The last 24 hours have been really difficult, and as I write that I’m noticing that I feel a little apologetic – as if it’s selfish to admit that I felt like I was struggling when others face challenges in their lives that are so much bigger than mine. I uncovered a ‘little white’ lie that had been told to me, and the teller of this untruth had been quite unaware of the consequences of not being fully open. I felt manipulated. It was really a small thing, or so I kept trying to tell myself, but that’s not how it felt.
The more I allow myself to really be with my difficulties, the more I am aware of the complexities of how I relate to my experiences. Not only was I intensely experiencing this difficulty in a physical way – an ache in my chest and my throat, a ‘jangly’ feeling in the pit of my stomach, feeling angular rather than soft – I was:
(a) hearing a running commentary in my mind about how I should be able to find a more helpful way to relate to my difficulty, and
(b) predicting and worrying about what other people (my family, friends, teachers) might think of the way that I was relating to my experience.
Over and over again I tried to regain my perspective with logic, telling myself that it was silly to feel so wounded over such a small matter and that I should just “get a grip”, and each time I was unsuccessful because bringing logic to an emotional response is a profoundly futile endeavour (this generally doesn’t stop us trying though, frustratingly!) and also because I was speaking to myself in a really unkind way, which just made me feel worse! Perhaps you recognise this kind of behaviour in yourself? We feel bad, then beat ourselves up for not being able to shake the feeling off, then end up feeling even worse. Tricky things, our minds.
Before I was able to have a non-blaming discussion about how I was feeling, I had to deal with what had been triggered in me. I found myself asking, in my mind’s eye, “Heather, what’s your antidote?” A curious question, I thought. Three pills: the words,”soften, be authentic, be love” came as an automatic response, arising from somewhere deep in my body. My mind immediately interjected with a, “don’t feeling like being love right now” response, and that was OK.
My mantra of ‘soften, be authentic, be love’ was repeated over and over and held as an intention. The words didn’t need to feel like my reality, they just needed to be held as a direction of travel that I would like to go in. They did their work, like a salve applied to an open wound, slowly and with care. This is the power of words, and how we speak to ourselves and indeed others is so very, very important.
Today I’m pinning some words on my small home-office noticeboard as a way of reminding myself to choose my antidote, my salve, in response to what I’m feeling. Not because I’m trying to get rid of what I’m feeling, but because I want to respond kindly to my difficulties rather than with all the self-criticism crap that it’s my tendency to react with.
So now let me ask you, do you feel bad when you notice a difficulty but can’t seem to pull yourself out of the quick-sand? Do you recognise self-criticism in the way that you respond to experiences? If so, what’s your antidote?