by Jeff Jones
Module Two is all about context — understanding contexts, noticing contexts, and seeing the impact contexts can have. By moving through the module videos, I gained a more granular and far more manageable understanding of contexts and how to describe them — even how to understand and describe how they were affecting me.
One of our assignments in this module was to continually track contexts. I noticed early on that I wasn’t very good at tracking contexts in the moment. I tend to get all wrapped up in it and find it difficult to find the birds-eye view, only realizing the full impact of the context after the fact. As I practiced “real-time noticing” this week, I found myself being able to identify contexts and impact more readily. To illustrate, let me tell you about something that happened this week.
To set the scene, I was out at my partner’s friend’s house, hanging out with some of her close friends, who, unlike me, all happen to be very well versed in the world of Authentic Relating. At one point in the evening one of my partner’s closest friends shared an experience between her and I that was immensely triggering to my partner. Being the group that they are, they began to break down the entire situation — a lot was shared right then, right there. I sat there, mostly silent, not really knowing how to react or what to say. Also, since I was all tangled up in the triggering experience in the first place, I had no idea whether to feel guilty or stand firm in my understanding of right and wrong. Eventually one of our friends noticed my silence and asked how I was doing in all of this. To be completely honest, I’m not even sure what came out of my mouth. It was clear that I was trying to say something insightful, but probably also clear that I was dodging this situation pretty hard.
After the situation deescalated and I went inside, I started feeling very upset about how I had handled myself in that situation. Why couldn’t I just be vulnerable like everyone else there? I took a step back, remembered what I had learned here, and started to look at all the context we were swimming in. While someone could probably write an epic about all the contexts in play that evening, the one that was loudest to me was the social context of being a pretty good communicator in a group of all-star communicators. I noticed that it had actually made me fairly uncomfortable all night and that when tensions got high, that discomfort turned to fear.
Because of the tools I gained in this module, I was able to clear the air the next day by talking with my partner’s friends and telling them that how I really felt was scared and intimidated. Not only did I gain some respect from my partner’s friends for this, but I also felt like I had lifted a weight from my shoulders in understanding why I was being the way I was.