When we are troubled by an emotion, we need to ‘digest’ it in the same way that we would digest our food.
We acknowledge the presence of the emotion. Next we work out what the emotion is trying to tell us. Journalling may help here.
We can then work out what we want to do as a result of acknowledging this feeling. There may be an action we need to take, or there may be a change that we want to make in our thinking or approach.
Here’s an example: The other day I started the day feeling relaxed and at peace. By the end of the afternoon, my serenity had gone completely. I left work and went to the supermarket. While at the supermarket, I felt BAD. I felt fearful, as though I was about to be punished somehow by the universe for being BAD.
So what had happened between the morning and the afternoon for my mood to switch so drastically:
- A colleague on my team had left a lot of work for me to pick up that she should have completed the previous day. This was the second week running that something like this had happened.
- A colleague on another team shamed me for speaking up for myself.
- I had to deal with another difficult issue that the colleague on my team should have dealt with the previous day.
- I started to feel shooting pains in my arms from the volume of work and the repetitive tasks that had been left for me.
- I sensed myself feeling irritable and had started to self punish and shame MYSELF for being irritable, as though feeling irritable was a flaw. I ended up sitting at work with a sense of doom, as though the world was closing in on me and as though everyone was looking at me with contempt.
In fact the feeling or irritability was a signal from my body that was trying to make me aware that I was being pushed around. My feelings were telling me to question the colleague who had left the work. However my thinking mind kicked in and told me that I would not look like the perfect worker that I wanted to be perceived as if I spoke up. The irritability increased to anger over the course of the day and I had no outlet for it.
The end result was that I had turned it in against myself and was now in the supermarket, carrying the feeling that I deserved to be punished. Once I recognised this, I was able to realise that I was automatically replaying a childhood pattern. As children, we have an innate sense of injustice. If I ever dared to speak up to my primary caregivers against a perceived injustice as a child, I was punished.
Being able to recognise that my present reaction and behaviour was a survival pattern that I no longer needed, I was then able to relieve myself of the feeling that I deserved punishment. The emotion of fear was then able to leave my body and I could relax.
This is where getting in touch with our inner child helps. Instead of berating myself for how I had failed to speak up and deal with the situation at work, I could take a self compassionate approach. I saw it as a learning opportunity, which had been sent to me, to help me clear the childhood wounds that have been causing me pain. Next time a situation like this occurs and the same feeling of irritability and injustice comes up, I will be able to recognise that I have choices in how I respond. I can analyse the situation and work out what the best course of action is for me to take. This will be a way for me to regain the power within myself that was taken away from me during childhood.