Ever raged in fury, fumed like a steam train and exploded? Ever cried uncontrollably for days and weeks and felt like the grief will swallow you like a hole? Sure, it is satisfying to vent and is feels like a relief to cry where there are deeply hurt feelings. I know all too well. Been there, done that.
However, after a while, if we do not move on, it’s not only exhausting but probably self-perpetuating, am I right? And what I mean by that is: the crisis feeds itself and finding a way out of it becomes trickier. Have you ever met a drama queen or king? Sometimes the sadness, the jealousy or anger are addictive. The chemicals poured into our bodies that are necessary to feel those emotions have been so integrated that the body begins craving them if we try to stop….
I know, it sounds extreme. And the art of disengaging from negative feelings, and with negative, I do not mean bad, but rather unpleasant, is not well taught at home or at school.
‘Shush!’, and the naughty corner, time-outs and useless reprimands, like ‘Naughty girl!’ or ‘stop whining!’ come to mind. Well, these lit matches have helped with the volcano inside, am I right? Of course not. Where we kids/teenagers needed someone to listen deeper into our anger, into our abyss of sadness, we got shut down. So we usually didn’t get the chance to learn how to deal with extreme emotional states.
As adults we might not be slamming doors anymore (don’t take my word for it, though), stomp to our rooms, or cry uncontrollably because we can’t get that laptop or that lover, but we still have issues with anger, sadness, rage and expressing any other strong emotions that can take over our reasonable thinking. When crisis hits most of us do not know what to do.
So how to calm ourselves down? How to deal with emotions that seem out of control?
The key steps are simple (but not easy):
1. Accepting what you’re feeling and the situation/events that triggered you (not making any of it wrong or right) is almost the toughest step. Once you took that hurdle of accepting it all, surrendering to your own NOW, is almost winning the challenge.
Why? Well, it takes time to accept what happened and how you feel about it when grief or rage take over, so this will probably take a few attempts. Take the time you need to express what you feel, write it down – over and over- until you feel a slight tug in a different direction. You actually would like to move on. Your mind might not let you entirely, but a thought was there: The wish for it all to end. It’s a signal, a guidepost. Grab it.
Accepting means: you face the reality of your situation. Yes, these feelings are out of control and behave like a wild fire. Yes, this is a tough situation and it triggers me. And the thoughts make me feel bad, and then the bad feelings make me again think about…, which makes me again feel bad… and so on.
Justified or not, I accept: I am in full reaction mode! I feel out of control and disempowered. I am triggered.
Acknowledging after a (healthy) amount of venting and crying will have you come slowly to an acceptance of the entirety of the crisis. Why would you want to do that? To be able to move on. To engage again with peace, balance, and your own power.
And as I said, this will take time. The mind is usually still too engaged in ‘what happened’ and ‘who said what’ and doesn’t want to let go. So we need to introduce aware thoughts, like throwing ropes over an emotional wall to pull us over it.
2. Introducing awareness. With introducing awareness I mean taking a closer look at the nature of our misery, how we actually deal with at the moment and how we could claim back our power. Taking responsibility really helps, believe me.
Learning how to introduce awareness is an important process in anyone’s maturing and understanding how to deal with strong emotions.
How does it work: We take one step back and observe as much as we are able to perceive about what is actually going on. We do not just focus on the other party or the crisis anymore, but we take our own reaction into focus, take snapshots and investigate. We look in the mirror and ask questions like:
-If this situation is co-created, where is my part in all of this?
– Do my feelings reflect the entire truth, or does it reflect my state of hurt? How do I choose to feel hurt in this?
– What are the benefits and payoff for me if I was to stay in my________ (emotions)? How does it serve me to feel so bad? yes, there’s a real treasure hiding behind this question.
– What can I do and how can I help myself to let go and disengage?
Injecting consciousness is a courageous thing to do. The chemicals in your body will calm down, but your mind might jump in and out of the awareness. Sometimes you’ll bounce from a conscious ‘I am creating this, too. Why?’ to the unconscious statement: “It’s all his fault!’.
But the treasure, the gemstones of listening to ourselves and the wisdom of our consciousness are worth the trouble of bouncing back and forth. Just keep trying. Eventually, the muscle of accepting and observing ourselves, listening to what our heart wants us to know is stronger, ‘louder’ than the trigger of the crisis and the emotional memories of it.
So, accepting and introducing awareness were two steps on our journey to disengage, recover, heal and empower. It is not a straight line and linear journey.
I say it again. To disengage is not a straight line leading from feeling out of control to serenity and forgiveness. It is a back and forth, an up and down and a spiral movement away and towards the state of where we would like to go, what we would love to feel.
However, if you have practiced accepting and asking yourself aware questions, maybe you have already noticed that you sometimes vent less or feel not as often so disempowered. Maybe you are a little disengaged already.
Accepting made us look at ourselves and say ‘yes’, that’s where I am, that’s what I feel. Here we practiced getting ready to take back the reigns in our hands, willing to take responsibility. Because we surrendered to ourselves.
Introducing awareness helped us to step a little away from it all. And ourselves. To learn from the situation, to grow and extract the wisdom it can give us and to now take responsibility. yes, we had a part in this, and it is us who keeps us in the cycle of negative emotions.
Sure, sometimes we slip back into the unconscious feeling modes (and that’s ok). Then we will have to accept again and introduce awareness… ‘It’s all good’. I mean it. That’s the journey. I had mentioned that it’s not straight forward, right? Our brain and heart do not work like machines. They are alive and kicking (as we have found out) and sometimes rather unreasonable. It takes time to convince them that peace and forgiveness feel better than ‘being right’ or ‘asking for justice’.
So little by little, we reclaim the places in our thinking that had been foggy during our fuming and screaming and crying or blaming. We slowly can see how the misery wants to teach us something and focusing on that, knowing we will gain something from this horrendous situation feels a little empowering. We haven’t only lost (a lover, a job, an argument, a friend), we have also won something. And the satisfaction of gaining something feels like the opposite of being powerless, am I right?
3. Disengaging is going all the way – letting go of everything related to our misery. Because it’s no longer worth holding on, I might add. The pay-off is used up, the account empty.
Now, we aim for a state where we no longer want or need to take part in the emotion or thought processes triggering the feelings. Our new intention is to ‘engage’ differently and to leave behind the old thoughts which perpetuated the feelings of blame or rage or injustice. Now our intention is to re-focus on entirely new thoughts.
This is the final step. We are ready to forgive and let go. I know from experience that even that can take a while. Forgiving is a decision. It doesn’t feel justified or ‘right’. Not ever. And we are usually not feeling ready either. But we are ready to choose it anyway, to finally heal and help ourselves. Because it has nothing to do with the person we forgive, as you might have noticed, but everything with our own advancement and relief.
Yes, by now we want to feel better and understand it is US who holds us back. We are willing to disengage and re-focus. You see, we never just let go of the balloon. We simply let that one go and take another in our hands. The hands are never empty when we let go of something.
Translated into other terms: We always think, right? We might as well think of something that serves us and perpetuates positive emotions. So letting go of the negative thoughts and feelings regarding our crisis, the process of disengaging, simply means, we exchange them and ‘engage’ in new ones. We make use of our power to choose.
New thoughts and engaging questions for us are:
– What now? Where from here? It is up to me. What do I want?
– I am in control. I make all the decisions concerning my health and growth
– What would I like to do today to nourish myself?
– What an amazing, intense journey! Through pain I learned so much about myself. I am grateful for it.
– I can be grateful for many things in my life, like ________
– Life is worthwhile. I am constantly growing and learning.
– I deserve happiness so I take full responsibility for that journey now
– If I was in control, why do I allow others to dominate my feelings?
– Who could use my thoughts and help today?
– What can I think and do that makes me feel balanced, optimistic or even happy?
– I am passionate about________, so that’s what I like to think about, and do with my time.
We accept how a situation played out, how people acted a certain way and how strongly we felt about it, how we reacted. We then understood why we reacted and how we have co-created the entire crisis for ourselves. We understand the why and learn from it to not repeat it again.
And now we can let him/her, them or it go. We’re richer and truly wiser because we have won a piece of the puzzle which points us towards ourselves. And we might have gained new tools to stay empowered in similarly tough situations.
And if not, we know how to reclaim it all back: we accept, we investigate and introduce awareness, and then we’ll disengage to re-focus and engage in what we rather like to feel and think.
Congratulations, you just graduated as an adult. 😀