Often, in the early stages (and later, sometimes) of the therapeutic relationship, counselling clients look at me as if I were wearing pineapples on my head when I encourage them to feel their feelings.
Naturally, this isn’t something to be jumped into if you’re already feeling like you’re, as Anne of Green Gables used to say, ‘in the depths of despair’.
But the more we attempt to numb ourselves to pain, grief, loss, anger and other ‘negative’ feelings, the less capable we are of experiencing joy, love, awe, happiness and all the yummy feelings we take for granted when things are going well.
The delightful Jon Kabat-Zinn talked about feeling the full emotional landscape and I love that analogy as some of my favourite paintings are of stormy landscapes.
Still, this week, my daily morning mindfulness meditation (which, after 13 years of more sporadic practice, I’ve been managing Every Single Morning since hearing Kabat-Zinn) has been leaving me feeling cranky.
It’s one thing to have complete faith that a client’s feelings will shift when he (or she) allows himself to experience it fully and let go but a part of me, yesterday morning, felt a little panicked.
Maybe I’d worn out the mindfulness meditation / broken it somehow? At first, while I could identify a few external triggers, they were things that normally wouldn’t impact me. Still, I figured, Must Meditate More to Become Less Cranky.
Of course there’s another way. While the meditation had helped me identify the feeling as crankiness and to be on guard rather than acting out, it was only when I took action (and spoke to one of the people triggering it) that it vanished.
I could almost see it go up in a puff of smoke and we (the person I spoke to about an issue) laughed about the situation. Had I not allowed myself to feel the irritation, I might never have addressed it and we wouldn’t have resolved things.
After that, I relished feeling pretty amazing for the rest of the day and much of this morning. I much prefer feeling good, energised and bubbly. I adore mindfulness when they’re the feelings I’m aware of.
So when another external trigger depleted some of my effervescence, I again felt cranky and annoyed with myself for letting the situation get to me.
And yet, letting it get to me and checking in with myself (the way I encourage clients to ask themselves, as close to that moment as possible, ‘What do you need in this moment? What will help support you?’) helped me move through it.
Mindfulness practices help remind us that nothing lasts forever. We can feel amazing one minute and flat (or worse) later on. Similarly, what feels world ending will also pass. We will feel good again.
When I talk about working at your wellbeing and feeling better every day, I don’t mean it to sound flippant. I know this work can be tough. That it can feel exhausting and that you might worry you’ll never feel OK let alone happy again (I’ve been there). But it’s worth it.
The more we build on the things that support our spirits and lift us up, day by day, the more resilience we have when life gets a bit grr-inducing (or worse).
When did you last take a few moments to check in and notice your mood and feelings and just allow them rather than trying to force a different way of feeling? I’m not suggesting you torture yourself by staying with unpleasant feelings for an impossibly long time but regularly checking in on your mood will help you be more mindful and, ultimately, improve your access to your full emotional landscape.
And, of course, if you want some support, click here to find out more.
Image courtesy of Evgeni Dinev / freedigitalphotos.net