It is a big journey from “being thrown under the bus” to “getting back on your horse”. It is a particular type of recovery.
It took me a couple of months to get my bearings. I know you’ve been there, too, “thanks” to
…A manager, who used you to blame for a failed project
…A competitive co-worker, who wanted you out of the way
…A friend, who lied about you to avoid taking responsibility
…An ex, who tapped into funds you agreed are off limits, and made you look bad for it.
Don’t these things make you feel like you’re punched in the gut and the wind is knocked out of you? Doesn’t it feel strange that the world just moves on, that there is no court interested in hearing about your injustice? It is then up to you to become yourself again and reclaim your life. Here is what you can do to make it happen:
- If you’re still alive, things are fixable.
People have recovered from worse disasters than being thrown under the bus by someone you trust. You’re smart, you’re excellent at what you do, you’re a decent human being. If you’re still alive, you will figure out how to get back on your horse. Fact.
- Get your story straight.
In one version of the story, you’re a victim. In the version of the person who threw you under the bus, you’re a villain. There are multiple versions of this story, each claiming to be true. Tell your story: get clear on who you are, what you want, and where you are going. Come up with 5 possible versions of what happened, and pick the one that helps you get back on your feet. For example:
- “I’ve been wronged.” (Doesn’t get you anywhere.)
- “This person is a mega jerk.” (Ok, but then what?)
- “This is my opportunity to change direction.” (Better, right?)
- “My eyes have been opened; I’ve learned a lot, and now can make better decisions about people and situations.” (Gratitude is always a helpful story.)
- “Everything is rigged in my favor. With this situation behind me, I have more mental space to focus on better things.” (How is this one for you?)
Keep experimenting with stories until you encounter the most helpful perspective.
- Practice extreme self-care.
Your life is full already, and I know you don’t have time, so this is a lot to ask. Still, extreme self-care is the best thing you can do for yourself when recovering. In particular, sleep, at the expense of anything else; you MUST sleep (watch this TED talk, because you’ll need to share it with everyone you love). Eat nutritious meals, as your body needs energy for recovery. (Occasional ice-cream or chocolate work as well.) Go outside: be among trees, watch a river, a lake, a waterfall, and breathe deeply. Nature is medicine, as per doctors’ orders. Spend time with people who are kind to you, people with whom you can laugh and feel at ease. Say “yes” to everything that feels harmonious. Treat this as an essential emergency intervention.
- Choose where you place your attention.
Whatever you focus on – expands. If you buy a particular car, doesn’t it seem like all of a sudden, everyone is driving your type of car? This happens simply because your attention is now on it. You can focus on what went wrong, or, you can intentionally place your attention on what already works well in your life, and what you want to have “more of”. For example, if I say “Don’t think about chipmunks!”, the chipmunks will suddenly take over your mental space, no matter how much you “try to stop” thinking about them. To get rid of the “mental chipmunks”, find something better, more interesting and relevant to you to focus on, something you want to expand in your life. Travel? Rest? Interesting projects? Friends? Love?
- “The best revenge is living well”.
This is closely related to #4 above, as it has nothing to do with revenge per se: it is all about your attention on living well. If this person’s attention is still on you, it may sting to see you prosper (hence, “revenge”), but it is truly not your intention. “Not your circus, not your monkeys”. What matters is that you focus on living your life well.
I don’t brag often. In the past three months, though, I had to mindfully focus on what is going well, and watch these parts of my life expanded. May I share? I …
-Presented a workshop at Google on Wayfinding with my brilliant PhD adviser and mentor
-Gave a talk at The New School graduate program for a group of writers
-Spent a weekend teaching at a soulful retreat, in a beautiful place, and got to bring my family
-Taught a workshop on impostor syndrome and personal power for Women’s Leadership Circle
-Co-authored a book chapter on intuition, which got accepted to publication
-Prepared for a symposium presentation at the Academy of Management Conference
-On-boarded many new clients and started to refer out more frequently
-Passed a PhD class in flying colors
-Reconnected with friends, which involved story-telling, laughing, baking, delicious BBQ, freshly made macaroons, and learning to cook lobsters
-Took a few road trips with family
-Attended a talk on Artificial General Intelligence (with Gary Kasparov in the panel) during the World Science Festival in NYC
-Accompanied kids to multiple end-of-the-year award ceremonies, school jazz band concert, piano recital, a school play, and winning sports tournaments
-Read a few fiction books between studying, coaching, writing, and raising a family
-Enjoyed picking berries every morning from our garden lovingly planted by my husband…
It’s not revenge. It’s simply living well: doing what is meaningful, focusing on what matters, living your story and your life, as you choose and as you can.
Would you share your “brags” with me? What is going well, and what would you like to expand in your life?
* * * * *
Would you like to talk about any of this? I would love to hear from you. Just reply to this newsletter or email me at Alina@AlinaBas.com . Also, if you’ve read all the way up to here, thank you for the gift of your attention. I’m thankful we are connected.