I wrote a post about Radical Acceptance a few weeks ago inspired by the artist https://www.gemmacorrell.com/ who shared her beautiful illustration on the subject.I find her art work gives me a powerful way to connect to my emotional health, she is also spreading the word on the importance of our own emotional wellness. I first came to the practice of Radical Acceptance from the meditation teacher and the psychotherapist Tara Brach. She has so much wisdom to share and so this practice has some real ground to it.
In my post I wrote: "I use Radical Acceptance as a way to deal with the feelings and emotions that arrive." Even that first stage of acknowledging feelings can be hard. We are busy being sad/angry/ confused but if we can get into the habit of noticing and interrupting that in a gentle way, we are no longer the emotion but we are experiencing it, its part of us, not the whole of us. We can then hear what’s going on and move into feeling and sensations experienced in the body. For me this practice is less about understanding a narrative but staying with what’s happening inside. At some point if I then place my hands on my body, my heart or belly it’s a bridge into accepting. This is the present moment, ‘I am safe’, I may whisper to myself. The accepting is not a passive thing either, if we accept what is in the moment in a loving way we create more energy to deal with whatever we are facing.
Emotions can feel scary
In the post a friend commented on the fear of feeling emotions. This is a very real experience that I can relate too. Expressing feelings, even touching into what can feel like the unknown beast of a feeling, is highly daunting. Questions arise in my mind, Can I allow myself to go there? Am I being silly? What would they think? What am I upset about anyway? Especially with all this relative comfort I have. Others are much worse off. Shame is a very real visitor when we approach expressing emotions. We may fear getting lost in our emotions, and worry if we might ever find our way out. If I start will I ever stop!
My experience and research on this subject has shown me that if we make sense of what happened to us we can bring a context to a difficult period, gain new understandings, insights and perspective. However we may have a backpack of feelings to clear, I wonder if this is the sense we have of being overwhelmed by feelings. We can reassure ourselves, we already had this experience this is just the memory.
We are all doing our best as parents
A clue as to how the shame got there is how our feelings may have been responded to in the past. Our parents came from a different generation.The amount of research into emotional health and the brain science of emotions have sky rocketed in the past 20 years. So we can hold that our parents were doing their level best, with little support and lacking in the knowledge we have more of in present times. Also they were brought by a generation who lived in a time of war, an era where emotions were suppressed as a way to move the country forward from a dark time. Therefore, as a result, during childhood it was commonplace to have our emotions shut down in a varied amount of ways, in school or home from threats such as ‘Don't you dare.’ or ‘Be a big girl.’ Maybe you heard ‘Boys don’t cry’. We may have even done some version of shutting down our own kids because that’s the way we were treated and it takes a long time for information to be spread and attitudes to shift. We might be working really hard to respond to our children differently but still it tumbles out of us in the height of stress, either towards our children or towards ourselves.
It's understandable that after 30 or 40 years of suppression we are holding a lot and we are not prepared for what will happen when feelings are overwhelming. We may need more emotional education to understand how to talk about our emotional frequencies. I use the a practice called Listening Partnership, an adult to adult equal sharing of how hard life feels without judgment and in complete confidence. A trusted person holds the idea that you are ok and will be ok again, while you explore difficult feelings. Of course seeing a counsellor or coach is another option and can work along side the Listening Partnership approach.
Coping with emotions
If we have a certain amount of resilience we maybe able to take action when certain feelings arise, an option is to set a timer, allow say 10 mins to cry or rage and then wash your face, go out for a walk, call a friend. A person may do this many times to address an issue. What’s important and what’s being called for is to start to discharge what we carry, not to lug it around hoping it wont come back to bite us.
In the 1:1 sessions I offer as a Wellbeing coach I work with people to give them skills to deal with the tough stuff of life, to build resilience, and understand their bodies better in order to discover what’s happening in those moments of stress and how life may have been impacted. We look at how we might take action using our whole body to learn ways to feel good, building emotional safety and gain more understanding.
Seek other extraordinary humans
One more tip I can give is to find people who have trodden this path before you. The amazing humans who have been shown the worst of life but are here in the world seeing its beauty and operating from a fully grounded and resilient heart. Hearing them brings hope and a future of possibilities. I recently heard the Brene Brown podcast interviewing Dr Edith a Jewish teenager sent to Auschwitz, her parents sent to the gas chamber. Now a Psychotherapist and author. Helping to heal the trauma of others. https://open.spotify.com/episode/4rT0TLIumjIWC0x3P6E5TX..