You and I are chatting about what’s going on in your life, and there’s a familiar experience that I’m having.
Things are happening in your life, but you are emotionally unaffected by them. There’s an “OH WELL”-y-ness to the way you are being about how your life is unfolding.
No wallowing in sadness over there for you. Instead, life is the way it is, and you know you will recover from this thing the same way you will recover from the previous and the next thing.
On the one hand, it’s really nice to know you aren’t devastated by what’s happened. I trust in your ability to recover, and I’ve seen you overcome hurdles like this in the past.
But on the other hand, it’s boring to talk with you about it. It feels the same way watching re-runs on TV feel. There’s no stakes in the life you are sharing. Nothing really at risk. Everything just happens and you are unimpacted by any of it.
I wonder to myself why I’m more upset by what’s happened than you are. That seems weird. Maybe it’s just me. I have done a lot of this work in this area, and while something doesn’t feel right, maybe I’m picking up on false positives.
I continue listening to you talk about it. I’m craving some genuine anger, frustration or even sadness. Just some part of your humanity in this, instead of your retelling the story with the same indifference you would tell me about something that happened to a stranger somewhere across the world.
Is this a hazard of the way you have learned to approach life? You become so disconnected from it that it can no longer impact you?
I keep listening, because who am I to tell you how you should grieve a loss like the one you’ve had. The internal impact is fairly minimal, clearly. You aren’t devastated, hurt, not sorrowful, not upset. Not … anything.
But the external impact is massive. I’m left bored.
I listen and nod, and try my best to pay attention, but what stakes do I have in any of this? If you’re not really that connected to what’s happening in your life, why should I be?
When did you learn to coat yourself in this layer of Teflon, I wonder? It’s like you’re an emotional Teflon-Don, nothing sticks.
As you speak, I get more curious about the impact of this tendency of yours. If you had to go through life wearing Teflon constantly, how would that be a gift, and how would that be a curse?
What is it like being a spectator everywhere? You’re never really on the pitch. You can point out how the players are playing the game wrong, complain about how the referee is making the wrong calls, and talk about all of the strategy that you think would have better served the game being played, all without ever really putting yourself at risk.
But how much can you savour a victory where you never really played the game in the first place? I guess on the flip side, you are spared from the agony of defeat, and so I surmise that there must have been a point in your past where that agony left you absolutely destroyed.
I wonder what that defeat looked like.
You and I are still talking, but my mind is racing. The lack of emotion in what you share makes it easy for us both to spend a bunch of time in our heads while we are connecting. I practice getting back down into my heart, and look at you, wondering who you would be if you didn’t have this Teflon coating attached to you.
Who would I get to spend time with if you weren’t so untouchable — so impenetrable? How would you be at risk without this armour?
What kind of being would need to create an armour like this?
And as I get present to that truth, I start to get present to the real you. The you that lies beneath the brave face and the stiff upper lip and the quirky ironic joke that makes it all okay however bad things get.
I get present to the tenderness of your heart. I get present to the heartbreak that you never truly recovered from.
And once I’m present to that, I do two more things.
First, I commit to relating to everything you do from that place. Imagine this tender, delicate, ferocious heart in front of me, and why it would share itself this way. Imagine what all of this Teflon coating is about. The more Teflon-y you show up, the more I imagine you might be devastated by what’s happened.
Maybe I’ll just feel and hold that devastation for you. Maybe I’ll just let myself feel what you can’t currently.
And second, I let go of all the significance around this, and let it also be possible that I’ve made all of this up.