Enlivening Ourselves

Dear Dr. Norquist:

I’m really upset about a situation at work. I know I am good at what I do, but my boss doesn’t seem to recognize it. Instead, he gives most of the more challenging work to my co-worker. My co-worker is competent, I’ll agree. But so am I.

I don’t know how to prove this to my boss. I’ve started questioning my own abilities lately, because I feel so looked over by my boss. Also, it’s hard to go to work every day because I feel so hurt and so not important to him. I’d talk with him about it but I’m afraid he’ll see my hurt and anger and that would be embarrassing.

How can I deal with this situation so I don’t feel so down all the time?

  Dr. Norquist responds:

Living life gracefully is a skill that is learned with practice. Viewed from this perspective, life is quite intriguing. Whenever we think we’ve got it down pat, something unexpected happens to present new challenges, new adventures and new understandings. Humor, open-heartedness, and the ability to step out of the frame to view our lives from a larger perspective are handy tools we develop as our competence at this game of life increases.

One of the most useful understandings is the importance of learning to manage our internal emotional state. Often, we don’t even recognize that we have this option. Certainly, this concept is not one that is defined and taught to us in our educational system. Generally, we feel a certain way in response to a situation, and act according to those feelings. We don’t recognize that we can have a say over what we feel. It is not just a given that a certain situation has to result in particular feelings and behaviors.

You mention your boss’s behavior towards you, and how you don’t feel valued or respected for all you do, and all you have to offer. You feel slighted, that he seems to hold your co-worker in higher esteem than you. As a result, you feel hurt, and angry, and less confident about your abilities – kind of deflated. The first rule in learning to manage your internal emotional state is to not let someone else’s words or behavior bring up bad feelings in yourself.

Imagine yourself stepping out of the frame of your own movie and observing the situation from a detached, non-judgmental, almost impersonal perspective. What new information does this perspective offer you about the situation? Can you use this information to learn and to grow, without criticizing, demeaning, blaming, comparing, judging or victimizing yourself in any way? Learn from the situation; use it to grow, then let it go.

Practice seeing life as a game. When you complete one level or one lesson, you move on to the next space on the game board. The more attached you are to the emotional debris from a particular situation, the longer you stay in that space without moving forward. Practice seeing the external world as a mirror of your own subjective state. When you learn to change your subjective state, the world (including your boss) will look and feel different to you. From this perspective, can you see what an asset it is to be able to manage your own inner emotional state?

See this situation with your boss as an opportunity to practice developing this skill. Learn what you can from it and move on. Don’t worry about getting it perfect. Life will continue to present you with opportunities to learn that are perfectly matched with your skill level. If you miss one opportunity, another one will soon arise. Give it a try. If we are in this game, we might as well play it consciously!

Check out Dr. Norquist’s new blog GrowingThroughParenting.com

(Dr. Sallie Norquist is a licensed psychologist (NJ #2371) in private practice and is director of Chaitanya Counseling Services, a center for upliftment and enlivenment, in Hoboken.) Dr. Norquist and the staff of Chaitanya invite you to write them at Chaitanya Counseling Services, 51 Newark St., Suite 202, Hoboken, NJ 07030 or www.chaitanyacounseling.com or by e-mail at drnorquist@chaitanyacounseling.com. Questions can address various topics, including relationships, life’s stresses, difficulties, mysteries and dilemmas, as well as questions related to managing stress or alternative ways of understanding health-related concerns. Ó 2019 Chaitanya Counseling Services