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I was thinking about this today when it came out of my mouth with my step kids. The two girls have birthdays right next to each other and when the first birthday comes, the second kiddo is always sure to say things like “are you going to remember pizza for MY birthday TOO?” or “ Daddy, don’t forget when MY Birthday comes I want the PURPLE dinosaur” etc.

The second child will even try to wrangle the attention of the party goers and take control of the scene. Here is when I say. “Hey, don’t steel your sister’s thunder. Your birthday is right around the corner and that day will be all about you. Let her have THIS day!”

This behavior is a classic power/attention struggle. I see it play out at my Institute with my students and my Instructors, on social media, as well as in the Massage Therapy Profession. I see it in myself too. This is actually one of my great lessons still to learn. As a child, I would literally stand up in front of the television and act out and sing the entire Gilligan’s Island theme song while the family yelled at me to move out of the way. As you can see, I want you the reader’s attention RIGHT NOW, and that is probably why I am I writing this blog.

WHY does one feel the need to be sarcastic, make passive aggressive remarks or step on someone else’s toes for their own immediate ego gratification? What is it about needing attention that leads us to unsavory and selfish behavior?

These moments can play out in group settings in some of the following ways:

  • Interrupting to tell the punch line, or the ending of a movie, or sharing the information that someone else is clearly supposed to be delivering.
  • Making snarky or sarcastic remarks that you think are funny and cleaver, but are actually hurtful. These remarks are usually subtle enough that you get away with it. Kind of like passing gas while walking.
  • Trying to make a group laugh at the expense of the leader, and/or derailing the leader’s train of thought.
  • One upping in any way. Name dropping. Monopolizing a mentors time when there are others that may be shy to ask questions. Asking questions when REALLY what you want to do is prove that you know something.
  • Just being a total jerk. Amazing how many people get away with this on Facebook every day with people they should treat with common courtesy and respect.

The very basic practice of mindfulness and being aware of how you respond, (or better yet noticing how you WANT to respond prior to responding) in a group or team setting will help you uncover why you feel the need to grab some power from the moment. It is okay to grab some power from the moment, but it’s not okay to do that in such a way that is hurtful or demeaning to others. This negative expression of power tripping, however subtly done, happens a lot and serves no one.

I don’t claim to know what motivates anyone other than myself. I want to feel important. I want to feel special. I want to feel like my contribution matters. I want to feel love and appreciation. I’m guessing this, at the bottom of the barrel, is what motivates most of us to vie for some type of recognition.

Noticing this behavior in others, and being annoyed by it, I’m going to turn my attention to where I can create change. I’m going to look at me. I’m going to breathe, watch my thoughts, and when I’m having an especially MINDFUL moment, bite my tongue when I want to add something to the conversation that really does NOT help, can hurt, and only serves to bring attention to myself.

In a world where no one is free from dysfunction, all we can do is try.

On a walk one day in the jungle several years ago, one of my beloved students shared this quote with me: “Before you speak, ask yourself: is it kind, is it necessary, is it true, does it improve on the silence?” – Sai Baba

May we all take this brilliant advice to heart, shower love and attention on ourselves and those around us so all may feel satisfied and filled up enough to enjoy a moment of just being in the silence, or letting someone else be in the spotlight sharing without our input.

Jill Kristin Berkana

Jill Berkana LMT Founder/Director Berkana Institute of Massage Therapy and Bodywork Passionista