Dear Dr. Sylvia,
I had the most awful thing happen to me when I was talking with my boss last week.
He was making demands that seemed impossible. I stood up for myself and told him the demands he made were impossible to fulfill.
He just looked at me with great caring on our Zoom call and smiled.
Then he said, “You’re very smart and a real creative individual and I know you will figure it out.”
With that, he announced that he had to get to another meeting, and if I had any issues, I could email him.
Then he added before he scooted away “I know you won’t let me down.”
I just sat staring at the blank screen with a deep desire to scream.
Since then my stomach has been in a knot. Every time I think about what happened and how he just brushed away my concerns I want to either punch him (of course I won’t) or run and hide under the covers (of course I won’t).
I can’t figure out why I had such a visceral reaction.
Usually, I thrive on challenges and yes, as a leader in our company, I do often figure out how to make the impossible possible.
Yet, I keep stewing and thinking really nasty thoughts about this demanding, overbearing man who smiles when he knows others are upset.
Can you help give me some perspective on how to get past the anger and internal conflict I am feeling?
Distraught and Disgusted
I will help by telling you about another client of mine who is a senior VP in a Marketing Company.
I know, I know, you don’t have the bandwidth to care about my client. However, sometimes we learn best through an indirect answer.
Stay with me.
A coaching client who grew up with a demanding father was in a meeting with her boss who gave her so much extra work she said it was breaking her back. She said she was actually having trouble standing up straight.
In an executive meeting when her boss made even more demands she finally lost it and said with great flair “Dad, I simply can’t do this. It’s too much.”
The room went silent. As she told me later, the people in the room froze.
THIS is what has been labeled “a Freudian Slip.”
Definition of a Freudian Slip: An unintentional error regarded as revealing subconscious feelings.
Back to you DandD.
I am making an educated guess that you may be in the same boat as my Freudian Slip client.
No, you didn’t say anything out loud. However, I am wondering if one of your parents (doesn’t have to be your dad) made impossible demands on you.
The clues are how you worded you upset and how it impacted your physiology.
At this point, most of the people I have worked with over the decades want to retreat, run, and hide as you suggested.
They don’t and I hope you won’t.
Again, please stay with me here.
The inner work you need to do, and that I think is of benefit for all leaders or emerging leaders is to see where you are stuck with over the top upset and figure out what to do about it.
Now, I’m not suggesting that you should stay calm, cool, and collected when demands are, as you say, impossible. And I do suggest you stand up for yourself. Which you did.
You get kudos for that.
However, the amount of upset you expressed seems to be derailing your health and well- being.
THAT is when you can do better by addressing the perspective that perhaps, just perhaps, you, like my client wanted to say “DAD (MOM), you always put too much pressure on me to succeed and I’m sick of it.” Or a variation of that.
Freudian slips are meant to lead you to the subconscious areas where you still need to work on yourself.
To your success,
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