TRUSTING THE PULL OF EMOTIONS

trusting-emotion


My colleague, the awesome EFT therapist and supervisor Jennifer Olden, just shared this the other day, and I'd like to share it with you:

"My best friend is a kayaker and she shared that one of the dangers of kayaking is it’s possible to get caught in an eddy and be dragged underwater and drown.  Your best shot a survival is to not fight it. You have to let the river pull you to the bottom, relax all your limbs. At the bottom of the river, the current reverses and you will be propelled back to the top.  It’s beyond counter-intuitive to relax in the face of death… Focusing on the deepest grief, the greatest fear, and the most harrowing moments are the currents pulling us down; trusting the biology of emotion means that we know we will be propelled back up."  

I just love how Jen puts that. Almost all of us are learning to not fight the current of emotion, but to trust that there's an important biologically-driven process at work when our feelings show up. So many of us get caught in fighting the eddy, avoiding the currents trying to take you where you need to go to heal—and, honestly, who wouldn't want to avoid those currents when the eddy feels so dark and deep and dangerous?!

While we all feel the urge to avoid, it's so important that we understand that we must instead lean into the very thing that's scaring us. AEDP therapist Ron Frederick talks often in his wonderful book Living Like You Mean It about the importance of letting the wave of emotion hit you, trusting that it will move through you and take you where you need to go to feel better. When we feel our feelings all the way through, there's a sense of release and completion. So, the next time you find yourself getting pulled down by the eddy of emotion, try leaning into it, trusting it to take you where you need to go.

HOW EASY I AM TO CRUSH



One of my clients shared this amazing spoken word performance by Jae Nichelle. I so hope you'll take just 3 minutes to listen to it. She talks so beautifully and powerfully about her struggles with her anxious, critical inner voice.

This really demonstrates how strategies we initially use to protect ourselves end up creating challenges for us, becoming oppressive and dangerous themselves. Her anxiety is trying to protect her from embarrassment or rejection, and yet the poet shares with us the terrible cost of all that anxiety.

And because parts of us feel we still need that protection — "how easy I am to crush" she tells herself — we often can't let go of the old strategies, no matter how hard we try. "I have been fighting her for control of our house for years…[but] she's the longest relationship I've ever had…the only relationship I can count on."

Meeting problematic parts with empathy and understanding (and often the help of a caring therapist) is, in my experience, the only way to get those parts of us to consider new strategies and to move from a "boxing match" to a caring relationship with all the parts of you.

KNOW STRUGGLE, KNOW GROWTH

nostrugglenogrowth

"If there is no struggle there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom and yet deprecate agitation are men who want crops without plowing up the ground; they want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters." — Frederick Douglass, 1857

I LOVE this quote. At a global level, it reassures me that the things that feel so tumultuous and threatening in our world right now are normal processes, that next season's crops come after first plowing up the ground, that pain comes before birth. It shifts me from feeling afraid and threatened to feeling more hopeful—and even curious about what growth might be on the way.

I thought of this quote recently when an awful, roaring wave of anxiety disturbed my calm ocean within. With the benefit of hindsight, I see that my seemingly unwelcome anxiety was actually the start of a beautiful process of healing something deep within me. As I healed that part of me, I felt empowered and, yes, free.

This quote reminds me to just let my feelings come, to stay open, curious, and connected (to myself and my loved ones) and trust that struggle within me is actually a harbinger of growth and change. It invites me to remember that my distress is the first sign of a process working within me toward greater healing, happiness, and wholeness. It reassures me that if I stay with my distress and trust it, relief is on the other side of that wave, because "nothing that feels bad is ever the last step."

And so I invite you to sit with this quote and notice what you feel inside as you read it. Think of how often great pain, anger, or fear has come before a place of growth, healing, understanding, relief, joy, or freedom. I wonder how it would be for you, right now, to welcome something inside you that feels hard, confusing, or scary, knowing that all you're feeling is the start of things being much, much better for you.

BRING YOUR PROBLEMS TO WORK?

problemstowork

I ran across this New Yorker cartoon a while ago and I've been meaning to post it. I love it because a) it's really funny and b) it's really true! We laugh because we all recognize these kind of random anxieties, hurts, and resentments within ourselves. (I feel you, Two Years Ago I Said the Wrong Thing Lady!) It's normal to worry and to struggle—the important thing is that you never suffer alone. We all need a safe place to turn for comfort and guidance when we're besieged with these kinds of inner doubts and difficulties. So, to make this cartoon more helpful (but much less funny), if you're struggling with your own version of these kinds of challenges, don't bring your problems to work—bring them to therapy!

WALKING WITH ANGER

anger

One of my therapist colleagues just shared this awesome cartoon with me. It really captures the hilarious (and relatable!) gap between our aspirations of Zen-like chill and our frazzled, real-world execution when it comes to emotion regulation. Most of us strive to be good people, and sometimes our big emotions can just sweep in and thwart our best intentions.

As humbling as that message is, it's also so normalizing of those big feelings and of anger specifically. Anger is a core, very necessary emotion that helps us protect ourselves from the dangers in our world. It provides important data about our needs and gives us the oomph we need to advocate for those needs.

To make our anger most effective for us, we often work in therapy on owning and expressing our angry feelings while working not to lash out from our anger, i.e., to talk about feeling angry without acting it out, shutting it down, or using an intimidating tone or critical language with others. You know, unless they're walking too slowly in front of you…