I think many of us can relate to that moment when we walk away from a conversation and ask, “Why in the world did I just respond that way?! That was SO not my intention!” I think many of us can also relate to that moment when out of deep anxiety, we look down at two empty cartons of ice cream and realize we were not truly present for any of its consumption. We all have different ways that we cope with our deep emotional aches, whether it be substance abuse, sexual addiction, social media, etc. It seems like our response to pain can happen so quickly, that sometimes we miss what the original trigger or emotional pain was all together.
Why is this important? Because one of the best gifts we can give ourselves is to slow down enough to notice our pain, whenever possible. It is the best gift because you are valuable, your life is valuable, and the people who are in relationship with you are valuable. You might not notice your own emotional distress until after your instinctual coping strategy has been carried out, hence looking down at the two empty cartons of ice cream, but it is never too late to pause and go inward. And the good news is, the more often we slow down and lean into our hearts, the more instinctual it becomes. Likewise, the less instinctual it will be to grab onto our familiar coping strategies.
This process of noticing when we are triggered and going inward to be with our own hearts is TERRIFYING, but most of that fear is because it is unknown territory. However, one of the most beautiful journeys we will embark on is the one of becoming more familiar with ourselves. The more we notice what our typical triggers and coping strategies are, the more we begin to notice the very moments most critical to lean into the pain rather than our typical response of resisting it. With this practice over time, we become more familiar with ourselves and our needs, all of which are working to increase our intimacy with others and decrease the shame we experience after the high of our coping strategy has worn off.
If you feel like leaning into your own heart in the midst of great suffering is too overwhelming, there is nothing wrong with you. There wouldn’t be a multi-billion dollar industry built on our addictions if it were not difficult. I encourage you to reach out for support, whether that be a safe friend, counselor, etc. I encourage you because, YOU my dear, are way too important to live a life of reactivity, coping, disconnect and shame. You are worth having a life that you can be fully alive to, fully free, with true intimacy and joy. Below I have listed a mindfulness exercise that I hope can offer you guidance for the journey inward. You are not alone.
NOTICE – Trigger, Emotional Disregulation, Suffering, Discomfort, Pain, Anxiety, Deep Sadness, Anger, Fear, etc.
CURIOSITY – Turn towards the pain a little at a time. What am I resisting? What am I sensing? Where do I feel this emotion in my body? If I let go of this strong emotion, what else would there be?
ALLOW – Lean towards what arises, stay with it, and BREATHE into it. I am receptive to what arises. I will let what is unfold. I am unattached to any outcome. I will meet with what rises and give it space. I will breathe into my belly, and return to my breath whenever my mind wanders. It’s not about how many times my mind wanders, but that I come back. I will allow the unknown to be here. I will let myself be fully here, because here is the only experience I have.
COMPASSION– I am meeting myself with wherever I am with kindness. I will cut myself some slack. I am neutral. There is no good or bad here. I just am. There is no judgment or comparing. I don’t attach to what arises, I just notice what is being reflected to me. I am not my personality type or my behavior, I just have patterns I am stuck in. I understand that these patterns have been developed to keep me safe, although they are no longer working for me.
RECEIVE – I am not searching myself for advice. I just let the insight effortlessly arise by returning to my breath. What have I been given greater than myself? What is my inner wisdom telling me I need? What does this mean for me? What options have been expanded for me? What do I know is true?
SHIFT – What do I choose to do now? What sacred step arose that is different than my ordinary reaction? What is the new opportunity I have been given to do something different?