I have felt a bit of anxiety or worry lately. I get that way from time to time. Generally, I can contain it and dissolve it with some deep slow breathing. But the last couple days I have had trouble giving it a good shake.
I went for a walk yesterday with Hobbes with my son strapped to my chest. The sun was shining but the wind was still a bit sharp, wintery.
As I walked, I thought about where this anxiety, these feelings, came from. Sometimes I think it’s pretty easy to take on other people’s energy and feelings. Sometimes, its life events adding up and compounding in ways that feel out of my control. Sometimes, its poor decisions and the worry about consequences that might follow them.
What was it this time?
Back and forth I played out some ideas in my mind, of where it might be coming from. Back and forth. Back and forth. Back and forth.
I realized after much time wasted, that this process of trying to pin point it was keeping me stuck in those feelings I wanted to shake.
I wonder if it’s beneficial to answer the question of why or where; would concluding something really make me feel better?
Maybe. But, maybe not.
Can we – I – just name what we are feeling with acceptance and see where it shows up in our bodies? And then take it from there?
This is something I have been talking about with my therapist. Instead of running a million thoughts about why I am feeling a certain way or what I am going to do about it, can I instead just get still and let it be there? Name it? Feel it?
I realize now, as I write this, yesterday was a missed opportunity to be in that reflective state. I got stuck on the loop of thoughts about the emotion, instead of just being with it instead.
Let me give an example of how this could have gone.
Through therapy, I have become aware that when something goes wrong, I tend to game plan and list what I’m going to do, to make it right. As in, what I am going to do to feel different. Also known as running from the pain.
While we’ve concluded that that step of wanting to get to a different feeling is not wrong, what I first could do is just tell myself what it is I am feeling and decide where I feel it in my body.
When I take this step of awareness, it might look like this:
Full stop on the planning and listing of what I’m going to do. Halt on the rush, looping thoughts.
Then notice, what am I actually feeling… what is this feeling? Sadness.
Then notice, where do I feel that sensation that I have named sad… where is it in my body? In my throat.
Then notice, can I just let it be for a minute, before the list of actions? It doesn’t need to be rushed off. Would it be okay for it to be there for a minute or two, to communicate with you? Can you sit with it? Yes. Side note: this is the hard part.
This is a very new way of dealing with things, for me. But I believe that in the sitting with it, in that hard part of not rushing it off, that is where the body communicates and transforms. That is where the lesson is. The growth. The eventual freedom.
Funny thing is, no to-do list of actions will totally free you from something if you don’t feel it first. You might be able to bury or suffocate it a little, but it is still there needing to be dealt with.
You can’t get to transformation and the freedom that comes from transformation with out sitting with the emotion first. And you can’t sit with the emotion until you notice it and allow its presence to be there, for the teaching. And you can’t allow its presence to be there, until you find where it is.
If you are like me, this might be hard work. Pausing and staying with the emotion is difficult. Hanging out in that looping thought process of “why do I feel this way/where did this come from” is a dangerous, self-limiting place to be. That isn’t sitting with it. That is fighting what is there.
Pause. Stay there. Get tuned in.
There is growth in the hard, tuned-in reflective states. My job, and yours, is to get there.