I went to the informational meeting from my last blog post. Let me paint a picture for you:
11:30am - Stretch Guy texts me to see if I’m going
12:30pm - I text back with a lovely bitmoji of pure anxiety and confirm
12:30pm - 4:00pm - A few texts w/ Stretch Guy as he tried to reassure me. A phone call with S who goes to the website and doesn’t see anything concerning to him. A short discussion with my supervisor about the possibility of this counting as leadership training. He’s on board, btw, others have done similar type training and it totally falls in line with where I tend to have weakness (relating to others).
4:00pm-6:15pm - Finish up work, drive over the hotel and wonder what the hell Wa.ze was thinking as it took me further south than I needed to go. Lame. Feel nervous but not too bad and wonder why I’m feeling nervous because I have the support of no less than 4 people who are close or know me well.
6:15pm - Get to hotel, park the car, find the ballroom where it’s being held and walk right past the talking, laughing group, down the hall, turn the corner and think, ‘oh, shit that’s them’. I approach, a friendly person asks me if I’m here for psi. I give a curt, “yeah”. By now I’m starting to shake. I find the registration table, sign in, and a nice lady I am just barely able to make eye contact with hands me my nametag. I take the nametag, slap it on under my jacket and promptly take a seat on a chair in the corner of the vestibule to the ballroom and nervously pretend to check email while I scan the group for Stretch Guy. After about 2 minutes, I have to move again, I get up, stomach clenching and wander away from the crowd, continuing to try to hide. Stretch Guy shows up, finds me and comes up to me with a big smile. “Hey, how are you?” (hug). “Not good”. “What’s going on?” “I…I..don’t know, I want to run.” “Do you want to meet some people?” “No.” “Do you want some water?” “No.” All the no’s said as I stand there with my hands cold as ice, my heart pounding, my ears ringing, tunnel vision…I feel completely disconnected from the body standing there talking to him. “Ok, want to go in and sit down?” “Ok”.
I follow him into the room, and he jokes, “sit wherever you want!” as most of the chairs haven't been claimed yet. I say, “uh, where can I hide?” He chooses a back corner and as we settle into the chairs that are way too close together (on purpose I find out) and sit down, people start streaming into the room to take their seats. He’s quickly surrounded by people seeking him out, clearly the people who he wanted to introduce me to and I’m sitting in my chair, head down, frozen. I pull out my notebook and write how I’m feeling. I try to breathe. I don’t make eye contact and just let the talking and joking float around me. Stretch Guy doesn’t forget about me, he remains reassuring and lets me sit there with no pressure to be introduced.
The presentation starts, and I decide I need to write down my thoughts and reactions so I can try to work through whatever THIS is that’s going on in my body. My reactions as they start talking: “sheep, they’re all sheep”. Next, “i’m being critical, why?” “what am I scared of?”. They pull up the graduates (honestly, “graduates” for a 3 day seminar? whatevs) and a few talk about their experience. It all seems genuine, the presenter seems genuine, and none of it is anything I’ve not been working on or different than I’ve heard before from other trainings (quite similar to Emotional Intelligence training actually)
I try to listen, a few things make me smile, especially when the presenter talks about how when he took this 3-day course way back when, he noticed that his mother, whom he had a strained relationship with “changed”. The point? He changed and was able to see her differently. I write down what I don’t want to be: (someone I work with, my mom…) I start to write down what I want to be in my career (leader, why? middle management isn’t enough, I want to change the culture, I want to develop people). A few times, Stretch Guy smirks at me, knocks my knee, puts his hand on my back reassuringly as I sit in squirmy discomfort. We joke a little bit back and forth.
The presentation is over, the predicted (I was prepared for this by Stretch Guy), push to sign up is brought forth. Stretch Guy doesn’t push me, he’s already gotten blowback from me, and he’s learned. He wants to know how I feel. I tell him that what he saw in the beginning from me was pretty damn close to a panic attack. I’ve never had a completely debilitating panic attack, but what I experienced here, has occurred more than once over my lifetime, and usually is around social situations where I’m putting a lot of pressure on myself. By the end of the presentation I had identified where my initial “sheep, they’re all sheep” reaction came from. My parents. My dad specifically, who would scoff at anything like this, any organization. He wasn’t too happy when I joined a sorority in college. My mom would follow suit, or at least not contradict the idea that anytime you are presented with someone like this, it’s a scam/cult/pyramid scheme someone is just trying to profit off of suckers. “Just be yourself” is what my dad would always say. But, I was conditioned to NOT be myself. So, how do I know how to be myself if I’m always performing?
Why do we condemn these organizations? P.S.I isn’t the only one. There’s Ton.y Rob.bins (whom I don’t particularly like), there’s another one called Lan.dmark, and there’s even one that looks pretty similar to this that my organization sends supervisors to for training.
I realized sitting there in the ballroom that my panic and discomfort were coming from the idea that I want to change but this “sheep” idea is so deeply rooted in my being that it’s causing massive conflict in me. I tell Stretch Guy that one thing I’ve learned over the past year and a half is that the things that scare me the most, are the things I’m supposed to do. This class terrifies me in a way that I can’t articulate. I can’t explain why, even in identifying the root cause why I have spiraled into panic. All I know, is I need to do this because I panicked.
I haven’t signed up yet, but I am talking to my supervisor and I know I’m going to do it. S is completely supportive and even seems a little excited for me. He also knows he’s next if this ends up being a good experience for me. ;-) My therapist is in and super excited that I’m even considering it. What I heard at the presentation was reasonable and transparent enough to make me comfortable with the idea of going through with it. I brought up the cult thing with Stretch Guy and said, “Ok, it’s not a cult. My therapist is the one who told me that”. He was happy to hear that, but then I was like, you know there’s also cult-like…and he admitted seeing that in some people. I personally, haven’t witnessed him do anything or say anything that gives me concern. Plus, long before he started this, he was available, holding space and supporting me even though I was rejecting the support.
I’m still feeling anxious and slightly panick-y even though I’ve made my decision that I am going to be doing this in the relatively near future…good thing I have a therapy appointment on Monday.
p.s. I need to correct this post, but don’t want to change panic to anxiety everywhere. Since writing this post, I’ve learned that what I experienced was an anxiety attack, triggered by the event. Panic attacks don’t have triggers, they come out of nowhere. Ok, I feel better now.