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  • Johanna Lynn

Workplace Tension Creates an Unexpected Path to Healing

Amelia loved her work as the founder of a successful marketing agency. She had continued to add talented members to her team over the 9 years in business. 

Taking a sip of her morning coffee, she couldn’t help but reflect on how difficult things had been with one particular team member - Jessica, her account manager.

Jessica’s role meant that there were multiple interactions a day between them and she was excellent at her job yet there was something about the way Jessica interacted with her and the team that continually rubbed Amelia the wrong way. 

Jessica was overly defensive and was quick to take things too personally. Small comments from Amelia would lead to disproportionately confrontational responses from Jessica. Slammed doors, loud sighs or stomping out of a meeting were regular occurrences. It was causing tension within the team but most of all, tension was rising inside of Amelia. 

Amelia started off our session, she talked about her growing frustrations with Jessica at work. As she recounted Jessica's snippy tone and crossing of arms, I noticed Amelia tense up in a familiar way.

"Amelia, there is such a charge when you are describing Jessica's behavior.” 

Holding her gaze, I continued on “When I look at our notes from our last session, a lot of the ways you are describing Jessica, are very similar to how you described your Mom."

Amelia furrowed her brow as she reflected. Sinking into her chair, she shared "Oh...I didn’t connect that before - she is just like my mother. The defensiveness, blowing things out of proportion, all that drama - it's eerily similar."

As I listened to Ameila continue to make connections, encouraging her to notice what is going on within her body as these inner realizations occurred. 

Tears welled up in Amelia's eyes as she recognized the truth. The constant need to be on the defensive, the sensitivity to any constructive feedback, the regular emotional blowups from Jessica - it was all reviving feelings of anxiety and hurt left over with her Mom.

With this realization, Amelia's perspective on Jessica shifted when she returned back to the office. She wasn't just being difficult - her behavior was triggering Amelia's own relationship with her mom, replaying old wounds.

Amelia realized she had been viewing the situation with Jessica through a narrow lens, unconsciously colored by her painful experiences with her mother.

Amelia committed to taking a step back and seeing things from a wider view. She dedicated time to go inward and connect with herself on a deeper level, exploring her reactions through journaling. As she got quiet and more in touch with her thoughts and feelings, she discovered her issues with boundary-setting ran much deeper than just the challenges with Jessica.

I shared a powerful exercise with Amelia and had her explore her tendency to emotionally enmesh with strong personalities like her mom and Jessica. 

With this new awareness, Amelia could consciously choose how to respond rather than just unconsciously reacting.

It wasn't easy, but Amelia felt an increasing sense of autonomy and clarity. 

From our work together, her professional relationships felt stronger when she stopped leaking emotional reactivity everywhere. 

With her mom, Amelia lovingly established boundaries about how she would engage when her mother's criticism became overbearing. This created a significant change as Amelia confronted long-denied hurts, reclaimed her voice, and redefined their dynamics from a place of greater self-connection.

Amelia's challenging dynamic with Jessica turned out to be the spark that ignited her to discover her most grounded, integrated self.

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