What Defines You?
What defines you? The way you look, how you feel, what you believe? Sometimes we need to be a good bit bigger than than the story we tell ourselves about ourselves. Check out this shatteringly beautiful girl's TedTalk, she is a master teacher in this realm.
We often fall into the trap of defining ourselves too small. It happens all the time when you feel overwhelmed with anger, grief, cravings, or fear. It begins to define who you are! I am angry, sad, craving, scared...I am a victim, I am the kind of person who...And it just doesn't work to push down our painful thoughts and feelings and try to impose calm.
What we can do, is to give those vulnerable inner places what they need.
Dr. Ann Weiser Cornell, a leading teacher of the practice of Focusing, has a wonderfully simple process that she shares generously. She writes that "Whenever you notice that you are getting a bit overstressed or overwhelmed, that's your signal to pause and be Bigger." Here are the 5 simple steps to a profoundly self-compassionate practice that helps when we feel overtaken by difficult feelings.
1. When you notice that you feel overewhelmed by a painful feeling, reframe it to "something inside of me feels upset" (or angry or sad). Not "I am sad", but "something in me is sad." Notice the difference. It is palpable. People have said that they feel space inside and they realize that they
are more than their distress, even as overwhelming as it can feel.
2. The next step is to say "Hello" to your emotional state. Just “Hello.” We’re talking about a calm,
matter-of-fact “Hello, I know you’re there." You don't have to be thrilled about the distress, just
be friendly, accepting, and acknowledging of it's presence. You've stopped denying it, and stopped
fighting it, and it can shift now.
3. The third step is to gently put your hand on your body where you feel that something in you that is disturbed. With this powerful gesture, you bring gentle, soothing contact to "something in
you" that feels upset. There is Something In You can take provide for Something In You that
need support and warmth. This is amazingly effective.
4. Next, sit up a bit and let your shoulders straighten a little, and use the phrase "I'm sensing"
at the start of your sentences about your emotional issues. When you do that, you are identifying
with the biggest part of yourself...the witness state.
5. Finally, you say two magic words: "No wonder..." When you feel horrible, it doesn't help to tell
yourself you shouldn't feel that way. Instead, pause a bit, with your hand still on the tender spot and say, "No wonder you feel x or y." Notice the relief that comes up to meet you.
I highly recommend this practice, and would be happy to work through it with you one on one any time. To find out more, check out Dr. Ann Weiser Cornell's website. The free e-course there is a fabulous resource, and the inspiration for this post.