually feel down and feel alone and I don’t know why. I’ve been thinking about why I feel this way around the holidays and it comes from something inside of me – past experiences, times when I just felt like I wasn’t really “close” to the people in my life. This is all my fault. All mine. I understand that now – through thinking about it and writing about it.
Most of us grew up surrounded by less than stellar circumstances with people around us that either mistreated us or even worse, didn’t show us love, recognition, and affection. For me, as an example – I had a ton of great people around me growing up, including my family (which was as dysfunctional as they come), coaches, friends, other families, but I got to a point where I thought I was all by myself and I became very “hard”.
I adapted this way of thinking because of the feelings I had at a very young age. I speak a lot in these blog posts about “feeling” a certain way and then “reacting” a certain way to that “feeling”. At the age I developed this way of thinking, I was not capable of realizing the way I felt, thinking it through (why I felt a certain way and what caused it) and then making a sound decision on how to react to it. All I knew was that I had goals: (excel in school, excel in sports, stay away from the garbage and “block out the noise” around me, get into a good high-school, and not have my mom have to pay for college). I did all of that, but I was left with a void. A void I still carry with me today, which I am working on. I’m working on identifying why I feel the way I do, analyzing the causes, then reacting to whatever happens in the most positive manner I can.
This makes me think about war. War is something that I, like most people, do not consider the best option to mitigate differences. I use the term “war” because it’s global and it’s something that we can all identify with in some manner. However, when I say “war,” I really mean that argument or fight that we have that is absolutely unnecessary if we just take a breath and identify why we are feeling the way we are and reacting appropriately – by appropriately, I mean understanding the person or occurrence and why it happened. Don’t get me wrong, war is sometimes necessary to achieve peace and I understand that notion. It should be the absolute last option to go to “war” with another individual, group, agency, nation-state, etc.
When I was young, I quickly learned to “block out the noise” around me to achieve my goals. While this was very efficient in achieving my goals and actually continues to be beneficial to my decision making process when it comes to things like leadership and management (see the first blog I ever wrote for a friend and mentor on “leadership vs. management” here: http://www.leadershipcall.com/content/EIResults/complexInfobox/blog_moderation/infobox/posts/template/default/active_id/8), and this applies to not only my time in the Army as a leader, but also in business and situations where I have to take charge and quickly make a decision. This is something that is a by-product of what I was conditioned to do at a young age.
I have a knack for “blocking out the noise” and making sound decisions when things are pretty black and white. However, I must note that “blocking out the noise” when dealing with personal relationships and people (that grey area) can be detrimental to decisions that are a matter of the heart. I can list countless occasions where I’m in that mindstate and I think I’m “blocking out the noise,” where I’m really not listening very well to whoever is speaking to me, sharing their thoughts, feelings, etc. I am truly working on being a better listener and communicator as I think that is the key to learning – sharing ideas, “arguing” (not in a hostile manner) to come up with the best solution to a problem or a difference of opinion. However, I find myself in situations where I am not listening as effectively as I can be and I find myself “blocking out the noise” because it is not necessarily what I believe. This totally contradicts my ideal that learning comes from sharing ideas and openly figuring out optimal solutions. This is something I was not open to in my early years, not that any of us really were. Now though, I am challenging myself to really listen and take a genuine interest in what younger folks, my peers, and my elders have to say.
I feel like I owe it to those around me to help them realize that I am listening to them, appreciating their thoughts, ideas, feelings, and helping them to realize that they’re not alone. Their thoughts, ideas, and feelings matter. “Blocking out the noise,” while practical in many applications, is not the best way to go about our lives and our relationships with others, which is what truly matters.
Learning how to “block out the noise” when appropriate is an extremely powerful tool, conversely, it is an extremely pernicious tool when used in matters of the heart.
Do you “block out the noise”? If so, have you harnessed the ability to know when to do so?
Love & Peas,