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  • Ricka Robb Kohnstamm

Which themes show up in your life over and over again? 

When you pay attention, do you notice themes that show up, over and over?

Perhaps it is the gnawing feeling of being left out of the inner circle of your family. Again.

Or the feeling of being unjustly blamed or judged simply for how you show up in the world.

Or feelings of rejection by those you care most about.

Or shame and vulnerability in the workplace.

Perhaps you feel deeply lonely, yet again.

Around and around we go, pushing back on others to change their behavior in order to ease our own discomfort or retreating into ourselves to soften the sharp edges of our day. While it is easier to believe that others are "doing" these things to you, you might instead consider this instead...

We all have enduring vulnerabilities - themes and sensitivities that we develop in childhood as a result of relationships with parents and friends or siblings or teachers or a myriad of others. These sensitivities become embedded in us so deeply that we aren't aware of them, but like a sliver, they are right underneath the surface and when we are "bumped" by our partner or colleague or growing children, the emotional sliver hurts and can become inflamed.

The challenge then is not the person who bumped into us, unknowingly. If we don't see the emotional sliver clearly, we can't expect others to see it.

Instead, our job is to become aware enough to soothe the sliver, dislodge it if we can, or at least increase our knowledge of its existence so that we are not surprised when we are bumped and it hurts. Once we know it is there, we can take responsibility for ourselves and our responses.

Consider these things...

Do the work to identify your enduring vulnerabilities. Pay attention to when you hit a wall in important relationships (which is where the emotional volume is turned up high). Notice the theme(s) and write them down. Consider the present and the past - when has this theme shown up for you before? With hindsight, what else do you see?

Stand back and consider what else is possible. Yes, it is true... being in relationship with a strong partner or colleagues may exacerbate your emotional sliver feelings of not being in control. As a result, you may react by exerting power, wresting control, talking louder. How exhausting. What else is possible? As one beloved colleague recently said to me, "I can let go of my death grip on on things and trust that the people around me are amazing!" That is a powerful shift.

Notice when you get bumped and pause. Just because you know you have an emotional sliver doesn't mean you will always remember it is there. Expect to get bumped, and when you do, give yourself time to pause and care for the sore place. Breathe, do yin yoga, take a walk outside, get a hug from your cat. Then decide on your course of action.

Take back your responsibility and control by staying in your own lane. Staying in your own lane means you are responsible for you, which is powerful. Don't give that power away to others by blaming, shaming, deflecting, denying or minimizing. You are responsible for identifying your own emotional slivers and you are responsible for caring for them. Period.

Actions, aligned with values, support optimal health.


Hello, I'm Ricka.

Ricka Kohnstamm Executive & Physician Coach Profile Photo

I'm a Nationally Board Certified (NBC-HWC) Integrative Health and Wellbeing Coach. I specialize in working with physician leaders, corporate leaders, non-profit executives and their families to navigate complex work and personal issues so they can strengthen their relationships, heal, and feel hopeful about the future again. 



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