Would you like to feel deep joy, the kind that once ignited will not go away? If you are willing to sit in misery you can feel that, do you still want it? Are you open and willing to allow sensations, and emotions to really feel deep joy?
I want to explore allowing and tolerating feelings, and “buffering,” or avoiding feelings. Emotions and sensations are how our body and brain talk to each other. Our brain does not know if something is real or imagined; what you see, hear, smell, taste, and touch is real and then our body has an emotional response to those “real life” sensations. It is important to understand that our brains are hard-wired to seek safety and comfort, as it tries to avoid pain and discomfort. Our brains will always want to offer us solutions that feel warm, cozy, and familiar. Memories play a vital role in assisting our brains to relate past experiences and those emotions and sensations to new experiences.
How do you know when you are avoiding a Feeling? Instead of sitting and being still to allow it, your inventive mind gives you the option to do something else, something that you might find familiar, a habit you have formed that gives you comfort, even if it’s temporary. Examples of distractions that your brain might give you are going for a walk, working out at the gym, eating comfort food, calling someone, drinking, smoking, cleaning, watching tv, getting on social media, and reading a book.
You might be asking, “Now, Angela, what’s the harm in cleaning or working out at the gym if something is bothering me?” Avoiding or buffering your emotions with distractions is not useful, even though you think you are being productive. Unresolved and uncomfortable Emotions want to be processed since that is how the brain and body communicate. If you feel the joy you embrace it and cherish it, so I am suggesting that if you embrace the uncomfortable emotions, they too will pass and be only a memory.
When a circumstance occurs and you have a thought about it, feelings arise, and it’s a feeling that you do not want to process. So, you choose your distraction of choice—anything to avoid processing what you are feeling. You are not building tolerance or awareness of that emotion instead you are doing what I call buffering with action, so you don’t process and allow the feelings to pass through your body. Once you begin and allow emotions rather than buffer them, self-awareness becomes sharper and you find yourself not reacting, but responding to life. Building up tolerance takes practice.
Once awakened to how your brain works, you get to choose how you want to pivot from this moment forward. Stopping and questioning your reasoning might be a good place to start. Is this real? What are the facts? Getting to the root cause and not putting on the band-aid could heal your soul on a much deeper level, causing you to begin to experience that deep joy life offers us…if we are willing and open to taking it.
When you catch yourself feeling hurt because someone didn’t do, say, or react in a way you would have liked them to, it might be time for you to take note that you are “holding a manual” for that person. In coach-talk we call having an expectation of how someone should behave “holding a manual” for that person. When they choose not to behave the way we want them to, we find ourselves giving them the silent treatment, yelling at them, or holding resentment towards them. That is holding a manual and also thought of as having expectations.
Culture can give us certain expectations to uphold—for example, we are taught a mom should be loving no matter what, a dad should always want to protect his family, and children should obey their parents. We, as women, may also have expectations toward our husbands. I have thought much about this, as I have held many expectations for many people in my life, my husband, too. I’ve thought, “my husband should support me, he should believe in my dreams and compliment me often.” The manual I want to explore about dropping is that of our husband. Once we can drop the manual our relationship with ourselves and them will improve.
Let’s explore a favorite movie of mine, My Big Fat Greek Wedding. Toula wants to do things her way, discovering what makes sense to her for her life. It isn’t easy as the Greek culture is embedded in her family and stepping out of it will be a challenge. She doesn’t want to completely let it all go, she just wants to make her own path and do things her way.
During a conversation with her mother, Maria, she is told, “Let me tell you something, Toula. The man is the head, but the woman is the neck. And she can turn the head any way she wants.” Although this is funny, and I still laugh when I hear it, its humor does not detract from it’s the relatability of this statement to many women. I want to suggest that allowing your husband to be who he is and you to come to the table with your suggestions could be a way to promote unity as a couple and drop the idea of wanting to control one another.
A book I recommend reading to assist with this is The 5 Love Languages. Read this not so you can tell your partner what you need, but so you can meet yourown needs. When we are demanding or expectant of others to meet our needs, we will never truly see them for who they really are. Why? Because we are so busy trying to change them to what we think they need to be for us.
Ask yourself the questions, “Do I really know what I want? Do I meet my own needs on the regular?
Once you know your love languages you will know how to talk to yourself and the way you need to treat yourself. When we have met our own needs, we are able to show up for our spouse with our cup full and we give because we truly want to and not from a place of expectations.
Over time, in his own time, your spouse will begin to give to you in ways that might not be your language, but you will see the effort and appreciate him all the more. It’s that much more beautiful when a husband decides to do the dishes, even when it’s not how we do it, not because we told him to, but because he decided he wants to.
I still make requests; in fact, I make a lot of requests. But, I don’t hold on to them with expectations. Dropping my husband’s manual is a process and a process I believe to be worth working on daily. When you drop the manual, you are allowing your husband to be who he wants to be and loving him for who he is.
Boundaries are important for us to have and understand. We don’t necessarily need a lot of rules in our lives. If we build up too many walls, we run the risk of isolating ourselves from people and opportunities. Keeping in mind that what you value is important to you and that is the reason you create boundaries. A friend that is always late when you value time, having a mother show up unannounced when a priority of yours is keeping a schedule, these are a few examples of boundary issues.
Clearly expressing boundaries needs to happen when a boundary that you hold has been crossed. When someone does something that infringes on you, emotionally or physically, it is not automatic that they know they had crossed a boundary. Most of us don’t know what other people’s boundaries are. Take a look at my blog last week as it explored the topic on creating principles and priorities. Knowing what you value in life will help you set healthier boundaries.
Here are a few tips to remember when you feel it is time to set a boundary due to events that are interfering with your principles:
Creating a boundary when frustrated, mad, or angry is not the right time. Get your thoughts down on paper and decide what you would like to say from a place of love and peace after you’ve had some time to think. It can make all the difference.
Make the request and let them know what act they are doing that is infringing on you. Then share with them the consequence if they choose not to comply with your request.
Here are a couple examples of things you could say once you’ve decided on a boundary:
“The kids and I love it when you come to the house, that is why I am asking you to call before you come over so I can make sure it is a good time for us to have you. If you do not call the door will be locked if you show up unannounced.”
“I know that you run late, at times, and I am looking forward to having lunch with you. Just know that if you are more than 15 minutes late, I will be leaving. I won’t be mad; I just won’t be waiting longer than that.”
Lastly, I want to talk on the topic of eliminating people from our lives, as this is not a way of creating boundaries. There are occasions when people are physically and mental harmful to you and in those cases removing yourself might be best. However, I do want to offer you a thought; what if those who cause the most frustration in you are really here to help you grow? Instead, try to ask yourself, “what can I learn from this relationship, how will listening to this person allow me to grow?”
The key to healthy boundaries is in the request and in the follow through. When you follow through with what you find to be important you are showing respect to yourself and respect to others through your communications. If creating boundaries is new to you, realize that creating boundaries now could be challenging or they could be liberating…the choice is yours.
Actively processing your emotions with your eyes wide open can allow you to experience new insights, especially if you have never attempted to purposefully allow this process to happen before. However, before you begin down the path to processing, you must first be open to what Avoiding, Resisting, and Reacting looks like when it comes to your emotions.
Let’s say someone has said something, done something, or acted a certain way toward you. As a result, you have a thought about what their words or actions meant, then an emotion unfolds you don’t want to experience so you choose to Avoid, Resist, and/or React. But, what does Avoiding, Resisting, and Reacting to an emotion look like?
Avoiding comes in many forms, watching Netflix and chilling while eating our favorite food, escaping through the drug of our choice, shopping, looking at porn, and gambling are just some examples of avoiding emotions we would rather not deal with.
Resisting is like Avoiding, and often works in conjunction with it. In addition to Avoiding through comfort actions, we choose to tell ourselves, “there is no problem,” “It’s all good,” or “I’m fine.” These are a few example statements we claim when we are resisting an emotion.
Reacting would involve screaming, lashing out, raising our voice, and even “The silent treatment.”
If you feel stuck, if you are doubting yourself all the time, if you are unsure of your meaning or purpose in life, then there might be emotions you are avoiding and need to explore. Allow yourself to observe each emotion. Allowing means feeling the pain, it means being angry, sad, lonely, afraid, all of the emotions, all at once. You might go down the path where you start to justify, explain and get stuck in the pride and shame cycle of life. There is no need to explain; this is just you, sitting with your thoughts.
“Thoughts are just Data” is one of my favorite sayings; it makes me realize that we are more than our thoughts and actions and we can choose to be more. I’d like to offer that what you feel and think in that moment after someone does something or acts a certain way might not actually be what it appears to be. It could be an old emotion you have chosen not to deal with, and so it keeps reoccurring in your life.
Here are a few things to remember to do when processing emotions:
Name the pain, what it feels like, and where it is in your body. What thoughts are you experiencing? Don’t try to justify or explain anything. Just sit in it. Then say, “I am processing this pain.”
Realize it was the thought of the past creating the present emotion, and you can finally let it go. You have allowed it to be processed.
No one outside of you needs to fix you, you are not broken. You can allow yourself to feel emotions, knowing that you are 100% lovable, with this pain or without it. You don’t need to prove anything to anyone. Your eyes will be open to possibilities that you would have never imagined because you decided to process this emotion instead of Avoiding, Resisting, and/or Reacting.
As a Life Coach, I hold a safe space, a space for growth, for clients to learn how to process thoughts and emotions. Purposefully processing emotions has changed my life and my relationships with others, as well as my relationship with myself. Processing is allowing yourself to decide to let go and move forward. Only through deciding to move forward, without knowing all the answers, and without blame, have I been able to prove to myself that I can be fierce.
“I just can’t, it’s their fault, why do I have to,” these are statements that I have said myself quite a few times, well actually many times, in my life. Each time I found myself thinking these things, feelings of defeat and hopelessness would come over me. Then I began to ask myself why am I choosing to believe these thoughts and what is the result in my life from believing these thoughts?
When I stand in my space believing I am justified in my actions, it could be coming from a place of not wanting to take responsibility. If that is the case, that would mean that I am frustrated, sad, or hurt because of how I am responding and not because of what someone did or didn’t do, and that is hard for our ego and pride to here or even explore. By making the choice to be an observer of our thoughts and not a critic, we can start to unravel thoughts and look at it as data and not right or wrong, just information. Then we can take the first step to processing an emotion.
Here is an example I think most of us can relate to:
It’s an elementary school yard and kids are out playing on recess. When we see a young girl, let’s call her Betty, saying mean things to another young girl, let’s call her Sally. Then the teacher would say, “now Betty, you hurt Sally’s feelings you need to say you are sorry.”
At a young age, unknown to us, we are taught that other people’s words make us feel a certain way. What I want to offer is we can explore as adults is that the words, and or actions of others, means nothing to us until we decide to make it mean something to us. This is probably one of the hardest things for us to explore and be open to processing. At one time or another, we might have heard the cliché, “sticks and stones can break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” The interesting thing is that even as we were saying that phrase, we most likely didn’t have the emotional capacity to truly understand it.
As children we explore so many emotions. If we are not taught how to process the emotions caused by the words and/or actions of another we can get stuck in the blame game. Then, as adults, we find ourselves doing that throughout our life.
Now, in the example I can be the teacher, Sally, or Betty, step back and explore where that thinking was coming from and look at that scenario objectively. Then in return view my own situation. Knowing that we have been in all sides of the equation can help us see things differently. I can relate to the teacher, Sally and Betty as I have been in all those shoes and I would guess you have to.
I was about eight when I was given my first journal. I remember my parents giving all of us kids journals at a family evening activity. I am guessing keeping a journal was the topic, but for me all I remember was receiving that journal. Then a few years later for Christmas my Great grandma, Sophie, gave all her grandkids journals as a Christmas gift. That is also the only memory I have of that Christmas; her picture was inside of it and it is something I treasure. In both memories, the act of being given a journal meant something to me, even at a young age I wanted to record my thoughts.
Inconsistently over the years I have kept a journal. Whether it was notes of the day, a calendar of events, or writing in a journal, keeping and documenting my thoughts seemed to matter to me. But, I couldn’t be consistent with it.
It is consistency that I think most of us lack and are, at times, a little perplexed as to why we can’t be consistent with writing down our daily thoughts. Is it that we run short on topics and content? Do we find that we are living the same repeated pattern, just on a different day?
Then why bother journaling, and what difference would it make if I do?
Reflecting on where I was then to where I am now truly helped me gain a perspective that might only have happened through keeping a journal. When you decide to keep a journal, you are deciding to grow as a person through self-reflection.
Every day I am trying to live a life on purpose. A life with openness and curiosity. In my old journal writing days I was a master at finding blame, excuses, and reasons why “others” had made it “impossible” for me to do what I wanted to do. I had truly mastered being a victim and playing that part. There are still times I might find my thoughts going down that road of victimhood, but now from creating more awareness, I can catch myself before it gets to a point that my thoughts and actions are not serving me or the people around me that I love.
For this reason, my old victimhood journals are priceless to me, not because I want to relive the pain, but because I had captured my thinking process in real time. These are emotions and thoughts during a time when I felt I couldn’t breathe. I can’t second guess my decision when I made them in the past from what I knew then. If I am truly evolving as a person, I will have gained more insight as my view could have changed over time. Looking back, I can feel the pain, but I know that pain was multiplied due to my own thoughts. Seeing that growth makes my journals that much more valuable to me.
Here are a few questions and tips that might help you in your journal writing endeavors:
Why are you deciding to take note of your life?
It is important to not judge yourself when asking this question instead ask with curiosity.
How do you want to take note?
Will you be doing hard copy or digital?
When will you journal?
Find a time a place a routine that you are willing to fit into your life.
Lastly, not a question but a suggestion: don’t beat yourself up if you fall of the wagon. We all fall off the wagon at some point. I can’t begin to tell you how many times I have had to get up after falling of the wagon. Remember give yourself and others grace. As we could use more of that in our world.