Superpowers! More on difficult emotions

It’s been a while.  I’ve been remiss and I’ll write about that very soon.  I’m glad to be back and hope you all are taking in the days one by one.  Holidays and Thursdays.

Recently a friend said that after not using her drug of choice (sugar) she felt like her emotions were bigger than her body.  I remember being in my first 12-step meeting for co-dependency when my own sense of the emotion of shame felt like it exploded out of my chest and rendered me a blubbering idiot.  To my horror, I couldn’t hold my emotions in any longer.  My fear was exposed.  I actually didn’t even realize it was a fear.  My cover was blown; I was a phony; a weakling who pretended to be strong and competent but was now revealed as a puny, fear-filled imposter.  My body started tingling all over, my face was hot and red and the tears overflowed from my eyes as I blurrily stared at the blue carpet, set in squares splattered with red fiber and my tears.  That was the beginning of a new life for me.  Facing my vulnerability and recognizing that I had this huge ball of shame inside my body because I needed love.  Shame on me that I wanted a life partner and that I was willing to tolerate so little; and when even that tiny amount of attention was withdrawn I succumbed to pretending that it didn’t matter.  What a heavy burden – exhausting in body, sterile in mind.  I believed that I 1) didn’t deserve love; 2) didn’t deserve to feel bad if I were hurting; 3) should expect hurt in all love relationships.

So when my friend said her emotions were bigger than her body – I understood exactly what she was thinking.  So many years later, I have a new way of feeling these feelings that threaten to take over my sense of security.  I no longer believe my emotions threaten my security.  Well, that is not always true because I know that my lizard brain is automatically scanning for threats to keep me safe.  I know that my brain can’t tell the difference between an actual threat (remember the story about the snake?) and a perceived threat.  Until it can.  This is where my rational mind connects with my heart and intuition.  My superpowers! 1-2-3 punch.  I pull out my superpower pen and my superpower paper and start writing.  I awaken my superpower self, the Watcher – who is learning to observe and not believe everything I think.

What is the fact of the situation that is so threatening?  Am I in a safe place right now?  Am I really being threatened in this moment?  Am I ready to explore this emotion right now?  Can I take 20 minutes right now to do this work?  If not can I schedule time on my calendar to do it within a day or two?

If I am not ready now, I change the subject, look around the room and notice the colors; I touch my knee with my hands and feel my feet on the floor.  I call a friend.  I go about my day, with gentle loving thoughts towards myself.  (Here’s what I say: “You are OK, Pat, and all will be well.  You will come back to this thought, this feeling later when you are safe.  There is no rush.”)

If I am ready now I answer the questions: What am I feeling in my body?  Describe in detail the sensations I feel in each body part.  I write what I am thinking.  Just dribble out all the sentences in my head, stream of consciousness messiness.  I look at those thoughts and feelings on the paper with interest and fascination, withholding judgment.  I name them and use inquiry in the form of a Self-Coaching 101 model to investigate what is actually happening.  (Click here for a Worksheet.)

After I do this work, I breathe and say thank you.  I may not have solved a problem, but I may have cracked it open and now can view it from a different point of view.  I will likely come back again and again, but for now, I just go about my day in gratitude for a new way of looking at a very old problem.

My new program From Surviving to Thriving takes a step by step approach to working through troubling spots in your life.  If you want help taking a chance on yourself, give me a call at415-234-6580