Oh Those Pesky Emotions!

Oh Those Pesky Emotions!

steep-mountainIn my line of work, I repeatedly help people identify their emotions. For some, a lifetime of shoving emotions away in an attempt to avoid pain creates the belief that they don’t have emotions. Then I come along and challenge that line of thinking and completely rattle their world. A person enters my office because something isn’t working. It’s possible a spouse, family member, co-worker or friend may have suggested they seek counseling but no matter the why, the person has voluntarily entered my office (I rarely work with court-ordered clients). They embark on a journey that has twists and turns, rocks and ravines, steep hills and eventually a place of inner peace and integration. Life doesn’t necessarily get easier, just more manageable. The person has healthy tools to navigate the challenges that will inevitably come.
Integration means the person will now feel the full experience of life rather than run away from or try to bury the emotions they don’t like. At first this is unsettling because it’s unfamiliar. After time, as feelings become more understood, they are easier to accept, acknowledge and process. Now the person experiences inner peace and the confidence to be fully present in life.
I know this journey! I learned to stuff my emotions because I thought only happiness was acceptable. I cut off so many emotions. When I was challenged to fully feel, I had no idea what I was doing. It took years of therapy, coaching and participating in safe groups to get to the integrated place I experience today. I am not saying I have it all together, just solidly committed to this journey of healing and relishing the freedom I experience today.
Do you want peace, confidence and freedom, too? Get help! We cannot do this on our own. Find a therapist, coach or group that will guide you toward understanding and integrating your emotions. Check out Psychology Today or Theravive to find a therapist/counselor near you. If you live in the Denver/Boulder area you can contact me 🙂 Journey Forward

Guilt Part 5: Freedom from Shame

Shame has no useful purpose. It only condemns us. It does nothing to create connection. As a result of feeling shame we hide the parts we think are unacceptable. When we hide, we are alone. Maybe you have connections with people, but they don’t know about that part of you; the part that’s responsible for your shame. This means only part of you shows up in your relationships, not all of you. It’s probably better than no connection but that’s not real connection. How do you bring that hidden part of yourself out of shame and into acceptance?
It’s not an easy journey. It’s simple on paper, but the actual execution is challenging. The antidote to shame is acceptance. Shame says, in essence, you are a bad person (or not enough or too much…). Acceptance says you are enough, just right and good. You likely don’t always do everything in your life perfectly. You screw-up at times. You aren’t very nice every moment of every day. Welcome to humanity! None of us have it all together all the time and do everything as it should be done in every circumstance. We try. That’s all we can do. Sometimes we hit the mark, and sometimes we miss it. The most important action we can take is to accept who we are and how we function.
This doesn’t mean I don’t look at my choices and critique them. If I hurt someone else or screw something up, it’s important that I look at what happened and learn from it. How could I have treated that person better or improved the execution of a project. I only look at the event with an eye focused on learning from it not beating myself up. If I start saying things to myself like, “You are such a stupid person!” I will only add to the shame I already feel. Don’t go there. As soon as you catch yourself saying shaming statements, stop. Say something like, “I made a mistake.” or “I hurt someone.” Then follow with, “What can I learn from this? How can I change my actions so I don’t hurt someone or screw something up in the same way?” Let those who were affected by your actions know you own what you did and are sorry. That action also helps foster connection because you aren’t hiding the shamed part. You are taking away the shame and bringing the offending action into the light where healing can take place.
Sometimes we have deeply hidden shamed parts. The best antidote is to confide in a safe and trusted person. Keeping the shame buried deep inside will never help. Like I stated before, when shame is brought into relationship, healing can begin. Until you let light shine in those dark places, you will not experience freedom.
Life is all about learning, not shaming. When we accept the parts of us that don’t have it all together all the time, we walk in freedom.

On Being In-Between

Sometimes we live in limbo. It seems we are in-between steps in our journey. We are finishing one step and preparing for another step but it appears that nothing is happening in that space. Are you there? Have you ever been there? Is it possible you might be there again someday? I know this place and I’m beginning to think about it differently. I don’t think limbo is really limbo. I think it’s just a part of the process of living and as much, if not more, happens in our development during that phase.
A year ago I was temporarily living in Durham, NC while my daughter got a life-saving double lung transplant. On October 12, 2013 she received her transplant and was recovering at Duke University Hospital. That journey was full of waiting: waiting for an answer on what to do about her damaged-by-Cystic-Fibrosis lungs, waiting to be on the waiting list for donor-lungs, waiting with mixed emotions for the “right” person to die (loss for one family meant life for my daughter…hard to work through that!), waiting for her to heal after her surgery, waiting for rejection to go away, waiting for getting back to living a normal life. Now we are in a new waiting phase as she has battled lymphoma since June. Today, it’s waiting to find out if the chemo worked. We won’t have an answer until early December.
Lots of limbo. Going through this season has been one of intense growth. It isn’t about waiting for the situation to change. It’s been about growing each moment of each day while not knowing very much about the next moment. But isn’t that how every day is, really? We never know without a doubt what is going to happen in the next moment. We think we do. We have bought into the lie that we have control and things should work out the way we want them to. As time is marching on and we are less insulated from the pain and unpredictability around the world, we are beginning to understand the concept of living in the moment and not hanging on too tightly to our expectations of how we believe life should be for us.
I challenge you to accept where you are right now. You don’t have to stay there forever, but it is reality for right now. Growing has more to do with accepting reality than pretending it’s not happening. Are you thinking about ending a relationship, changing jobs or in the middle of your own health crisis? You’re not certain of the ending, but to be certain is an illusion. Do what you need to do to get through this moment. Sometimes that may be taking a breath, feeling the air come in and out while acknowledging your presence in the here and now. You may not have the answers right now, but that is ok. I believe the answers will come in their time. As you breathe, let go of the need to predict your future. You can’t predict it and hanging on to the future is sucking energy and focus that is useful for growing in this moment.
I found this quote and put it on the wall of my daughter’s hospital room while she endured her chemo treatments:
“Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass. It’s about learning to dance in the rain.” ~Vivian Greene

Tea Bag Promise: Grace Brings Contentment

I was flying back from my monthly Counselor Training Program with Dr. John Townsend and Scott Makin.  In typical, slightly high-maintenance-though-I-like-to-think-of-it-as-self-care fashion, I brought my own Yogi Chai Rooibos tea bag.  My tea tag said “Grace brings contentment”.  I contemplated that thought.  During my process group earlier that day, I worked on pieces of me that I prefer to hide.  Pieces like insecurity, criticism, perfectionism, and resentment.  I don’t like admitting those parts exist.  I prefer the place where I’m aware of my flaws and broken bits but I don’t have to look at those parts, just know they are there.  There are times when that stance is appropriate.  My process group is not one of those places.  A Cloud and Townsend process group is where deep integrative work occurs.  Every member of the group is expected to peel back the layers and observe, admit, confront, accept, and integrate the icky or hurt parts within.  My group is chock full of accomplished therapists and group leaders.  The caliber of these individuals is enough to bring up my insecurities and call into question the sanity of my decision to attend this training.  “I’m not good enough!” This would be paralyzing except the safety of the container is iron clad.  Everyone, no matter the degree, training, or accomplishments is shedding their layers and exposing all their broken and wounded parts.  We share a common bond, “You know the most protected parts of me, parts I may not have been aware existed prior to this training, and you accept me…all of me.” Outside of some pretty good, though temporary, dangerous and illegal drugs, I don’t know of a state of mind that brings more completeness and strength.  At first, after exposing myself to the group, I felt naked and embarrassed.  Once that passed, a calming completeness settled in where shame once lived.  Now I feel the contentment that comes with grace, just like my tea bag promised.