Take A Break

Let it clear

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Muddy water, let stand, becomes clear.  ~ Lao Tzu

Sometimes we just need to take a break to clear our minds or let fresh thoughts and ideas flow in.  Here are just a few examples:

  • If we are struggling with finding a solution to a problem, it may help to let it rest for a while.  Go for a walk or do something else, and return to the problem refreshed rather than continuing to spin our wheels.
  • If we are overcome by chronic physical or emotional pain, perhaps a meditative or other relaxing activity will temporarily lessen the intensity.
  • If thoughts are racing through our minds, anxiety is elevated, or tempers are flying in a heated interaction, calming down can clear or minimize the turmoil.
  • etc.

What are some muddy waters you have faced and what have you done to let it become clear?

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Never Give Up

Nana korobi ya oki

Nana korobi ya oki (七転び八起き) is a Japanese proverb that means, “seven times down, eight times up.”

nana (七) = 7
korobi (転び) = fall down
ya (八) = 8
oki (起き) = get up

It is a saying about perseverance and not giving up no matter how many times you are knocked down.  I’ve seen this proverb associated with the Japanese Daruma doll, which is a hollow, round Japanese traditional doll modeled after Bodhidharma, the founder of the Zen sect of Buddhism.  These dolls are weighted at the bottom in a way that will always return to an upright position when tilted over.

Never Give Up.  May you always get up after a fall.

Daruma

Daruma Doll
Photo courtesy: Wikipedia

Addressing Emotional Pain #6 – Flashbacks

Squirrel Spinning
Squirrel Spinning, a photo by Fergiemoto on Flickr.  (click on photo to enlarge)
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>>:::<<
a sudden rewind
engulfs me in a whirlwind
flashback
>>:::<<

Do you experience flashbacks of traumatic, sad or other painful events?

A description of flashbacks is:

a psychological phenomenon in which an individual has a sudden, usually powerful, re-experiencing of a past experience or elements of a past experience. These experiences can be happy, sad, exciting, or any other emotion one can consider. The term is used particularly when the memory is recalled involuntarily, and/or when it is so intense that the person ‘relives’ the experience, unable to fully recognize it as memory and not something that is happening in ‘real time.’  Flashbacks are the ‘personal experiences that pop into your awareness, without any conscious, premeditated attempt to search and retrieve this memory.’  (Source: Wikipedia)

I have grouped painful flashbacks as part of  the “addressing emotional pain” category because I’ve learned through my pain psychology sessions that they are handled similarly to emotional pain.  In previous postings, I included some of the tools that can help with painful emotions, including having an awareness of the body and how it is feeling, physically and emotionally.

Certain situations (events, places, smells, comments, time of year, etc.) can trigger flashbacks.  They can be very uncomfortable and lead to feelings like fear, sadness, anxiety, panic attacks, etc.  There are a few situations that trigger flashbacks for me.  They can go as far as feeling anxiety, and a couple even resulted in panic attacks.

A flashback can feel very real, and your body may think it is a real event.  When a flashback occurs, what are some things we can do to get through it?  The key thing to remember is that the traumatic event in the flashback is not happening now even though the emotions, fears, and physical responses may be the same.  Over time, the reactions to the flashbacks will diminish.  Some with take more work than others.  The goal is to get to the point where they are “just memories” and that’s it.  Here are some things to consider:

  • Breathe and practice relaxation techniques
  • Allow your body to feel what is happening and have a curious acceptance about those feelings.
  • Use some of the tools I’ve talked about to address emotional pain like mindfulness meditation, body awareness, guided imagery, etc.  Click here to see more examples.
  • Have empathy for yourself and coach yourself through it calmly and objectively.  For example, some of the things I’m learning to say to myself are:
    • “I wonder what this means.”  (This is an important one for me because it involves seeking guidance from our inner advisor, which I’ve also posted about before.)
    • “What was the trigger?”
    • “I am remembering things very vividly, but it is not happening to me now.”
    • “This is uncomfortable, I hate it, but I got through this before and I will get through it again.”
    • “It will not kill me.”
    • “I have the skills and tools to help me, and I know how to use them.”

Although coping with some of my flashbacks still need more work, there are a few that now carry no emotion, no hurt, and no anxiety if the memories occur…they have gradually become “just memories!”

If you have experienced painful flashbacks, what methods have helped you get through it?

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Anxiety, Emotions and Opening To Them

The guidance in this posting was prepared and provided to me by my Craniosacral Therapist (CST, LMT).  She has given me permission to include it in this blog either in verbatim or paraphrased.  (FYI – I first posted about my initial experience with CST here.)

My CST has been treating me for many physical issues over the last couple of years including chronic pain in several areas of my body, and recovery from multiple surgeries.  Weekly craniosacral and massage therapy sessions from her, regular pain psychology sessions from a licensed psychologist, and periodic acupuncture treatments from a licensed acupuncturist, have provided me with the majority of improvements and answers concerning my recent health issues.

Since the body and the mind are connected, professionals and exercises in both areas are essential for my healing.  My CST said it is important to note that she is not a psychologist, and that her work includes how the mind and psyche (such as anxiety, emotions, thoughts, feelings) enter and affect the body physically.  Her expertise and treatments have been very helpful for me.  The information here is based on her personal experiences and materials she has come across over the years in bodywork trainings, meditation trainings, and teachings she has heard.  I thank her for allowing me to include her experiences here.  (This image below is a doodle I did to introduce her information.)

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When you feel a strong emotion arise:

1)  Focus on your breath.  Connect with the physical sensations of breathing in your body.  Do you feel your chest rise and fall, do you feel the breath rush past places in your sinuses or down the back of your throat?  Any place you can feel the breath enter and leave, focus there.  Your breath is your anchor to the present moment.  It’s impossible to breath in the past or future where your mind and/or body often want to go in their remembering or anticipating.  To invite yourself fully into the present moment, focus on your breath.  Note how your breath feels and what you notice.  After noting awareness, invite your breath to gradually become slower, deeper, more relaxed and more regular.  I often repeat those four parts to myself when I feel increased anxiety…slower, deeper, more relaxed and more regular. Give yourself several minutes of this practice to slow down.  Dr. Andrew Weil teaches this practice as a way to turn off fight or flight response in the body.  You may be able to find more information on his website or look for his Breathing: Master Key to Self Healing series.

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Emotion: Feeling Angry?

Squirrel Anger
Squirrel Anger, a photo by Fergiemoto on Flickr.  (click on photo to enlarge)

>>:::<<
volcano surges
lava guided to safe path
disaster averted
>>:::<<

Feeling angry?  Have you ever been so angry that you felt like punching something (like this little squirrel appears to be feeling)?

Feeling angry is not bad.  Remember, experiencing a variety of emotions depending on our circumstances, is a fact of life.  They are going to happen and they need to happen, and are a natural occurrence.  Anger is an intense emotion and can carry a great deal of force and energy with it.  If we bottle this energy inside us, it will come out later in one way or another, such as lashing out at others or as health problems, for example.  A number of tools exist that can help us analyze and express negative emotions, including anger, in a safe and healthy way.  Trying to stop the energy from anger may feel like trying to stop a hurricane, but, no, punching someone is NOT ok.

It’s important to recognize that anger is generally a secondary emotion, which I discussed in a previous posting.   Anger is usually a response to a primary emotion or situation, and when we analyze our anger, we may discover that there are different emotions and feelings at the core, such as shame, fear, worry, guilt, embarrassment, etc.  (If we assume the little squirrel above is angry, what could be it’s primary emotion?  Fear, perhaps?)

Previously, I listed a number of tools that I keep in my toolbox to help analyze and address emotions.  There are numerous other ways that also exist, and each of us needs to find the tools, or combination of tools that work for us.  I’ve listed these before, but here is a handful of tools that may help:

  • Managing symptoms by expression:
    • Talk out your emotions with a good friend or relative who is willing to listen
    • Write about your feelings in a journal or through poetry
    • Cry.  It is “part of a healthy emotional healing process”
    • Express your feelings through art, photography or crafts (like I did with the squirrel photo above)
  • Do some kind of exercise like walking, jogging, aerobics, etc., that can use the emotional energy associated with the anger and move it out of your body
  • Practice deep breathing exercises; meditate
  • Addressing Emotional Pain #2 – Tools
  • Addressing Emotional Pain #4 – Secondary Emotions

Finding safe and healthy ways to release painful and negative emotions from our bodies creates space for more positive emotions to move in, and more peace within our life.

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What are some of the ways you have found to help manage anger?
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Related article(s):

  • Anger – Recovery Thru My Lens

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Listening to Your Inner Advisor

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The Master observes the world 
but trusts his inner vision.
He allows things to come and go.
His heart is open as the sky.
~ Lao Tzu

Conversation with myself
Conversation with Myself, a photo by Fergiemoto on Flickr.  (click on photo to enlarge)
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>>:::<<
a resonating voice
soundless yet influential
listen and trust it
>>:::<<

Have you ever looked inside yourself to find answers to your questions, whether it’s help with a problem, a project, making decisions, finding out what’s behind some of our health issues and what we need to heal, determining the reason for certain recurring memories, or even why some situations seem to trigger strong emotions, etc.?  Our questions can involve a variety of issues, and sometimes the answers you receive can be very surprising, as depicted in my photo above.

Those who understand or practice mind/body exercises like meditation or guided imagery probably understand how important it is to consult and trust our inner voices, ie., tapping into our subconscious for help (also referred to as our “inner advisor” or “inner physician” – I like to use the term “inner advisor,” which I introduced in my posting here about a year ago ).  This also helps build and strengthen our intuition. More

Addressing Emotional Pain #5 – Recognizing Deeper Emotions with Artwork

To see things in the seed, that is genius.  ~ Lao Tzu

In a previous post I listed some tools to help address emotional pain.  One of those tools I learned is creating artwork that represents what you are feeling, such as a drawing, painting, sketching, doodling, photography, etc.  It doesn’t have to be fancy and you don’t have to be an artist.  The important point to remember is that the energy associated with painful emotions needs an outlet, instead of becoming trapped in the body.  Just try to get it out of you.  Stopping, distracting, dismissing or suppressing these emotions can surface later in other, potentially harmful ways.

When you create your “emotion” artwork, ask yourself a couple of questions.  “What does this picture mean?”  “What is it trying to tell me?”  It may depict a primary feeling at first, such as sadness, anger, fear, etc.  But try to dig deeper and notice other feelings that arise.  Don’t be content with the first emotion you are creating because this could help reveal core issues that need to be addressed.

Look at the following doodle for example.  Have you ever felt down or discouraged, like you were in a deep hole and didn’t know how to climb out?  If this were one of your doodles, what are your initial feelings?  Is it hopeless, overwhelmed…?  If you dig deeper, what are other feelings that arise?  List them…is it sad…lonely…frustrated…angry…isolated…irritated, etc…?  The face may not depict all the emotions, but dig deeper.  Notice what else you are feeling.  More

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