3rd Alternative to Getting Hurt or Angry: Or When Mother Teresa Meets Tina Fey

becky zen meme

Nourished Living 

(Becky, the Mama) 

Because I am one of those ultra sensitive souls, I am typically “porous” for negative emotions bouncing around me (or worse, toward me). But I experienced something fascinating a few months ago when I was caught in a small room with people who had an abundance of off-kilter logic, controlling “name it and claim it” spirituality and barely disguised contempt for a couple of us who were obviously not in their rah-rah camp.  With pasted-on-smiles they dished out holier-than-thou belittling, with a few passive-aggressive jabs thrown in for good measure. The exact situation that would have, in the past, triggered waves of uncontrollable shaking in me.  This would could be followed by automatic fight or flight response that might hold me an emotional hostage for hours, or days.  PTSD is such a joy.

Because I was in a situation where I could not leave, I sat in this tiny room, with this negative nuttiness bouncing around me for several hours. But here’s where the miracle came, where I saw that the six months of therapy with my brilliant counselor had paid off:  Instead of absorbing it or going into my typical “deer in headlights” response, or worse, a full-blown meltdown, I sort of floated above the scene in my mind.  And when I looked down on it, in a truly detached way… I experienced what have only been able to describe as ….benevolent amusement. I found myself actually smiling and nodding kindly, feeling as though I’d morphed into an odd combination of Mother Teresa and Tina Fey.

I saw so clearly that these folks chose their mode of thinking and behaving, and intense (aggressive?) spirituality as a desperate attempt to 1) control the uncontrollable and 2) make them feel okay about themselves. In short, they were avoiding the painful emotions of shame, fear or depression by their beliefs and behavior. And I saw this because, I too, have been there, done that. Maybe I still do. Maybe we all do this at some level. Denial is a good band-aid until genuine self-acceptance and grace take its place.

What blew me away about this experience was that I left those hours in that small room with quirky, self-righteous personalities … and not only did I leave it personally unscathed, but I left it feeling this wonderful melding of compassion and amusement. I felt as though I’d finally stumbled upon a key to something hugely important. That Benevolent Amusement is a 3rd and more healthy stance than 1) absorbing negativity and getting triggered,hurt or wounded; 2) getting flooded with toxic anger and striking back.

Later, reflecting over the scene, I thought, “Wow. This must be what people call  ‘rising above’ .. ”

And, interestingly,  it felt a lot like relaxed peace.  

mona lisa

Mona Lisa & Her Smile of Benevolent Amusement


12 Comments on “3rd Alternative to Getting Hurt or Angry: Or When Mother Teresa Meets Tina Fey”

  1. Kathy Van Liew says:

    OH BECKY! You just described me to a T! I have never found the right words to describe what goes on with me, as you have just done. (I will be memorizing your words and using them personally!)

    I can “feel” all the tension in my office. I have the most difficulty when the drama is directed right at me. Then I am just as you stated – a deer in the headlights. I become immobilized. I just stand there with my mouth agape and my brain goes in neutral. I cannot even give a decent answer to someone in that moment (even when I have a good one!).

    Trying to grow thicker skin has been fruitless (I don’t want to become callous), but I certainly know that I am far from being able to respond as you did. I am still at the baby steps stage learning how to cope.

    I thoroughly enjoy your blog as I have the many books of yours that I own. (OUR journey started out when you spoke to a ladies group at Picacho Peak in Arizona many years ago).

    Thank you for your vulnerability and for sharing your wisdom.

    I know this is probably said many times, but I feel we could be really close friends.

    Blessings to a kindred spirit,

    • Kathy, so touched by this comment. Thank you for sharing. Have you read the book The Highly Sensitive Person? It was a huge Ah ha for me. Much love to you today.

      • Kathy Van Liew says:

        Oh Becky – What a joy to have you respond to my post. No, I haven’t read that book – looking for it on Amazon right now! Thank you for the suggestion. Keep the blogs coming.

        (I would like to ask you something personal; an update from a situation you were going through at the time when you spoke in Arizona – would you mind writing me at my email address? If you’d rather not, I will understand – it had to do with a grand baby) katherine.vanliew@yahoo.com

        Also, I am an aspiring writer. I can’t remember if this quote was from you or not, but it goes something like, “writers cannot NOT write.” When I read (and reread) your books (LOVE “View From a Porch Swing), I get the itch to write.

        I look forward to your next blog entry. Have a WONDERFUL day Becky!


  2. I. LOVE. This. Thank you! I’m still learning to rise above those types of situations.


  3. Good stuff! (Nothing YEARS of therapy won’t bring 😜).

  4. Sara says:

    Can we just take a second to “amen” the fact that I found your blog?! I love so many things about it! Can’t wait to dive in & read more!

  5. RobbyeFaye says:

    Becky, I can see so much of myself in this blog. Thank you for writing it for us.
    I have a hard time not bottling up emotions and just letting it all sit there.
    I have several things in my past that have, and still are, HARD to overcome. However, I DON’T want to stay a victim forever. (PTSD really, really STINKS, huh?)
    I have been following you and Rachel on FB and had forgotten about your WP blog. So glad I remembered today! (A wonderful Godincidence!) I am now following you (in the best way possible-on your blog!)
    I am going to look up the book Highly Sensitive Person.
    God’s Blessings!

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