Knowing when to leave is as important as knowing how to stay. Note that I did not say “when to stay,” I said “how.” There’s a difference. It’s not just a matter of timing. If we choose to stay, and we want to feel empowered by that choice, we have to know how to stay, well.
Staying, well, means that the interaction is now beneficial to our lives.
It does not mean that we are sticking it out while drowning in stress, resentment, and pain. So, if we are going to choose to stay, we need to adjust our perspective and method of staying until the situation is not just bearable, but beneficial to our well-being.
It’s a tall order—it’s far easier to suffer than it is to take ownership for change—but the rewards are huge.
Before I dive in with ideas on how to stay, well, let me say that…
- If you’re in a physically or emotionally abusive situation—leave.
- If your gut is screaming for you to leave—leave.
- If your emotions are screaming for you to leave—pause.
Why do I make a distinction between your gut and your emotions? Because strong emotions negatively effect our perception and distort situations. Gut is instinctive—some might say intuitive—and, in my experience, reliable. But that’s me. If your gut has steered you wrong in the past, then pause.
When I am looking for empowering ways to stay, the first thing I want to ask myself is…
Why does this situation feel intolerable?
I say “feel” because at this point we have not verified whether or not the situation actually is intolerable.
At first we’ll bombard ourselves with complaints and people to blame. Then we might start listing all the reasons we are powerless to change any of it. If we get really indulgent, we might throw ourselves a full-blown pity party. But hopefully, when we’ve gotten all of this out of our system, we’ll be able to look at the situation dispassionately. This is when we can get to the core of the actual problems. Once we have these clearly in our minds we can move on to the next question.
What can I do to change the situation?
When our mind is calm, we think more clearly. When we stop focusing on all the ways we are powerless, we start to feel more empowered. In this state of mind, solutions may appear: we may think of new methods or new ways to interact that could turn a negative situation into a positive experience
The trick is to get rid of the noise so we can hear the whisper of our inner wisdom.
If we discover possible solutions, we will need to communicate them clearly using neutral language that will make it easier for the other person (or people) to hear and consider what we have to say.
Communicating in this way may or may not effect change, but in my opinion, it should be attempted. Many times, unpleasant situations stem from a lack of communication: one party is angry, hurt, or otherwise dissatisfied while the other party doesn’t have a clue!
Before we consider leaving, it’s beneficial to first have a conversation.
Even if a conversation does not lead to change, the act of communication will almost always improve our own skill and empower our spirit. When we look at it in this way—finding benefit in the process—no amount of effort is wasted.
Sometimes we simply cannot change (or get others to change) the conditions of a situation. In that case, we can ask ourselves another question.
How can I change my experience of the situation?
It is not the conditions of a situation that determine our happiness or dissatisfaction, it is our experience of those conditions. That experience is completely in our control.
Empowering experiences begin with empowering perspectives.
If we’ve cleared out the emotions, the blame, and the litany of why we are powerless, we’ve already taken crucial steps toward improving our perception. What’s left is to realize that we do not need to suffer.
Suffering is an option—just as stress (the self-inflicted kind, not the physiological stress brought on by life-threatening situations) is an option.
That’s a powerful statement and one we will reflexively want to argue against. We will want to defend our powerlessness and list all the reasons why we have no choice but to suffer. If we’re not careful, we’ll find ourselves back to that first stage where we feel stuck in an intolerable situation. But if we can get through this, we will come to realize that, while we cannot change the conditions of our situation, we can choose whether or not we will suffer because of them.
How do we not suffer?
One way is to refuse to buy into other people’s stress. Just because other people are freaking out, does not mean we have to freak out. Just because other people want to put guilt trips on us, does not mean we have to accept that guilt. Just because other people are miserable, does not mean we have to feel miserable. A good way to avoid being manipulated by the emotions of others is to not behave emotionally. Stick to the facts. Pause before responding. Use neutral language. Be mindful of our own emotional triggers.
We do not need to prove to others how miserable we are to justify change.
That’s another one of those powerful statements that you may be tempted to dispute, but think about it. Do you really need anyone else’s approval to improve your experience of life? If you think so, I invite you to read up on Hidden Benefits in my book, EMPOWERED LIVING: A Guide to Physical and Emotional Protection.
Once we’ve improved our perception of a seemingly fixed situation and freed ourselves from suffering, we can examine ways to change the way we function within it.
We may not be able to change company policies and practices. We may not be able to change the way people think or behave. But we can change the way we handle them. Sometimes this makes a significant enough difference to turn a negative into a positive that heals relationships, stimulates productivity, satisfies creativity, and contributes to our well-being.
Sometimes it doesn’t. That’s when we ask…
Is it time to leave?
- When we have done all we can to improve our experience of our situation and we are unable to stay, well—it’s time to leave.
- When we can wish the person, people, or company the best possible outcome and still do not want to be associated with them in this particular way—it’s time to leave.
- When we are being physically, mentally, or emotionally abused—it’s time to leave.
- When our gut screams for us to go—it’s time to leave.
- When we feel a sense of relief having made the decision to go—it’s time to leave.
For a clear example of departing from a toxic situation while still wishing others well, read my REFLECTIONS OF A BEACH GIRL: My experience recording with the legendary Brian Wilson and working with his producer/therapist Eugene Landy.
If you found some value in this, please pass it along.
A little empowerment goes a long way.
Tori Eldridge – Author and Empowerment Specialist
Challenging perception and empowering the spirit each and every day!