Here’s the scenario. Your plate is piled high with stuff: stuff on your to-do list, projects, calls to make, people to see, bills to pay, disagreements you may have. You know, stuff. And, all this stuff is working on you. Sometimes more than other times. Sometimes, when things pile up like this, it’s easy, too easy, to feel annoyed and powerless in your own life. You almost feel like a victim. It can be disempowering and joy-eroding. Add into this miasma your child. She has her needs and wants. And, you’re feeling pressured enough with all the needs and wants of so many others. How do you stay centered ~ or even get centered? How do you deal with these uncomfortable feelings that come up that keep you from connecting with your child and even yourself? Here are some strategies:
1. Accept your feelings. Understand that your feelings are beneficial tools that we are blessed to have. That’s right. Our feelings have a purpose, an important one. On a physical level, our feelings keep us safe an out of harm’s way. Here’s an example: You’re loading wood into the wood-stove, your ungloved hand touches the hot edge of the door, and you feel immediate, sharp, searing pain. Good! Your feelings of pain send an immediate, urgent signal to remove your hand from the surface of the stove before more damage can be done! Pain is a messenger that tells you something is wrong and you’d better deal with it right now. Had you not had the sensation of pain, you might have ended up with a third-degree burn, or worse! (Don’t ask me how I know about this. I just do. And, don’t look at my hands.)
Emotionally, our feelings work in much the same way. They tell us something’s wrong that needs our attention (the more intense the feeling, the more urgent the need). So, the first step in centering ourselves is to recognize and accept our feelings, which creates just a tiny little space around the intensity of the feeling so we can begin to make good use of the information we’re receiving. (For extra credit here, expressing gratitude for the feeling will have a multiplier effect on this whole process. But, don’t worry if you can’t quite get there yet. For now, just the act of acceptance is powerful enough.)
2. Recognize that you may be telling yourself an untrue story about your feelings. Have you noticed that when you are feeling an intense feeling, you are more likely than not to announce, whether inwardly or outwardly, “I’m angry that you didn’t call!” or “I’m so frustrated that I can’t get this lid off!” or “I’m afraid he’s going to get hurt!” or “I’m pissed that I have so much on my plate right now!” “I” statements are definitely a step in the right direction, don’t get me wrong! They’re way better than, “You make me so angry when you don’t call!” However, I would like you to notice what you’re really doing when you say “I’m angry.” You are defining yourself. “I am angry” becomes who you are. And, can this be true? Can you really be your feelings? This one statement takes the useful tool (your feeling) and knocks your very Self out of the way and takes over! No wonder we feel so powerless in the face of our intense feelings!
So, the next step in regaining your center is to free yourself from this false identity. You are You. You are not angry or afraid or pissed or frustrated. You feel angry or afraid or pissed or frustrated. It may seem like a little thing, but it’s really not. Making this distinction places an important buffer around your intense feelings to separate them from how you identify and see your Self. And, when you see your Self more clearly, you can better interpret the messages you’re receiving and act on them more effectively ~ without all the stories and drama that tend to come in the package with the events that inspire the feelings.
3. Determine an action that you can take to alleviate the condition that’s causing the feeling. In our wood-stove scenario above, the action to take is clear and simple. REMOVE HAND FROM STOVE! Determining an appropriate action to take need not be too complicated. It could be that you make a physical to-do list so you can free your mind from constantly worrying that you’ll forget all the things that are piling up. Or, you may delegate some of those to-do’s to someone else (who may even be tickled that you asked!). Or, you may sit down and write in your journal, again, freeing your mind from carrying around all the things that are troubling it. Or, you may say “thanks, but no thanks” or “not right now” to something that has come across your desk that you feel overwhelmed about taking on.
Here’s the thing: Like yanking your hand off the hot stove, you probably know what the action step is to take. Trust your brain. It’s a good brain, and it has a lot of the answers in it that you need. When you ask it a question and then take a moment to get quiet and listen, you’ll be amazed and impressed with the answers that are already there inside you! The trick to this is just getting quiet enough to “hear” that little voice that is your very own. This is one reason why step #2 is so crucial ~ you are NOT your feelings. You have feelings, and they have important information for you. But they don’t know what to do; you do.
The very act of doing this work brings you into Mindful Presence where you do not have to be ruled by your feelings. You can develop strategies for dealing with the situations that trigger your feelings, and you can be the mindfully present parent who can be there fully for her children, to fully enjoy these people who hunger for connection with the True You.
Extra credit: If you do this process out loud (not in a teaching way, but in an authentic way), you get to demonstrate for your children the power of Feelings and Mindful Presence. See? All this, and making the world a better place, too!
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P.P.S. Would you rather listen to this in a podcast? Well, OK. Here you go: