As part of my ongoing therapy we have been trying to explore and expose me to more negative emotions. Previously negative emotions were a set of feelings I forced aside, avoided, halted, or ignored. This process has been extremely uncomfortable though I recognise needed. I am still not great at it and last week I had a chat with Chris about what to do with them when they arise. The stronger emotions are still simply too scary to go near most of the time but I feel like I am making real progress with the smaller vibes.
Chris talked me through a five step process to manage them when they come up. This one has been a huge help for me. I love having a process and something to follow. There have been a number of times this week I have been “triggered”, bumping into old next doors neighbours, or headlines in the news about another child dying at the hands of their parents. The process has given me something to anchor too. Something to explore and follow. So here it is…
Notice what you are feeling. Where in your body are you feeling it? How does it feel? Is there more than one feeling? I also added some of my own questions… like what colour might it be? What shape is it? Is it changing or staying the same? (Visual thinking is definitely my thing).
Name the emotion(s) if you can. I find it helps to say it out loud. “I am feeling scared, upset, angry, guilty.” Giving it a name gives me some confidence, some sense of it just being a thing. I don’t always to manage to name it. Sometimes it is too messy. Than I just say it is a messy set of emotions.
3.Identify the Trigger
Identify a trigger. Can you understand what caused it. Why are you feeling this way? What started this thought or feeling? Nine times out of ten I can find something. I suspect the ones I struggle with there is still something which triggered the emotion I just don’t know what.
Validate that it is “normal” or understandable you have these feelings. This step is a huge one for me. I have to really try to reinforce the thinking. Every part of me wants to just shake them off, run away. They don’t feel familiar too me so they don’t feel normal. Still it helps to hear it, maybe I will believe it one day.
The caution here is if the feeling is something directed at yourself you should not validate it. For example “I feel disgusting.” That is a feeling which you should enquire about further and recognise you have probably been made to feel that way, and it is not a feeling you should own.
Find something to comfort you. A lot of the time I just find myself saying “It will be ok” or “It is ok” Sometimes though I struggle. I don’t know what will comfort me. I know what I don’t want…physical affection, hugs or affection are often the last thing I want. I have found one other possibly weird thing that I find comforting. My face, either tapping gently around my eyes or just running my fingers lightly over my forehead, cheeks and chin. Weird I know but there it is. I guess you have to own your weird.