This week I attended another Authentic Relating Event, Circling, this one much smaller than the first with only 8 people in the room. While the setting was different, the content was focused on authentic relating.
My main worry was having nowhere to “hide” with the smaller crew. I felt… vulnerable. (So I suppose I was right on track.) Tuesday was a day full of anxiety, and this event was mere hours after. I thought of canceling, but I had already paid and had bailed from this event two weeks prior.
Admittedly, I enjoyed this intimate setting much more as I was able to settle in and learn more about each member of the group rather than mingling with 20 others. I was quite nervous to attend this particular “circling” event, however, due to an ominous review from a person from the previous larger event.
Circling is formatted around two “circles;” conversation sessions that happened among the eight of us over 45 minutes with a break in between. The first circle was dubbed a “birthday circle.” Birthday circles are focused on one person, where the conversation organically moves around this person topically. Due to confidentiality, I will not mention what we talked about specifically. However, broadly, the topics involved how this person reacted to insight given by the others in the group and past experiences.
Though this circle was directed and focused on this one individual, I noticed that I was internalizing a lot of interesting facts about myself. How would I react to certain situations that were brought up? How would I feel if I were asked this question? How would I react if I were asked this question in that particular way or tone?
When this truth bomb was so casually thrown out in the middle of the circle…
“Self-care can disguise itself as isolation.”
I mean, holy shit. Prepare me next time, Y’all. I don’t know about you, but I can count on 1845493 hands how many times my self-care has looked like just me retreating into my soul in an unhealthy “omg just leave me alone I’m dying here but save me but leave me alone but help me” way. However, I label the retreat as “self-care.” Dude, get over yourself. Sometimes needing to be alone is self-care. Totally. But if you are unplugging from the people you tell when you are having a hard time… if you are running away (especially if you are running away from yourself), first off, good luck. Second off, let someone know that you are struggling and let them know that you are going to wade around in the shit for a day. Then do it. Go ahead. But then plug back in.
“Self-care can disguise itself as isolation.”
Okay, back to the night. More broadly, once I got comfortable with the questions being asked, I started to probe my ideas about the askers themselves. What about their experiences brought them to this space, and why did they think what they did?
All this thinking, of course, led me to be quite quiet during this circle. I asked a couple of questions to appear engaged (though I was DEEPLY engaged internally), and then we went to break. During break, it became apparent that several of the people in attendance were friends, and they started to speak with each other. I noticed that I started to feel left out. I tried to engage by eye contact with the story and laughing when there was something funny, but there was still a level of disconnect.
We started the second circle which was an “organic circle,” which was waiting to see what would come up. One person talked a bit about drifting and spoke a bit about feeling disconnected from the group then hesitated to speak further because the topic would be dark. This was REALLY interesting to me because the first circle was so light and I resonated with the disconnect. Again, I won’t go details about the topic due to confidentiality.
We closed the circles and two of the people turned to me and said they wished that they had heard me talk more, and they wanted to get to know me better. My immediate response was that I wish I had talked more as well. It was an odd thing to come out of my mouth as I didn’t really even think about it. I had just spent so much time listening to people be so brave with their thoughts and feelings that I just felt I was holding space to hear them.
I drove home feeling very warm and lovely.
When I walked in the door I sat next to my husband and told him about the event and I sensed a weird vibe. As I talked more about the events, I felt a heavier and heavier cloud settling. I had just spent 3 hours being in tune with people’s emotions, and I knew there was something wrong.
“Are you okay with me going to these events?” I asked (sensing there was something much deeper.)
“Yes. I just don’t get why you go to them and share thoughts and feelings there. I mean you have family and me for that.” He replied.
I had an immediate thought that I couldn’t hold back, “Are you jealous?”
“No!” He was so quick to reply that there felt like there was some truth there.
“Okay. Tell me more about what you are feeling then, because I don’t understand, and it seems like you have some concerns. Is it because there are guys at these events and I share these experiences with them too?” (Knowing that cheating is never ever a concern on either of our minds, I wanted to give him a starting point to work from.)
“Not at all. I guess where I come from is that the feelings and thoughts you mention are things that I generally share with you or my family. I just don’t understand why you feel the need to seek these experiences outside of us for…”
And he paused. And cried.
So I waited and thought. And got it.
“So what I’m hearing is that since your emotional needs are met by me and family, the only reason you’d do something like this is if those needs WEREN’T being met. So, since I am doing this, you’re concerned that YOU aren’t meeting my needs as my life partner?”
“BINGO.” And he took a deep breath of understanding.
So then we hashed out how lovely our relationship is, and that the reason I do things like this is to be brave. And I can be brave because I feel so secure in our relationship.
I married up, Y’all.