For several months, my friend and I have been dealing with a conflict. We’ve both been reverting to our standard patterns of handling this type of situation – he avoided it altogether, I became increasingly emotional and dramatic. This week, I reached my annoyance point and invited him to hash things out. It did not go well. What he said shocked me. What I said angered him. I accused him of being less than human. He accused me of being creepy. This conversation was foul. By the end of it, my levelheaded friend resembled The Hulk mid-change. Internally I debated either stalking out or admitting he was right. In the end, we were in a better place than we had been in months. Nonetheless, the experience left me reeling, with a host of things to contemplate.
I hope that your week has not contained such a dramatic scene. In case it did, I would love to share with you my newest favorite concept. This acronym comes from the hilarious Lin Eleoff – AFGO: “Another F#cking Growth Opportunity.” I am in love with this. During the conversation with my friend, I found myself asking, “what’s my AFGO here?” often. (Not out loud. That isn’t why he said I was creepy.) I’ve found that this can be the most interesting part of dealing with drama. Usually it presents a host of potential AFGOs. The fun comes with deciding which one you want to take. Here’s my process for sorting it out and choosing a growth path:
Step #1: Spew.
When something this dramatic happens, I find my first step is venting it all out to a compassionate witness. All of it – the good, the bad, the ugly. Friends who can hold space for you to do this are invaluable. Getting out all of my emotional reaction helps me to be able to then think clearly about what potential choices I have.
Step #2: Deal with any overlaying shame about having the problem.
Folks, there is nothing like being in a profession that deals with helping people find solutions to their problems to bring up shame about having mine. I’m embarrassed that I even have this level of drama to share with you this week. However, I’m ready to just surrender this shame. When I stop having problems, I will know I have died. (At least…I better stop having problems post-death.) I’m inviting you to do the same. So you messed up…so what. Welcome to being human. Getting stuck in this shame is the easiest way to ignore the real opportunity.
Step #3: Step back and see the puzzle.
Remove yourself from the immediate emotional drama using any strategy that allows you to be an observer of your own thoughts. Meditation is an excellent practice in getting experience doing this, but anything that allows you to detach from your own thoughts will work. From this place, you can engage your problem-solving, puzzle-loving, creative brain. What’s really going on? What reactions are coming up within you and where are they coming from?
Step #4: Seek wisdom.
This step can come in many forms. If you know you have issues in a certain area, seek experts in handling that. I struggle with codependency, and heading to a CoDA meeting is one of my first steps in handling this situation. This is also an excellent time to call the critical thinkers in your life who can help you see the situation objectively. One of my favorite forms of seeking wisdom is asking God or my future self for advice.
Step #5: Forget it and go have fun.
Overthinking anything is just as dangerous as not thinking about it at all. Once you’ve sought help, walk away for a bit and do something fun. I’ve found that creative solutions and insights come more naturally once I’ve let something go and focused on having fun.
Step # 6: Return and decide how much growth you can deal with at the moment.
There are two lovely words in the phrase AFGO – “Another” and “Opportunity”. In “another”, we see that there is nothing to fear; plenty more growth opportunities will be coming our way soon. If you miss this one, another is sure to pop up before you know it! In “opportunity”, we see that we always have a choice. Yes – we’re being presented with a chance to grow – and we get to decide whether or not we’re taking it. If you have a sick child and are fighting with your husband, maybe you skip the AFGO at work. If you’re feeling great, maybe you take the highest growth road you can in the moment.
How do you handle AFGOs? I’d love to hear it – please share any insights you have in the comments below.