|Posted by Marney Schorr on May 24, 2016 at 9:00 AM|
There are going to be times when people hurt us. There are going to be times when we feel slapped in the face, even by those closest to us. And we will have to contend with our emotional responses.
Yesterday was one of those days.
The slap felt so hard, it sent me into an emotional spiral. That place where the emotion gets so intense it spins the whole world. It's easy to forget what is real. Doors flood open - the ones we call triggers. There is great pain in those rooms from long ago. We don't always know where it comes from, but it waits for these moments. It invites old behaviors, often ones that are self-destructive, the ones we have overcome in our journey to wellness. Like a bunch of ghosts sitting around laughing, we feel defeated, rejected, alone.
There may be time - even hours ahead - of sobbing under the covers. There comes emotional shock to contend with, that frenzy where you can't remember how you got from 0 to 100, but you are there NOW. You feel like a child who cannot control herself no matter how hard you try. It gets very scary. And you can't think straight because your emotional centers have taken over any reasoned cognition.
What is the way out? Where are the Exit signs in this perverse theatre of the emotions?
First, I remember I have been through this before. The outcome can be different if I apply the tools I have gained over the years. I don't have to resort to behaviors that don't work. The old stuff will only serve to escalate the situation.
Calling a friend helps. Not to fix the problem, but to remember who I am and how I am valued in this world. I matter. I can take care of myself today. This will pass.
The Five Senses
Grounding with the five senses is necessary. Where am I in this moment? My kitchen? My bed? What do I see around me? What is available to me to soothe my senses? A candle? A pet? A blanket? A hot shower? Chamomile tea? A meal? Activiating my senses can shift my brain center into getting grounded again. At the very least, I am parenting my emotions with good self-care.
In Art Therapy, we make 'grounding mats', outlines of footprints with soothing images around them. Collage, paint, markers, whatever is handy. Stop and trace your feet. This is where you stand in the here and now. A place to center and take hold. A place to say 'I'm okay." Even a place to begin to pray.
What if I were to welcome my feelings and create a safe space for them? Where can I put them? In words? In a picture? In a scribble drawing at the kitchen table? Can I find a way to discharge the emotion and create a container for it?
In Art Therapy, we build containers for our emotions. It can be a jar, a box, a tupperware that we can paint positive images on. Or try a simple mandala - trace a circle on a piece of paper. Color your feelings inside the circle. They will be contained there. We acknowledge and witness them, but we can also step away and get unstuck.
What if I were to just accept that these are my emotions? What if I am capable of experiencing them? What if I allowed my emotions to have a seat beside me? Or maybe fluff a pillow for my sadness to lie down beside me for just a little while. I can say to myself, I accept my emotions. There is room for all of me. I need not panic. They are afterall, just feelings. I can welcome emotions and be safe. It is the actions I take that matter.
Mindfulness and Compassion
Breathing helps tremendously and takes some effort. But it works. Counting breaths. Awareness of space and time. Coming back to the senses again and again. Naming the feeling you are experiencing, and imagining this feeling is a small child under your care. A chance for you to have self-compassion.
If some of this sounds just right to you, you may want to learn more in my class Self-Soothing with Art & DBT. (See my workshops on the menu).
And know I am on the journey with you.
Categories: Ah Ha Moments