Dark night of the soul.

Dear Amy: I recently received some news, and went to tell my husband.

I didn’t realize that I was interrupting a work issue, and he snapped and said, “You don’t have to tell me everything, and ask so many questions.”

Later that day, my boss had an hour-long talk with me about how I’m not enough of a team player.

My husband later apologized (it’s incredibly rare for him to show frustration like that), but now I can’t get that day of my head.

I’ve always been a chatty, outgoing person. I’ve been raised to ask questions if I don’t know the answers. I’m enthusiastic and when I show an interest in something, I love hearing what people have to say.

I can’t stop thinking that I’ve actually just been annoying people my whole life, and that my co-workers, who I thought I got along with, may find me hard to work with.

We have just started a fertility journey, which has me worried. My mom has had some health concerns, and I’ve been helping her out.

Plus, the pandemic. I know there are real stressors out there.

But that one day has me thinking that just being me is wrong, that I’m annoying, and that I need to fundamentally change.

How can I get out of my own head?

— Annoying

Annoying: My theory is that the pandemic has caused many of us to journey — perhaps too far — into our own heads.

Let’s establish that “being you” is not wrong, but stress will amplify some habits and insecurities.

It is normal to ruminate about a challenging job review, but when you are confronted with critical feedback, the healthiest thing to do is to use it to make whatever adjustments you can.

You received an hour-long directive from your boss, but you don’t offer specifics. Is that because you weren’t able to hear anything beyond, “You’re not enough of a team player,” due to the whooshing sound in your head?

It is a challenge to pause and actively listen, when you are an enthusiastic talker (trust me, I know!). Some of your questions might seem redundant to people who believe they have already addressed them — were you listening?

You cannot change your temperament (you seem bubbly and lively, which is wonderful), but you can change your habits.

I highly recommend the book “You’re Not Listening: What You’re Missing and Why It Matters,” by journalist Kate Murphy (2020, Celadon Books). Murphy describes listening as less a behavior than a state of mind. She also quotes Calvin Coolidge (!) who said, “Nobody ever lost his job by listening too much.” (c) Ask Amy

I feel sorry for this letter writer. When too much critical feedback comes in all at once, it can lead to a dark night of the soul.

I have so many thoughts here. First of all, she should discuss this with her husband by saying, “Ever since last week when you got mad at me and my boss got mad at me, I’m terrified that I’m a Chatty Cathy! What if I’m too obnoxious for words?” She should follow this up with a sad face.

If her husband has any sense in the world (and I like to think that most well-intentioned men do), he’ll tell her, “Darling, I love you just as you are. Things weren’t going well for me that day, but I normally love your interruptions. If you were to suddenly go silent, it would break my heart.”

Because on a deeper level, no one’s perfect, but sometimes we irrationally expect perfection from ourselves and can beat up on ourselves when we feel that we’re missing the mark. That’s a good time for our loved ones to step up and help bolster our sense of self.

If he’s a loving husband, he should also talk to her about her conversation with her boss. Men have a way of clarifying all the emotional pain. (Have I been living with my dad for too long?) He should say, “All your boss is saying is that he wants you to listen to the whole project before rushing off and starting it. He wants you to slow down and know the whole drill first. He’s not saying you’re an overly emotional freakshow, so quit calling yourself one. Good grief.”

(I’m betting she tuned out and then possibly reinterpreted whatever her boss said to her for a whole hour. I’m sure I’d do the same, and then I’d run screaming. I can’t handle the workplace at all.)

This is what husbands are for. I wish I had one. I’d love to have a husband.

Another thing I’d do in this situation would be to lie in bed and focus on it. I’d let whatever my boss said enter my conscious mind, and I’d dwell on each point as far as, is it my fault? Can I alter it? Is there an easy fix here? Can I ask the boss a followup question? Can I schedule a reassessment with him after three months? I’d also focus on the incident with her husband, as per, could I have done something different? Was I being obtuse? And then, are the two events connected somehow? Followed by, what’s at the heart of the matter here? I do this all the time, and it can be very clarifying. It’s my favorite brainstorming technique, and it also works for trying to gain understanding.

A third thing that the letter writer should do is list what irritates her about her husband and her boss. The purpose here is that she loves her husband anyway and tolerates her boss, so she needs to realize that she herself isn’t some sort of human disaster. Everyone has flaws. No one manages to come across just the way we want them to all the time. Would she be this hard on others, or just herself? This can help snap awareness of, like, oh, I’m being wayyyy too hard on myself here. My husband loves me despite my chatty ways, and I love him even though he pees on the toilet seat without remorse or compuncture. 

HA HA! That was funny.

2 thoughts on “Dark night of the soul.

  1. The letter writer seems to be connecting some strange dots. It sounds like her and hubby are both working from home during COVID, and based on his response, I wonder if she interrupts his work on a somewhat regular basis. But then she ties that in to the performance review. Being chatty Cathy and not being a team player seem like opposite issues that just happened to arise on the same day. I don’t know if there’s a link she’s just not making clear in her letter, but working at home for an outgoing chatty person is probably crazy-making.

    Liked by 1 person

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