I freaked the fuck out the other day. Like a full on crying in bed without knowing why, migraine-inducing (induced?) freak out. After trying to fight the urge to cry for hours, I finally broke down and cried. With absolutely no idea why. So, I did what I often do. And I searched for the reason (or reasons) why. I lay there, clutching my dog and sobbing, wondering what the fuck was happening. I'd just had an amazing two week vacation and was finally back in my own bed. What was making me so deeply unhappy?
I have a tendency to want to explain away every emotion. To trace them back to their root cause, to analyze every feeling -- no matter how big or small-- in order to determine why I'm experiencing said feeling. Doing so gives me some (false) sense of control. If I know why I'm feeling a certain way, I can stop feeling that way--fix it--or feel that way more often if I happen to like the way I'm feeling at the moment.
Unfortunately, that's not how feelings work. Feelings are fleeting, temporary and transitory. They're visitors--here one moment, gone the next. Think of feelings as summer flings--deeply passionate or loose and flirty--but hardly ever long-lasting. And so, the other day, when I was freaking the fuck out, crying in bed and then trying to figure out why the fuck I was crying in bed, I was going against every piece of advice I give to my clients.
And here is that advice I give to clients: you have to sit in your emotion. Don't judge it or try to change it. Just be in it for a minute. Don't dwell in sadness, but don't jump out of it immediately. If something is uncomfortable, let it be uncomfortable. And sometimes it is worth figuring out why something is uncomfortable--for example, if I was crying and unhappy every time I got home from a trip, I'd probably need to figure that out--but lots of times, if we let them, feelings will pass and other feelings will surface. Like seasons changing and blending into one another, feelings too morph and cycle. We may only realize feelings have changed once the warm glow of happiness has melted into a cooler shade of placid contentment, or our fiery anger has subsided into ambivalence.
When I was reflecting on my freakout from the other day, I likened it to a storm. My unhappiness (it wasn't even sadness, it was a true, deep, unhappiness that hit me) blew in like a tornado and ravaged me for a few hours. And then I cried and slept, and when it was all over, I looked down and the wreckage from that storm (hurt feelings, growing pains, lack of time and space for myself) and assessed the damage. And now I'll deal with anything that needs dealing with--but that unhappiness I felt isn't something that is lingering.
In co-active coaching, one of the ways we deal with really hard feelings is through something called process coaching, where coaches hold clients in really tough emotion. My first instinct the other day was to jump out of that emotion by analyzing it, understanding it, assigning it. I was so set on trying to figure out what I was experiencing this emotion that I was not actually letting myself feel it fully.
Realizing that I simply needed to process--to feel--was a great reminder, as a coach, as a client, and as someone who has emotions, that sometimes we just need to sit in the shit. (And as I say, shit that happens to you is merely fertilizer to help you grow--embrace that shit!)