Recently, I had a party and nobody came. Well, that’s not true. A couple of people came about three hours in and we had a lovely visit, but in those first hours it felt like nobody was coming and, considering the number of people invited, it felt more like a little visit than a party. At one point my 10 year turned to me and asked, “Mom, are you sad that nobody came to your party?” I quickly replied, “No! Not at all! I have a nice clean house, we have some great food and it’s been such a nice quiet evening.” Later I thought about his question and sat with it for a moment. “What did I feel?” My first thought was, “I feel uncomfortable thinking about this event.” My next one was, “I guess I’m disappointed.” After that I realized that I was embarrassed. I was embarrassed that I thought I was more popular than I was. After that thought, I thought, “Now I’m embarrassed that I’m embarrassed about my popularity level. I feel like I’m back in high school!”
On the rational side of my mind, where I prefer to live, where feelings don’t get space, I was aware of the fact that that date of the event made it difficult for people to come. I knew that I would not have gone to an event so close to Christmas if it had not been in my home as I was very busy. I knew that it was irrational to believe that one missed event could change everything I knew about my relationship with those I had invited. We’d had plenty of other positive interactions which told me that we all like each other. Knowing all this did not change my feelings but did allow me to sit with them for a bit without assuming the worst about my life.
Later, when someone I trust with my feelings asked about how things went I was able to answer honestly and receive their empathy without pushing it away as unneeded.
Because of this I was able to move on and feel good about my friendships and over all, okay about the event, without denying that I had more than one feeling about it.
Here’s another recent example of my attempt to pay attention to my feelings, in a different way. I tend to be more of a project person than an upkeep person but am working on this. In a recent bout of ‘spastic’ deep cleaning I thought about my history of random injuries that have happened when I start engaging in physical activities after avoiding them for a while.
I wondered if it’s not that I always have bad luck or that my body is particularly traitorous, but that I jump into projects by holding my breath and then going as fast and as hard as I can (presumably to get the whole painful thing over a quickly as possible!) Inevitably, something gets hurt.
At this thought, I stopped cleaning and took a deep breathe. I tried to feel how my body was feeling and realized that my arm was sore. I decided to take a break for a few minutes. I sat down and discovered that I was quite a bit more tired that I had realized. I decided to lay down for 15 minutes and then returned to cleaning at a slightly slower pace. The entire job took longer than I had planned but I did not get hurt in any way and had some energy left at the end.
Brene Brown speaks about the power of vulnerability, letting ourselves feel what we feel and taking emotional risks to connect to others. There is always a risk of rejection but if we don’t take it, we risk isolation. We all know what isolation does to mental health (bad things). She speaks about the fact that we cannot isolate which emotions to avoid feeling. They are all connected. If we avoid or ignore one, we risk reducing our entire range of emotional experience. See Brene’s entire TedTalk here: Brene Brown: The Power of Vulnerability
I’ve never been one for New Years Resolutions. I have goals that I’m working on, which I make when it feels like things need to change and, when I’ve had time to consider what is required to make those changes. Over the last few months I’ve been working on a number of body related goals, including increasing water intake, getting outside more, trying to do at least 15-20 minutes of exercise a day and taking vitamins. (See Avoiding Exercise – An Expert’s Guide and My Shitty Body. I’ll keep on with those ones.
So here’s my New Year’s Resolution.
I want to be conscious of my feelings, both emotionally and physically. I want to pay attention, feel them, and then care for them.
I suspect that this will filter into my relationships. If I notice that I’ve been going steady for a while and stop to note feelings, I may find that I’m missing friends or fun times, or relaxation in a way that I might not have noticed if I’d just plowed on. When I don’t pay attention I slowly become more and more irritable, find myself getting depressed and risk physical deterioration. I’m hoping to do better with this.
One way I will try and do this is by identifying and labelling emotions at least once a day, but, particularly when something feels “off,” or, when something happens that would be expected to elicit emotion of some kind. I’m going to use this chart:
I will also continue/re-start with my daily mindfulness, I’m currently using the “Breathe” App which starts with a question about physical, mental and emotional states before recommending a guided meditation. Also, when I’m doing something repetitive or out of the ordinary I want to try and stop and take note of my physical states.
Creative processes have helped me to engage with emotions in the past. I find this helpful when I can’t put a finger on a feeling or the feeling is too strong to talk about or think my way through. In the past, I’ve done collages by ripping up magazines and gluing words and pictures to a paper and then writing over the creation with pastels or markers. Sometimes I’ll carry on, adding texture by gluing on fabric, sand, or other items, or sewing over the whole thing. While I’m working on this I allow my self to feel what I’m feeling. Afterwards, I look at the image I’ve created and see what it says to me. Sometimes I don’t get much by looking at it but I often feel the emotion(s) dissipate by the end of the process.
Journalling has also been one that I’ve enjoyed over the years and helps me think through emotion laden situations.
Here’s an exercise that uses clay to express and process emotion, from the book “The Art of Emotional Healing” by Lucia Capacchione. *
In this book the author suggests exploring anger with clay:
- Start by sitting and contemplating the emotion you are feeling. Breathe deeply and and notice where the emotion is in your body. Remember the last time you felt this emotion and the situation that triggered it at that time. Think about the aspects of the emotion. and describe them to yourself, were you irritated, mad, enraged, furious?
- Once you’ve done this you are ready to put this emotion into the clay. Moisten your hands, if need be, and imagine the anger flowing down your arms and into the clay. Use movements and gestures which express anger. Don’t worry, you cannot hurt the clay. Close your eyes and just feel the clay and the your feelings moving into it. Continue in this way until you feel the emotion has been completely poured out of you.
- Then open your eyes an look at what is in your hands. Continue on moulding the clay until you feel that what you are making is finished.
- Once finished, look at what you have made and ask yourself how it felt to put this emotion into the clay? Did you feel a release at any time? What did you like or not like about the process? Did you notice anything new about yourself as you expressed this? Did any other feelings come up? How did you feel about what you made?
You can either keep the piece or roll it back up into a ball for future use.
*Please note: I have signed on as an affiliate sales person for McNally Robinson which means that if you click on the above link, and decide to purchase the book I’ve recommended, I will receive an affiliate’s fee. I only recommend books I have read and believe to be worth recommending.
For more on processing emotions see How Novels Can Help you Grieve
Also check out, When YOU are the Volcano – 7 Ways to Care for Yourself