I have taught leadership classes to youth for years. One of the games we play at the beginning of a new course helps us get acquainted with each other. Everyone stands in a circle. I have a ball of yarn, and I take the end of that yarn and hold it. I tell one thing about myself. Then I toss the ball of yarn to someone else in the circle. They in turn hold on the strand of yarn, tell the group something about themselves, and toss the ball to another person in the circle.
Soon we are all holding yarn, and connecting with everyone else by sharing who we are. It’s a fun way to learn about everyone else. The point to the activity is this: Connections matter. We can unite as class members to have a great year. That’s a leadership lesson.
However, there’s another leadership lesson we can learn from this game. When we leave the game, will everyone still need to hold on to their piece of yarn? No, that wouldn’t make sense. We can feel unified, but we don’t need to keep the yarn.
Don’t we want to remember the lessons of connection?
Yes, of course.
But we also have to be individuals.
What will happen to all that yarn if we drop it? Well, technically we could just throw the yarn away. However, that would be rather wasteful. So we take that yarn, and we begin to re-roll it into the original ball of yarn. It takes awhile, and we may have to stop and figure out how to untangle some of it, but eventually we get it all back into that ball.
Then we take the ball of yarn, and we can store it until we need yarn again for some other purpose.
Let’s apply this analogy of yarn to our emotions.
We have experiences in life with other people that “connect” us. One person does something. That affects another person. That person responds to that “something,” and does something else. That, in turn, has an effect. Pretty soon there are a number of “connections” made among different people, relating to whatever that particular situation is.
Each time someone takes hold of a piece of that yarn, they make a decision of some kind. They make the decision to keep that as part of their life experience -- even if they only keep it a little while. So they have to figure out what to do with the yarn. Will they sit there and hold it? Will they drop the connection? When they get the yarn, will they choose who to throw the connecting ball of yarn to -- or will they just toss it up in the air, never knowing where it will end up or who will pick it up?
Let’s suppose that I have kept a piece of that yarn, and tossed the yarn to someone else. When I need to “go to class,” or do something independently, I will still be holding that yarn. It will in some way affect me. It might take attention to keep holding the yarn. I could probably put the yarn in my pocket, but if someone else who was also holding yarn pulled, or got too far away, the yarn would pull me too, right?
I could, of course, just drop the connection.
Sometimes that is the practical thing to do. I don’t need that connection, so I can just drop it. We can relate that to some types of experiences. Sometimes we just do not need to keep the energy associated with the experience. I don’t need to continually be mad because Sally was late to work and I had to do some of her work in order to get the project started. Just drop it.
We tend to want to drop painful experiences, because they cause us pain. It doesn’t make sense to hold onto them. But sometimes those painful experiences are the hardest to drop. Why is this? We tend to hold tightly to them.
This is because we don’t understand that we can drop the yarn, but still keep the knowledge we gained from that experience.
At one point in my life, I had an experience that I found hard to drop until I understood this principle. I had been in charge of an event, and worked hard to make the event happen. However, someone felt that in my efforts to make sure things went smoothly, I was “controlling,” and that I “didn’t care about anyone’s feelings.”
I was devastated, especially because this person chose to yell out her frustration in a public place. I was so hurt that I found it very hard to continue directing the event, and did not enjoy the event at all.
Essentially, what happened was that she had thrown me a piece of yarn, and I had grabbed it, held it, internalized it, and made decisions about it. Because of those decisions, I was unable to drop the yarn. I thought about it, and realized that I had made three decisions that had significantly changed who I thought I was. Realizing that was a very “healing” experience.
I had decided that…………….(1) others would judge my intentions, and that I would never be in charge of any event again in order to protect myself from that type of judgment.
(2) I had decided that yes, she was most likely right, and that everyone else believed the same way, and that they just hadn’t told me that I was controlling. So I couldn’t trust others to be honest with me (those people hadn’t told me).
(3) That decision led to me to another: I also couldn’t trust myself and my own motivations.
Although I knew that I had worked hard to try to make sure that others would have good experiences, apparently I had failed, and so I couldn’t trust my own motivations and hard work.
Result of all those decisions: Essentially, it would stop me from volunteering to be in charge of anything else for a long time.
It was years before I could look at that with new eyes. Perhaps the woman had felt controlled. She might have really believed that was true. Could I control that? No. The reason I can’t control that is that we are not responsible for anyone else’s feelings or viewpoints. We are only responsible for our own feelings and viewpoints.
In truth and fact, her feelings may or may not have actually have had any relationship to the way I had planned and organized the event. Everyone has their own preconceptions, way of looking at things, expectations, and past experiences. Those things factor into how we perceive life. I can’t control that at all.
It was at that point that I decided to unravel that yarn. I took that experience, and decided what I wanted to keep from it. I wanted to re-solve those emotions, and decide what to keep. I wanted to keep my new idea that I could try again, and that I could decide that my motivations and intents for planning that meeting had been pure. I could, therefore, decide that I was going to trust myself, and dis-connect my own self worth concept from how anyone else decided to interpret my actions. That was huge for me. I wanted to keep that decision, and get rid of my previous decisions that said I would never volunteer to be in charge of things again, or trust myself.
Then I noticed that the yarn was easy to drop. Much to my surprise, when I dropped that yarn, I found that it wasn’t connected to anyone else. It simply dropped. In fact, I could take that yarn, and roll it back up into the original ball.
The lesson? Everyone else had dropped that yarn long ago. That taught me something else. The woman who threw me that yarn was upset at the time - but it wasn’t lasting. She hadn’t kept the yarn. She was long gone. Although she had publicly yelled at me, no one else had found it important enough to “keep the yarn.”
I had been holding onto something that didn’t even need to be held on to. It was only affecting me.
Emotions link to each other - like a chain
They all originate somewhere, though
All have a beginning point
At that beginning point, we made some kind of decision
The trick is to see what that decision is - to go back to the beginning - so we can unravel the present and become whole again.