Crisis Shows Up in Your Feelings That Hurt
Feelings are extremely important to our species. Our brain went to great lengths to carefully conserve feelings because they were critical for survival. When you avoid painful, uncomfortable feelings, you also avoid valuable information that needs your attention. Ignoring your uncomfortable feeling might feel like a solution, but it is only temporary. Eventually, it will work against you.
Feelings like anger, grief, shame, fear or loneliness hurt and I am imagining there is plenty of people experiencing these as the global pandemic continues to create all kinds of disruption through illness and death for you or those you love, job and income loss, inability to connect and the tremendous amount of uncertainty that now exists as we all struggle to find a new rhythm.
Confronting painful feelings is hard work. It takes a great deal of practice. Feelings are meant to provoke action. They are there to propel you to do something. So what can you do when anger, grief, hurt, or other painful feeling that come your way?
Acknowledge the feeling. I know this is obvious but so often our first response is to carry on as if the feeling does not exist. Stop. If your instinct is to rev up and take action, don’t. Panic is not a strategy and taking a moment to figure out your feeling responses will help you to make better decisions which will save you time in the long run. Take a moment to become aware of what happens when you sit with your lonely or grief or terror. Where do you feel it in your body? Just take 30 seconds, sit still, breathe, and notice the physiological response of your painful feeling.
Who can help you? Once you are aware of the feeling, move. Your next task, if possible, is to get help. Literally, the next thing you will need, is someone to give you a hand. One of the ways we can calm our nervous system and get support is through face-to-face communication. When you connect with others, you receive direct feedback about who you are. You have your fears reflected back to you — your joy, shame, love and vulnerability. Face-to-face rehearsal teaches us to understand and identify our own feelings. That is why connecting with others is so important. This may not be doable with our physical distancing practice but we can call, or use social media to connect with someone we care about. Or it might be someone skilled who has the resources and expertise to help you through your experience like a doctor, a lawyer or a counsellor.
How can you help you? Find something to help you take care of you and your nervous system right now. Move, go for a walk, take a bath, read a book or do a task that will calm you down or make you feel better. This isn’t about finding something that will take your painful feeling away, rather, this is about finding a task that will help you feel better — not great, just better.
In evolutionary terms, there are no good feelings or bad feelings — all feelings are simply information. You need to listen to the information your painful feelings are trying to tell you and take action. This is the way you adapt to your changing environment and eventually thrive.
This blog post is adapted from material in, “Your Beautiful Trauma — a practical guide to help you convert crisis into full scale transformation”.
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