Practicing The Power of Now: Part 2
Dealing With Emotions
As I have mentioned before, I have ADHD.
My head is a mass of swirling, overlapping thoughts that run so quickly, I have to speak or write in order to slow them down to a speed that I can comprehend. The result is that I talk to myself incessantly.
If you are walking down a street in Winnipeg, and see a nice looking small woman with long curly hair (despite the picture on her banner) rapidly talking to herself under her breath like someone who is suffering from dementia, say hello. I would love to meet you.
I used to live in a continuous state of shame and embarrassment over my compulsive talking to myself. Thank God I’m finally over it and have learned to laugh at myself. This is the way that I am made. Take it or leave it. I can only choose to accept.
I have however, just discovered, that when I am rooted in my body, present with what is in this moment, I can think clearly, without moving my lips. It only took 40 years.
Most of the time, when I am playing the role of the woman with dementia, I will find myself rehashing the past, or imagining some future event or conversation that will somehow solve some past hurt. It doesn’t solve anything. Even the most pleasant imaginings of the future seem to be born out of an unhappy past. It is a waste of precious energy and it doesn’t help me to achieve my goals.
The problem is, what to do with the emotions that accumulate inside of us from these past hurts and disappointments? This for me is the next frontier. I think I’m finally beginning to understand.
First of course, is the practice of staying rooted in this moment so that I am aware of the thoughts that create the emotions as they happen. It is our lack of awareness of these thoughts that cause us to fall into the emotional pits in the first place . Whether it’s out of control anger, serious depression or anything in between. It is why we self-medicate, it is why we relive the same events and act out the same patterns over and over. It is the basic cause of our suffering.
For quite some time, I have been extremely unhappy with my career and most specifically my job. I don’t wish to go into the details here, since I would like to remain employed until I can get my business going, but let’s just say I’ve spent a lot of time being resentful of the way the organization is being run and how it is unfairly and adversely affecting the lives of many of us who work there and have contributed for many years. Ruminating over everything that is wrong oddly enough, has done nothing but make me feel worse… and yet I persist.
Whenever we are faced with a problem, no matter what the problem is, we have 3 options. We can pick one option, or combine the options in any way we see fit.
- Change the situation.
- Leave the situation.
- Accept the situation.
However, that is often not what we do. And by we? I do mean the Royal We because I am just as guilty as everyone else even when I know better!
Complaining, either out loud to a friend, (or an empty sidewalk) or inside our own heads is not one of the options and yet we often make ourselves miserable ruminating over what should have been or should be, even though it isn’t.
In regard to my work, I have finally figured out a few things.
- No amount of bitching and whining will change this situation. Trust me, I’ve been doing it long enough to finally stop banging my head against that wall.
- I cannot leave the situation… just yet, but I have plans in place to see that happen. Focusing on what I need to do today, in this moment to make it happen is my best chance.
- I need to accept the situation as it is right now.
Now, what to do with all of the anger, frustration and disappointment?
Continue to work to grow in awareness of each moment.
When I become aware of the old familiar negative emotions regarding my career, I need to stop, and come back to the present moment. I’ve developed some capacity for this over the past couple of years, but still have a long way to go to become consistent with catching the cycle right at the beginning.
The goal is not to stop the thoughts entirely and ignore the emotion. This is something that I have been trying to do for many years, but it doesn’t work. Emotion has to go somewhere, so it’s likely to eat out the inside of your stomach, or damage your body in some other way. It has to be dealt with, but thinking about it isn’t going to fix it.
Focus the attention on the physical sensation of the emotion, coming back to the moment, rooted in your body but don’t think about it. It is after all the thinking about it that caused it in the first place.
Accept that it is there without judging or analyzing it as that would be thinking again… Observe the thoughts rather than feeding them.
Watch what happens.
When we have a thought that creates an emotion, cells in our brain flood our bloodstream with chemicals that create the physical sensations we feel. If we stop the thoughts, and just observe what is happening, it takes 90 seconds for these chemicals to flush out of our bloodstream. Unless we continue to feed the thoughts.
I first learned about techniques to recognize and change destructive negative thoughts years ago when I was in therapy for my depression and anxiety. They saved my life, but now, there are further steps to take. This is a variation on what I have learned. Taking it to the next level so to speak.
Still there is always room to grow. Not being paralyzed by depression is a great thing, but lasting peace would be something else indeed. I think I’ll go for it, and if it takes a lifetime, I’m ok with that.
The key of course is to stay in the moment.