Episode 94: Processing vs Prolonging
We keep some people in our lives out of habit or hope maybe that one day they’ll change. Maybe not even that, it’s more like we’re used to them or we’re comfortable with them and so out of habit we keep flocking to them and then we’re confused why we feel so awful and depleted.
Now to be clear, I’m always very upfront about this – other people don’t and can’t make us feel anything – that’s on us. We feel depleted not because of what they said or what they did but what we made their words or their actions mean about us and how long we allowed those thoughts to stay in our minds.
And this is really good to know because if it’s not them then you have a choice and power. Quiet confidence isn’t boastful or prideful that you don’t “need” anyone in your life. It’s that you know at all times that you are the sole gatekeeper of your feelings and your emotional cup.
Knowing with certainty and a deep sense of security that they can’t hurt you emotionally you can go into any group, any conversation, any gathering and listen to all the humans, interact with the humans and not be affected by the humans. This is a huge skill that you can develop and it’s amazing when you do because you are the catalyst. You are unstoppable and you allow yourself to explore facets of connections and relationships that most humans will never get to explore.
Let me explain, so many of us live in fear of what others think about us that they’d rather not say or do anything that might bring up a confrontation. So they just go with the flow on the outside but on the inside it’s a painful mess because they’re just absorbing these negative comments and making the words mean all kinds of ugly about them and the other party and then they both go home with their own thought drama not saying what they really wanted to aka prolonging.
Think about it – When someone says something that gives you a moment’s pause and not in a good way – I call these zingers and it’s just a comment that is 100% passive-aggressive but it’s so passive you’re not quite sure if it was meant to be rude or if you’re taking it the wrong way so you hold it in. You smile and move on to the next sentence and it just gets brushed under the rug only to be tripped on later and then out comes all the thought drama and it’s usually to someone else – which means we bring in a third party to help us understand if it was really meant to be mean or not. Does this sound familiar?
This is not confident living my friends. This is living in fear because we didn’t want to ask the question TO the person – we’d rather just hold it in and talk about them later because it’s safer. But it’s not.
Because think about it, when you hold it in – you’re holding in thoughts and beliefs about a person that don’t feel good -like holding in poison in your body and then later you share that poison with someone else and now they’re having thoughts about that encounter – like, “Yeah! That’s so crazy, they were definitely being rude! I can’t believe that!” right?
So not only did you feel the bad taste in the moment, you held onto it for hours probably afterwards and then you re-created the moment of pain to someone else and then they validated your painful encounter. Prolonging!
Who really is the villain here? The one who said words once or the one who keeps insisting on reliving it and recreating those painful emotions?
Now listen, I don’t like to villainize anyone or anything – no one is the villain and there is a difference between processing and prolonging and I’ll talk about that in just a minute but there is something at the root of all of it that if we can tackle and practice we can save ourselves from a lot of unnecessary discomfort.
Two things really:
Quiet confidence is you doing your work ahead of time and knowing that you’re whole, that you’re amazing, that you love your life – when we’re in a place of quiet confidence we’re not bragging or boasting. We can let the humans be human and say what the humans are going to say but we’re not going internalize anything because we know that what they say isn’t about us, it’s about them.
We also know that they can’t hurt us no matter what they say. This is a thought that you all want to have on your screensaver so that you see it, read it, and practice it daily until it’s deeply engrained because if they can’t – and trust me, they can’t – if they can’t hurt me then it frees me to ask questions which is where so much our thought drama comes from in the first place – what did they really mean by that?
We just ask! What do you mean? Why would you say that?
They’re not expecting you to be curious. If it really was intended as a zinger then you asking a question will startle them into the present moment and force their brain to ask, “wait, what am I doing? Why did I say that?”
And you know what happens? Awareness, clarity, and connection. – Which is what we all want deep down anyway. That connection we rarely get because we’re so afraid of their responses to our fears that we just don’t ask in the first place. We’d rather keep and hold in our fears and our negative story about them that we don’t ever get to the truth – we just hold onto stories about them and create further wedges that draw us apart.
So here’s what I want to share – let’s talk about processing vs prolonging.
Prolonging is not processing in a productive way. It’s hanging onto the hurtful, distressing thoughts and our story about them. It’s recreating the scene so you can live it again and again wondering why they said that, did that, are that. It’s hurtful.
Processing on the other hand is the act of trying to understand what they meant and what you heard through the lens of curiosity. There’s a lot of things that are going on in a conversation. We’re listening to what they’re saying and at the same time your brain is processing and categorizing – boxing and labeling – oh, this is where they’re going with that – this is what that means, oh, I’ve experienced that before – it’s making connections and boxing what you think you heard and then formulating a response while also being on alert of anything that could be potentially negative.
Like don’t share too much, don’t say too much, you can’t say certain things to this person – and bringing in your past story about them to add to the mix too and all of this is done in a fraction of a second so it can take a moment when we weren’t expecting a zinger or even something that doesn’t quite fit the current path that your brain was set up to take.
So process – first, you don’t have to respond right away. You can take a moment. You can excuse yourself. You can ask for a minute. We are usually really quick to respond – we think that as soon as they’re done speaking we have to fill in the silence but we don’t. Processing can be as simple as not saying anything for a moment. It can be simply repeating back to them what they said to you and when or if they ask or act confused you can say, I’m just trying to understand what you said.
Processing has a goal in mind. It has an end and a purpose.
Prolonging is spinning in doubt, worry, and fear and never knowing when the ride will end.
Processing is a facet of quiet confidence because quiet confidence isn’t looking for a quick response to keep them entertained or engaged. It allows you the opportunity to be present and to be curious. What did you mean by that? Or “this is what I heard, is that what you meant?”
We want to get to a place where we can start to release people from these boxes we put them in – we, ourselves put them in.
We believe we need certain people to respond a certain way or we have these expectations for people so that we can feel how we want to feel.
We need people to be happy for us when we have good news. We need people to see how kind and good we are all the time. We need people to root for us when we’re just living the human life and when they don’t – it creates quite a stir in your brain and a lot of mind drama.
Release them from these roles that we’ve assigned them to without even telling them they have them.
They don’t have to be your cheerleader or even to be happy for you. They only need to be humans with their own agency to choose what they want to do with it. And when you see what they want to do with it – then you have a choice and I encourage you to choose curiosity first.
We think the choice is a or b. They’re either for me or they’re against me but what if it’s not so clean? What if they’re for you AND sometimes threatened by your success or your way of life or just who you are and how you respond? Because we all know it’s not really YOU anyway – it’s their story about you – and that has nothing to do with you.
Curiosity is such a kindness for you and for them because most of the time they don’t even know what they’re thinking either -so questioning helps them think and process – wait, did I really mean that? Why I did I say that? And by helping them be intentional in their thoughts in this moment will make their brain take note about you – I better be intentional and careful in what I say because they ask questions. Which is a really good thing.
Processing is giving yourself the time to understand. It’s not making up a story and quickly moving on – it’s asking you to decide who you are and how you want to show up – if we don’t ask this we tend to mirror the person that’s zinging you and then later you have more thought drama because that’s not the real you – that’s the threatened you. But if you don’t feel threatened because they can’t hurt you emotionally then you’re able to be curious and open.
We can release people from playing certain roles in our lives and when we do it’s freeing and paves a path towards connection and love vs our current path of avoidance and blockades.
Pay attention to your beliefs and expectations about why these certain people should show up a certain way in your life.
There’s a person in our lives that always seems to brag or want to one up and in really weird ways. Like in the middle of a conversation this person will just say, “we’re doing this (whatever it is – something big – and then they’ll say,) “So when are you guys doing that?” And it’s confusing because in your mind you weren’t expecting that, it’s not what you would have said or how you would have shown up so you’re just like, “what?” – again – processing – we can get into the habit of processing out loud – processing out loud gives them an opportunity to check in with themselves and see if they like how they’re showing up and to clarify what they’re saying.
Like, “Why do you think we want that or are doing that?” Why would you ask us? This is your moment to share! Congratulations on what you’re doing!
But most of the time we miss these opportunities because we just think inside, that was rude. Why would they say that? And hold it in aka prolonging for regurgitation later and it’s terrible.
Prolonging is just what it sounds like – holding onto something longer than is needed, helpful, or productive and it just creates a lot of negative emotions for you. Aim for processing and practice processing out loud. Even just asking the same exact phrase they said but in question form. I’m telling you, it’s amazing what happens.
Okay, last bit that I want to offer here – release people from needing to be a certain way or play a certain role. In our minds we believe people should be a certain way and depending on who they are or what role they play we have certain expectations for them.
For example, a friend should be kind. A friend should root for me. A friend shouldn’t say anything rude or tacky.
So in conversation when they do say something you interpret as rude or unkind you’re left feeling hurt or offended. You’ve already come into the interaction with a story about them – they should…xyz but what if they shouldn’t? What if they’re just human being human processing their own human experiences and it doesn’t have anything to do with you?
When we release them of these expectations we allow them just to be them. Do your own thought work first. They get to be them and I get to be me and under this beautiful truth you get to decide, and then what? What do I WANT? Not need – no expectations just wants. What do I want? What kind of friendship do I want?
You get to choose who or what or how you spend your time and if you know something about someone – that they’re prone to joking at the expense of someone else maybe that’s not your cup of tea. It’s nothing negative about them it’s your preference and that’s okay.
We can love the humans and release the humans from needing to show up a certain way and we can practice quiet confidence by being open, curious, and meeting our own needs first not outsourcing them to other people.
Other people can’t hurt you emotionally only you do that by what you make it mean and get into the habit of processing your thoughts in the moment and out loud. Amazing things happen when you’re able to be curious. Try it this week, then let me know how it goes for you my friends!