by Andrea Watson | January 10, 2021
I’m going to stop you right there. I don’t care what the scale says about you. You weigh more than you know. A lot more. Does hearing this upset you? It should, because if you are anything like the majority of people in the USA today and indeed around the entire world, you are carrying an immense emotional burden. This is the heaviest weight of all. It is impossible to crawl out from under without a focused effort. No, this post is not about losing body weight. It is all about lightening our spirits so that we can live as happier beings even in the middle of the turmoil that is pervading our reality.
No matter where our baggage came from, an important part of dealing with it is our interpersonal relationships. If these are not healthy, we will have a much more difficult time emotionally and perhaps be unable to help ourselves move on at all. Just one bad relationship is enough to drag us down to the bottom, and chances are that if we have one we have another and another. An unhealthy relationship can look like a lot of different things. Codependency, abuse, neglect, enabling, and a lack of boundaries among others are all indicators of unhealthy relationships. These can exist whether we are talking about a significant other, a parent, a friend, a role model, or any other type of human-to-human interface we experience.
It is especially difficult for us to cut out the weight of other people’s unhealthy influence because it often requires us to cut the person off from our lives entirely. This is especially true now if you live in the USA. We have declared war upon ourselves and the time to choose sides and draw lines passed when the insurrectionists attempted to topple our entire system of government. It is of paramount importance to weed out those people in our lives who bring doubt, fear, insecurity, self-depreciation or any other thing that threatens the strength of our foundation, which is individually our concept of self.
It’s hard enough getting to the point where we can cut off those people who cause us harm or pain if we have been close to them for a time. But it can be even harder to stand our ground and be at peace with our decisions. Guilt is likely to plague us as we attempt to move on, and may even be the undoing of our resolve if we let it. So how do we change our mental state after taking the action to remove the weight of an entire person or people? How do we get rid of the negative emotions? The answer is, we don’t.
Negative emotions are okay. They are natural. We experience loss, we mourn. Part of processing emotion is feeling it. If we try to just get rid of it all we are doing is pushing it down deep inside to fester until it finally explodes. But sometimes the emotions are so intense that they threaten our very sanity, right? So here is a suggestion. First, breathe. Then, allow yourself to experience your emotions. Sit with them. Sit in them. Let them flow as they will through you, and also allow yourself to experience the consequences of those emotions, whether it be tears or beating on a wall in a rage.
If you feel yourself teetering on the edge of madness, walk yourself through it one second at a time. Repeat the mantra, “I am breathing, I am okay”. Or you can be the commentator of what you are doing. For example, if you are sitting on your bed and crying, say to yourself out loud “Right now I am sitting on my bed. There is just me and my bed, there is nothing else in the world.” Repeat phrases like this every second or so until any any anxiety that threatens to push you over the edge passes. No matter what you do, hold on tight and let yourself experience the emotion. It’s only after this that you can move on.
So now what? Well, after we have gotten ourselves through the feeling phase, bearing in mind that mourning comes in waves and we will likely need to face the feeling phase again and again throughout our lives, we center ourselves. This is done by nothing less than engaging in my favorite go-to answer for personal development-meditation. This can be difficult at first, especially if we are an emotional wreck in the first place. Most people have difficulty with meditation when they first try it, but practice helps to improve your experience. But one of the best things about meditation is that it doesn’t have to “work” for it to help. Simply trying will put you in a better spot than you were in before. This is because meditation involves a lot of deep, slow breathing, which stimulates the vagus nerve and helps to calm us down.
For guided meditations, try searching YouTube. There are lots of options there for you to explore. But the basic idea of meditation is to relax, control your breathing, and focus. This will put you in a grounded state where you are more connected to physical reality than your emotional turbulence. Your thinking will clear and your executive functioning will improve, leading to better decisions and more fully formed ideas. Even if you were unable to really relax or clear your mind or focus during your meditation, the breathing will have put you in a calmer state. This is important to achieve if you are to move on to phase three, replacement.
When we take something away from ourselves or our self-construct, we often need to replace it for the change to be permanent. So how do you replace a person? By focusing on yourself and learning to love yourself enough to stand firm. This is not as easy to do as it is to say, especially when you throw guilt into the mix. But it can be done. It takes baby steps. Start by adding half an hour of self-care per week. Or add a mantra to your daily routine that you repeat to yourself while you are completing tasks that don’t take a lot of thinking, like cleaning the house. You can say things like, “I did the right thing for me, I am at peace”. You may have to spend a long time on the first baby step. That is okay. As long as you stick with it, nurturing your self-love will get easier with time.
These three phases may be repeated over and over through time, and it is best if they are. When we experience a loss, the pain of it comes back to us over and over throughout our lives, but the intensity of the emotion lessens with time. We need to be flexible and forgiving with ourselves. This will always allow us room for further growth. But remember to stick to your guns. It can be very tempting to go back to a toxic relationship even after we have done some healing. We cannot allow ourselves to do this; otherwise our work will have been for nothing. And in this political climate, those of us who live in the US especially cannot afford to slip. Once you have chosen, stick to that choice. The more you work through these three phases the easier it will be. Until next time,