Well, I made it to Day 3 of 20x Your Potential. I stuck through the challenges and refused to “ring the bell.” Today’s challenge asked me to master my emotions.
Lucky for me, this is something I’ve been working on intensely for the past year. Today I want to open up and share a story of how vulnerability, fear, and self-doubt can make Soldiers stronger.
Nearly one year ago, March 14-16, 2014, my wife and I attended a marriage retreat with World Wide Marriage Encounter. I can hear you now, “How did she talk you into that?” The truth is, the weekend is something both of us wanted to do since we got married. I’ll admit it was more her idea, but I was interested.
We arrive at the retreat center, received our workbooks, and the weekend began. The entire first session felt like an over the top tree of trust counseling session. I was expecting to be required to share my feelings in front of the whole group. This was terrifying.
First off, I didn’t know these people. Why would I share with them? Second, I rarely if ever had shared my feelings with someone. I’m all about the facts. Feelings are for wimps. Luckily I never had to share in front of the group, and I learned that real men can communicate and embrace their emotions.
The weekend consisted of working through a booklet of difficult questions. My wife and I wrote letters about feelings for each of the dozen sessions. Each writing period lasted only 10 minutes before we exchanged workbooks. Reading each other’s letters was difficult because of the brutal honesty. And then, talking about our feelings, I wanted to leave the retreat and have a drink. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Another three months at Basic Training would have been easier.
The toughest part of sharing emotions was not being familiar with “feeling words.” I had to learn an entirely new vocabulary. Retreat leaders stressed that we avoid the phrase, “I feel that.” They cautioned that this type of statement really meant, “I think that,” and would only mask what we were feeling.
We learned to express our feelings through describing physical sensations (tight chest, warm sunshine), smells (sweet like honey, putrid like a dog pile on a hot day), and colors (blue like a sea). As silly as it sounds, it was really helpful in understanding what my wife was trying to communicate.
I felt ridiculous at first. I was like a birthday party clown trying to avoid a real conversation. I couldn’t let go and be vulnerable. Soon I started using phrases like, “My love feeling burns like the sun. It is a warm orangey color…my embarrassed feeling stinks like dump truck, etc.” But after sharing and listening to one another in 10 minute spurts for two days, my wife and I developed a common language. We began to understand one another.
In a similar way, today’s 20x Your Potential challenge asked us to share a deep fear with someone who knows us incredibly well. We needed to spend 10 minutes talking to them and more importantly listening. We were to ask for brutal honesty and be willing to accept it without being defensive.
Controlling my defensive nature is one of the toughest obstacles I face. But through regular vulnerability and conversation it gets easier. By using deliberate action at the present moment, I am more able to predict when my walls will go up. I am able to see my faults and prepare plans to conquer them. I am forced to face my fear and doubts and eliminate them through action.
Today’s most important lesson: Develop clarity of your purpose and live in the present moment. I went into the retreat weekend with one purpose: deepen the relationship with my wife. Specific purpose followed by action creates the forward motion needed to achieve anything.
[reminder]Have you ever asked for brutal honesty and been willing to accept it? What did you learn through that experience?[/reminder]