Perhaps you’ve never thought of your emotional pain in the sense of an art or an emotion that had color, texture or substance. For the purpose of this visual exercise, we’re going to imagine that you’ve come to this space or bookmarked, RSS’d, subscribed, etc like the thousands of other people who ran into THM by the Google search “letting go” or “emotional pain.” Yep, type in those two phrases and sooner or later, I will be the answer to your criteria. Sad, isn’t’ it? So here we go.
How can I use the idea of art to make me feel better? By being creative in your mind. First, begin by finding a quiet, calm place where you can close your eyes. It doesn’t have to take long; sit on a bench in the mall, go to the park, pull over on the highway. Allow yourself to breathe four times, deeply in through the nose, hold it, then exhale slowly from the mouth. As you exhale, imagine that you are releasing the stress or anxiety in your person. Think of your muscles, one leg then the other, buttocks, torso, arms, neck, chest, face. Let them relax with each breath.
Identify the feeling that you have with a word. Maybe you’re amidst the panic of an ADD attack. Maybe you’re crying. Mad, sad, glad, scared are the four that counselors use. Give it a descriptive word. Closing your eyes, still deeply breathing, give the feeling a shape in your mind. Maybe it’s a locked box, a treasure chest, an orb floating in space a bubble, a ball, a crystal or rock, a sea shell. Anything that you imagine is right for you. Where is it in proximity to you? Does it touch you, is it far away? Is it above or below? Give it a color and a texture. I hold it in my imagination, sometimes suspended, sometimes in my hand. Now in your imagination, begin to pour your feeling though your eyes, your hands, your chest your breath, whatever works for you, into that object. It belongs to the object, not to you. Notice how your pain might be greyish sand with streaks of red or crystal for tears. Notice how anger is dark, twisting through all the emotions. Continue to imagine all of the feeling going into your vessel until you are calm. Allow the object to pull back from you, and then give it permission to begin it’s ascent to heaven. You’ve allowed a power greater than yourself to deal with this emotion, you have asked for help. You have sent the gift of your trust, even in a painful emotion, to your higher power as you understand it…for me, you’ve given that problem in prayer to Christ. I do the same when I meditate with incense each morning. I let go of the angst inside of me and keep only that with me which allows me to fulfill my purpose on earth. I keep the love, the intelligence and let go of the pain. If I find myself plagued in the day, I do exactly what I have described to you.
The goal again is to focus the pain inside you onto that object in your mind, and then to step back from it and become detached from it. Allow it to begin to shrink in your mind’s eyes, and with it, your pain. I’ll be posting guided meditation for this exercise on www.letting-go.org as soon as I have them produced.
Another way is to prevent stress from building. Preventative mental maintenance. When pain or tension begins to rise, give yourself a non-routine task. Avoid caffeine, alcohol, stimulants. For instance, at the moment I have flowers drying in my oven for bath salts; I’m listening to Lee DeWyze sing, I’m writing to you and I’m noticing that the squirrel about fifteen feet from me has moved only three feet up the tree, a pointed reminder that his food house is still setting on the ground where a storm knocked it down. (And, he’s wiggling his tail meaningfully at Taryn who is standing in the window talking back to him. 🙂 ) Cleaning is a good way to relieve stress and obsessive pain. Seems there is a never ending line of things to do in my house. I’m light a whole crate of toys taken to Goodwill, and I got a new set of contact lenses. I got moving when the blues came to call, and I feel satisfied that I didn’t lose the day to the grey sands of “i wish.”
What you eat is a game changer. Don’t get upset and go choc-o-latte. Bad idea. If it declares that it’s creme filled, if it’s in the “oh, Lord, but it’s good isle, just say “no.” Brian rescued the quart of mint chocolate chip ice cream from me while I was writing last night. He just smiled and said, “You’ll thank me for this later,” and walked away with the cream. I know the foods to snack – almonds and dried berries are best. For dinner, eat Salmon, broccoli, milk, blueberries…and yep, a big steak. Love coffee? Me too. It’s called decaf, folks, and your body needs water without anything in it each day, too. Another biggie: work out. Even if it’s dancing in your underwear to your favorite tune, get off your duff and move to the beat.
So that is a quick tip to deal with overwhelming emotions of any sort immediately. But what about bigger than me situations that will “drone on?”
My favorite movie in the world – one of them – is Made in Heaven. A character asks Michael ‘Where you going?” “I don’t know,” Michael responds, “but wherever it is, when I get there I’m gonna do great.” The man replies “Well, if you don’t know where you’re going, it doesn’t matter what road you take.” I wonder if you’ve lived your life that way, on the bidding of the wind? If you want to get from here to there, you have to have some sense of direction. We’ll use me as a typical bad example. I am going to Florida for ten days of much needed R&R with the whole of my Allison family. Not me Allison – my soul sisters last name is my first name. Go figure. So to get ready for said visit, there are a few things that I have to be willing to do. One, I am a social phobic, big time. But I have to get “there” as my poor hubster needs a serious vacation, and this is where they keep TPC Sawgrass (it’s an outstanding golf course.)
Anxiety: Appearing in public in a two piece bathing suit used to would have had me tossing my cookies. Action: Doubling up on the work out, making the calories count, want to walk with head held high. Plan: acceptable.
Anxiety: I am celebrating an anti-versary in that D’s deceased twin sister born on the 14th. It’s a tough set of days for the family. Action: Plan a sunrise meditation with special incense on the beach for Dawn and all of us. Plan: that is great!
Anxiety: I will be tech-less for over a week. WOW. No blogs for you readers, unless I break this puppy out on the beach. Not. Plan: take the week off.
But what if it’s not something that is fixed that easily? Back to this trip of mine: In addition to the social angst, dates we are forced to remember and all that, I deal with reoccurring major depression that often appears when I am tired, over stimulated, or I’ve decided that I don’t want to take medication anymore cause “I feel fine.” Often that will work for weeks until I again realize that I like with the pain of an auto immune disease … and it hurts. It helps foster the “poor me” feelings when I am shaking to hard to use my hands, or doubled over with spastic cramps.
Sometimes the pain in my chest goes back to the friend that I lost in December, and having to just give that over to Jesus. I’ve had to change to survive. In all the therapy I’ve been in over the past two years, all time spent in medical treatment, I’ve had the counsel of a lot of people that know every detail of that time of my life. They all universally say “let the pain go. Break up with the pain.”
That was good advice.
How do I do it?
This is what I come down to for my present situation.
- Be willing to be okay. Are you giving in to the drama? Fess up. Think about it. Are you trying to think about other stuff? Is your bathroom clean? Are you laying on the couch eating ice cream out of the carton? Stop it! Both at home and when I travel, I give myself permission for things to go wildly wrong . That is okay. If we are detoured, or don’t make the connection, it’s okay. If the house is less than perfect, okay. If the smoke alarm goes off at 4 am like it did last time in Tennessee, so be it. It is about having and adventure every day of your life, not being so tied up in right and wrong that you can not see straight. Be willing to let go of all those “should’s” and go with the flow. There is the key …. go with the flow.
- Listen to uplifting music. I took all of the music “that reminded me” of sad times and put it in an iTunes folder that I don’t use or see. Some of the lyrics I printed off to put in the “ceremony box.” If you have a song that reminds you of your newly passed on father, the lover that left you, the job you loved and lost then you’re going to have to detach and let it rest. Listen to up tempo, dance in your underwear, laugh, have a pillow fight. Be alive. Choose not to be the pile of pain. Breath deeply in and out and change your state. Move. Dance.
- Make a ceremony box. As I learn to let go and choose wellness, I didn’t try to refit myself into the life I left behind. I am not the same person. I changed my hair, made new friends, cried when I needed to…and I wrote letters. I have a stack of pink letters all to explain how I felt. I put our photographs, the things that I treasured, the moments all on those pink sheets. I wrote every hope, every dream, everything that was lost for every traumatic situation in my life, from childhood until now. The box is an eclectic mix of stuff that I’ve collected. Feathers from the farm where I grew up, part of my leaf collection. Old manuscripts from when I was married to Kent. Stones from a river bank in Anderson, pictures, other odds and ends from places only I remember now. I keep the lid on the box, and when the emotional pain comes out, I open it up. I write out how I feel, choose to be alive and well, add that moment to the box and close it. One day on the beach in Jacksonville, somewhere around the 15th of July, I am going to burn it. We’re going to scatter the ashes on Dawn’s grave site in the back pasture there in North Carolina. I was in NC last 15 July, staring down from the top of Chimney Rock into Lake Lure. It was one of the best days of my life, the “after-birthday” day.
- Don’t listen to every voice that hits your ears. I have lots of great psychological friends and have even more pastor friends. Before you decide that you’re off your nut, see a medical doc. I’ve had a rash of friends lately diagnosed with bipolar, manic, anxiety disorders, etc. If you’re really bipolar, they’ll scan your little brain with an MRI. Want more info about being a Manic Depressive/BiPolar? Go to http://www.psycheducation.org/BipolarMechanism/introduction.htm Yep, it’s medically based, not you being moody.
- Get help. If you’re drowning in your life, take a good assessment of why with someone who is trained to be clinical and soul based. Their versions of theology need to stay in their own corner. Yes, people can give you both good advice and well meaning advice. Some of it is simply their theology taking up your space, and it is not what your life is about. It’s their past experiences coming to visit in different circumstances. Be careful who you let in your head. Don’t isolate, but also remember…don’t buy into every friend with an idea. Including me. If the suggestion that they make sounds dangerous/drastic/silly, then it probably is. I see a therapist life coach who uses hypnosis. He also uses the same program with me that he did with 911 bombing survivors and rape victims for PTSD. Do I have PTSD? Not really. A few trauma symptoms. That is just it…we can be better, quickly, if we grab life lines that have proven success and qualified helpers. Do I think that I need to have my soul cleansed, or be exercised of demonic powers because I am haunted by feelings? Nope. Now if you’re screaming in other languages or tossing up pea soup, please, visit the nearest priest as soon as possible. Really.
- Don’t bury the living. Pain is a wound from a tear in the heart. Why is your heart torn? If you can’t let go, why? Do you not want to? Why? Evaluate your choice just based on your merit. Can you live with it forever? Either way will seem no win to you, so here is what you do. Grow from your pain. Deep breath, stand up straight, focus on what could be in your life. Make art, buy a dog, mow the grass. If you will put your attention on something other than your loss or your pain, it will help. Take the medications that a well qualified physician offers only after appropriate testing. If you take a single pill for depression or mental illness, you need to be in a therapist office at least once a week. Do not believe that pharmacology will fix you – you are more than your mental disorder. Trust me, it creates all sort of havoc you have to deal with. Finally, if you’re always blue, you have to tell someone that can help you. It’s not a bad thing to do. Loneliness will bury you…and you’re alive. Don’t bury the living. Let yourself make healthy choices without guilt.
- Let go. Don’t plan it, think it or try it. Just take a deep breath, let go and stop thinking of it/him/her. When you violate that, so it again. And again. And again. Just keep letting go.
- Make a plan from here to there. Here is my plan….I am going back to working out every day with my doc’s blessing. I plan to overdo it for a few weeks, but within limits. I am going to eat the healthiest whole foods, steep in the tanning and be ready. Here, I have hard days and emotional pain gets to me. I want to travel there…to Florida and their condo two blocks from the ocean. Nine short blocks from downtown and nightlife. Deep sea fishing. Salsa dancing. Laying on the sand with a book I want to read. Swimming in the ocean. I have my goal in mind. What to I do? Clean the house, answer the mail, fulfill my obligations. Be upbeat and look at pictures of the beach when I feel blue. Watch the rabbit in my yard….I choose to live. That is how you get from here to there…one step, one breath, one day at a time. Take it easy, say that AA folks.
One day at a time.