I sit in a room of nearly 100 women assembled at my church for a dinner gathering. I try to engage in the conversation at my table as I pick at my meal, but I am distracted by the knowledge that soon a video featuring part of my story will play. At each of these gatherings, a woman’s testimony serves as prelude to the speaker. Tonight, it’s my turn.
I had recorded my story two weeks earlier; yet now, moments before it will be shown, I feel tension pulling me into a tight knot. I recall Brené Brown’s words: “Owning our story and loving ourselves through the process is the bravest thing that we will ever do.” Yes, it’s a courageous thing to truthfully tell your story to yourself . To share your story with 100 other people feels like pure madness.
So, here I sit, feeling quite mad, as dinner concludes and time for the video comes…and goes. “Hmm,” I think. “That’s weird. Maybe she’s going to work it into her talk later?”
The tension grows as I continue to anticipate the feeling of exposure that will hit me when my face projects onto the large screen up front. Instead, forty minutes pass, the speaker concludes, and the night ends.
I quickly excuse myself and make my way to the car. The tightness in my chest gives way to a feeling of unraveling. I’m not sure how to articulate my muddled thoughts or their accompanying emotions. However, the sentences forming in my head aren’t good or kind…toward the event’s organizers or toward myself.
I suspect and eventually understand that some kind of oversight led to the omission of my video, but it doesn’t diminish the shock or shame I feel in my body.
I have been hijacked. I have prepared for a moment of transparency and vulnerability, and I just got rejected.
Have you ever been hijacked? You go into a situation expecting one thing, and suddenly you experience diminishment, embarrassment, frustration, rejection, regret, anger, or shame. Before you know it, negative thoughts and emotions take you hostage.
It can happen in the most unexpected moments and in a myriad of ways: an unkind comment on social media, an icy shoulder from my teenage son, lack of attunement from my husband, an unwelcome spotlight during a staff meeting, exclusion by friends…I’ve been hijacked by all of them. In the aftermath, I can entertain dark, dangerous, and damaging ideas and let them drag me down.
I recently heard Ian Morgan Cron discuss a process of cultivating self awareness called “SNAP.” This simple practice might have rescued me during my recent hijacking. Cron explained:
Stop: Before my thoughts run wild or my emotions hijack me, pause and take several deep breaths. I know from my yoga practice that mindful breathing grounds me in the present moment and changes my physical and emotional response to stress. If only I had remembered to breathe! By the time I left the gathering, my heart was racing (along with my negative thoughts).
Notice: What am I thinking, feeling, or doing in the moment? Am I showing myself compassion? If I had observed, I would have noticed that going into the evening I felt vulnerable. I was afraid that I would either be exposed, judged, or rejected. When the video wasn’t shown, it confirmed my fear.
Ask: What am I believing right now? Are these beliefs true? How would my life change if I let go of these beliefs?“I’m too much; my story is too messy; I am not wanted”—all of these thoughts swirled in my head as I drove home. Were they true? Of course not, but they sure felt like it.
Pivot: Make a different, more helpful choice that lines up with the truth. Here’s another way to explain the “pivot”: “We take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). Eventually renouncing the lies allowed me to receive mercy, extend forgiveness, and live in truth.
After a hijacking, the temptation is to choose safety in the future, which means not showing up, not standing out, and not speaking up. It’s here—in this choice—that so much depends. Will I allow the enemy wearing the hijacker’s mask to hold me hostage? Or will I risk? Will I offer? Will I brave on?
My name is Susan Tucker, and this is my story…
Susan Tucker spends her days mothering her two teenage sons, teaching middle school English, and savoring rare moments of quiet and solitude. She lives in Knoxville, Tennessee, with her sons and her husband of 23 years. Susan finds life in a beautiful story, an authentic conversation, worship music, and ultimately, in Jesus, the giver of all good gifts.
Susan, I could feel the anticipation and anxiety, mixed with rejection and relief. Thank you for so bravely telling this part of your story with us. It’s easy to go to the, “I’m too much; my story is too messy; I am not wanted” scenario. And that is where the enemy of our souls would like us to go and to stay. Thank you for braving on!
Thanks for your affirmation Barbara! You’re so right — the darkness and deceit of these lies is where our enemy wants to keep us bound, so we continue choosing truth and pressing toward the LIGHT.
I appreciate the way you gave an account of a feeling and an experience that I think we must all know but so rarely talk about.
You’re so welcome Claudia. It’s incredibly helpful to realize that we are not alone.
Susan, My stomach clenched as I read this piece and similar experiences surfaced. I love the SNAP part, a variation of what I learned in a PTSD treatment after I was raped. Thank you for sharing.
Madeline, I love that you know and practice a form of SNAP already as you are mindful and care for yourself. I’m hopeful to put it into practice more readily and regularly when I experience a trigger. Bless you. Thank you for your comment.
thank you for putting words to what I have felt so often. Those same words often roll around “too much, too messy, etc” They flood in and overtake rational thought, thankfully over time I have better tools to argue back.
I’m grateful that I continue to cultivate self-awareness and the tools to better respond when I experience these big, messy messages. I’m grateful you are too. Thank you for your response! 🙂
Oh my goodness!!! Susan!!! Your writing took my breath away. Seriously!!!! This is SO GOOD. SNAP I never heard, but want to never forget. And…Your ending…”y name is Susan Tucker, and this is my story…” STUNNING!!! I want to be you. You nailed this. It is raw and where we live when the enemy wants to take us out. Often we stand with our enemy and I loved how you didn’t! I loved how you named every emotion. I am so sorry you had to suffer that dinner and the evening. I am so sorry for all that cost you. And…you are dangerous to evil and I love you tenacity. I love you love for Jesus. I want to be more like you. Thank you for being Susan Tucker. You are a rock star in my world.
Goodness Becky, thank you for your heartfelt compassion and lavish encouragement. I receive all that you’ve named with such gratitude. <3
Susan, it was painful reading the story of your vulnerability, and anticipation of exposure, and then being left out…I think I would have unraveled much sooner! Your words about all the situations that can leave us feeling hijacked are so affirming, and I know so important to my own growth in awareness and self-compassion. Thank you!
I appreciate your compassion as you read about my experience Janet. Thank you. Yes to continued growth in the areas of self-awareness and self-compassion! May we each continue to offer ourselves kindness more often and more readily. <3
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