Working with Challenging Emotions
Taking a You-turn can help you find a comfortable distance from and a positive relationship with parts with strong feelings. You can enable and lead those parts as your centered, Spirit-led self. As you do, your parts can become trusted allies and advisers. Let’s look at some common emotions and get some ideas for working with them.
Remember the steps to a You-Turn. When you feel emotional:
• Focus and Befriend on the part asking to be seen.
• Invite and Unburden them with your Creator.
• Integrate them back into your internal family with love.
Anger can manifest through our inner critic and the resentful parts. You might recognize phrases like, “Why do you always have to go and do that?” or “That was stupid.” Your inner critic says things you wouldn’t even speak to an enemy.
What do you do when you’re furious inside? Or when an injustice has occurred? Options include fight, where you might yell, break things or even simply check out and sleep, and flight, where you might flee, carrying the inner critic and resentment parts with you while you run.
Healthy internal relationships require honoring the part of you that is feeling the emotion (in this case, anger), holding space for it, and giving the emotion time. Emotions, once honored, will seldom last more than 25-45 seconds.
It may take courage to watch and hold space for them, but you can reassure yourself that they are temporary and the intense feeling will stop soon. Once the part feels witnessed, befriended, and understood, you can determine the action needed to take on its behalf and productively channel your anger.
Fear and Anxiety
Henry Nouwen, in his book The Inner Voice of Love, wrote this lovely thought about fear/anxiety:
‘Try to keep your small, fearful self close to you…Let it teach you with its wisdom; let it tell you that you can live instead of just surviving. Gradually you will become one, and you will find that Jesus is living in your heart and offering you all you need.’
Every time I read that sentiment, my heart is comforted! Fear is a natural response when we feel threatened by danger, pain, or harm. Anxiety is the resistance and fear of fear. Both can be intense, provoking emotions.
One of my favorite ways to work with anxious feelings is to welcome them with friendliness and curiosity. “Oh, here is my old friend, Anxiety. Come in and sit with me awhile.” While, at the moment, that may be the last thing I want to do, once welcomed, I can focus on the physical feelings in my body and my breath. Then with calm curiosity, I can examine the experience. Generally, my mind and heart are off to other things by that time. In an especially intense situation, we can invite our Creator to come in and sit with us as we curiously examine and experiment with the experience. No expectations. No storytelling. Just curiosity.
Witnessing and sitting in curiosity with the anxious part and offering support, she can speak up and be understood in her worries and concerns. This part of you is only there to help. Offer your time and love, and with your Creator, express gratitude for that part of yourself. Let your Spirit take the lead.
Remember the perfect 50/50 experience of last month? Joy and sadness, two contracting emotions, are simply each a side of the same coin. One does not exist without the other. The joy of a newborn’s birth is only matched by the sadness of loss at the passing of a loved one. To quote Alison Cook, ‘You need your pain. Grief makes you real, and disappointment makes you resilient.’
Heartache is rocket fuel for growth. Like a good fever will burn off the dross and facilitate a developmental growth spurt in a toddler, maturity, innovation, and perspective are born of suffering. Sorrow can be a catalyst for achieving new heights and advancement…after the time of grief, of course. It clears your view and lets you see things with new vision. Understanding that, it still feels terrible, bottomless, and dark.
Remembering that life is a 50/50 study in contrast, can make all the difference. The sun always shines again, spring always comes, but so does the moon and the long winter nights. It’s all here to help us become the people we want to be.
Your sadness needs you to care for her. Like anxiety, become curious about her. Listen to her and befriend her from your centered self. If you can, allow an image of your sadness to present itself to you. Perhaps create some artwork to capture the sadness. Witness it. It is making you a better person. More empathetic, understanding, and, dare I say, wise. When transformed in the presence of your Creator-centered self, Sadness becomes compassion and strength. It’s all good.
This week, keep a list of emotions under the days of your week. Write them, witness them, support them, express thanks for them and learn from them. Visualize the part of you that is experiencing those emotions and take time to visit with her. She will most likely welcome your contact and respond in kind, with a feeling of increasing calm in your life.