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Working with Difficult Emotions
About a month ago, during my morning meditation, I was drawn inward to face some heavy feelings that I had started to suppress even before COVID-19 became our daily reality. And that I had allowed to continue to build over time. (In a moment I’ll share why COVID-19 is an important part of this story.)
When I was in Costa Rica about two months ago I was met head-on with some strong feelings of anger and resentment from a past (like 5 years in the past) situation that Charlie and I found ourselves in. Shortly after, I shared with Charlie that I’d been surprised by some anger and resentment that were still buried pretty deep inside. We talked a bit about it and then moved on.
What I didn’t realize at the time, but that showed up about two weeks later was that the anger and resentment that I was feeling wasn’t just because of the situation that we found ourselves in, but that I was feeling those feelings toward Charlie, because of decisions that he made.
Because I hadn’t allowed myself to open up and share my full feelings, and because of several other things that had happened in the meantime, those other triggers snowballed into a heavy and unhealthy place where I was not able to fully and lovingly engage with Charlie.
Add COVID-19 to the Mix
At the same time that I realized where my anger and resentment were directed (in part at Charlie, but certainly at myself, as well), COVID-19 became a pandemic and here in the U.S., we were finally starting to get messages about how serious the virus was and how we would need to change our daily lives.
I made a choice at that time not to share with Charlie what I was feeling. And, every time it would resurface for me (as we know emotions always do) I told myself that it was not the time to talk about it. And I added a whole host of other reasons why it wasn’t the right time:
Charlie has enough on his plate right now. And so do I.
I don’t want to start a fight. I know he doesn't have the energy for it. And neither do I.
I can deal with this one on my own.
I’ll talk to my counselor about it next time I see her.
Maybe just journaling about it will help.
Keep meditating and praying around this and it will dissolve/resolve in time.
Every time I would see Charlie I felt like I couldn't fully connect and open my heart. I was building a wall even though I didn’t mean to do so.
Add More Stories and Some Ego
I started telling myself stories about things Charlie was doing and saying that were making me more angry and sad. If I’m being honest, those other things that came up could have been easily discussed in a few minutes and moved through together, but I was mad and I told myself all kinds of unhelpful stories.
For a while, I felt a sense of shame about feeling this way, but even more so, shame in sharing it. I told myself I know and do better than this. Because, honestly, I really do (most of the time). With that shame came all the stories that made one issue so much harder than it needed to be.
My ego likes to remind me that I help people on the daily with being honest and brave and taking challenging but necessary steps in their lives and businesses. That I’m a fraud if I can’t do this for myself. I won’t go through all the stories that went through my head. I think you get the point.
What I Did to Work Through My Difficult Emotions
I felt the need to share how I got to where I was during that recent meditation experience, in case it speaks to you in any way about something that you have been holding on to; something that perhaps now it’s time to shift, talk about, or share in some way.
I know that one of my patterns is: when I feel anger or resentment (which are not super common feelings for me), especially during an already challenging time, I try to suppress them and say that now is not the time for such a strong emotion to come out. I also know that pattern does not often serve me, and for this situation, it was time to do something about it.
What I did during my meditation:
I asked myself: What does self-care look like for you right now?
I sat quietly for a while and listened to my inner voice. I went through the things that normally show up for me. A bit more sleep. More movement breaks during my day.
I could sense that I was answering the question on a more superficial level than what I was truly needing to tap into.
I asked myself again: What does self-care look like for you right now?
I went through this several times.
In hindsight, I was giving myself space to let the first few layers of my needs to be spoken to and seen. I knew on some level that there was more that needed to surface.
When the tears started to fall I knew that it was time to lean in to what was showing up for me. I heard: This wall is hurting you. Why are you not allowing these emotions to show themselves?
An inner dialogue continued for a bit. I can only best describe it as my higher self and guides firmly, but gently, asking me to relinquish control. To just feel what I needed to feel in this moment.
You asked: What does self-care look like for you right now?
You are getting your answer. You cannot walk through the upcoming days and weeks with the fear and uncertainty that is swirling in the world and your own inner turmoil broiling at the same time. If you want to best care for yourself during this time, you will let yourself feel all that you need to feel right now and will continue to do so anytime it is needed. Only then will the storm outside not cause havoc on the inside.
Here’s what I did later that day:
I shared with Charlie what I had been feeling and why. I took ownership of my part in where we were and talked to him more to try to gain an understanding of his choices. There wasn’t an actual resolution we could reach for the underlying situation, but in airing what had been hurting me for so many weeks we had an important conversation that we both needed.
I was able to open that conversation from a place of deep truth, love, and reconciliation as a possibility because I allowed myself the space to feel what my truth was and not hide from the parts of myself that I’m not proud of.
And, of course, I just have to share that I made this a MUCH BIGGER DEAL in my head than it was when Charlie lovingly engaged in the conversation with me. Sigh! ;-)
What Are You Holding on to?
There may not be a single person who is reading this who has been on exactly the same path as I have: not openly sharing my feelings and emotions with someone who needed and deserved to know, then having COVID-19 happen, allowing me to go even deeper into a place of hiding my truth, as I didn’t want to potentially cause more pain in such a hard time. I realize that’s a very simplistic interpretation, but you get my point.
Whether challenging emotions have been present for you before COVID-19 and you weren’t expressing them, or if with COVID-19 you feel inclined to suppress them because of worry about causing more upset during an already tumultuous time — or if both are true — I want to encourage you to take some time to yourself soon and sense if there is something that you need to face head-on.
It may be a difficult emotion you are feeling. It could be a hard decision you are not wanting to make. Or it could be a story you have told yourself for so long that it’s only when you go deep into meditation or self-reflection that you can find the truth.
No matter what that thing is for you, I have faith that if you do this for yourself, you will feel stronger, in more integrity, re-energized, and better able to navigate your healthy path through these challenging times.
(And depending on the intensity and depth of your “thing,” feeling better may not come right away. You may feel emotionally hungover — like I did the morning after my breakdown, breakthrough, and relationship repair.)
However, I do believe that only by shining light on this hidden aspect of yourself will you be able to walk forward with the strength and courage you need to be a leader during this time.
What you need in your life right now, what we all need right now, are strong leaders. So, whether the leader that is needed is just you in your own life, you in your family, you in your organization, or you in your community — by doing this work now you will be doing all you can to help us all move forward during COVID-19 and beyond.