Tuesday, January 24, 2012

emotional list...you get the gist.

It’s Tuesday morning and I’ve connected with my emotions.  I mean really connected.

A few days ago during my reading of Engel’s Healing Your Emotional Self, I found myself face-to-face with chapter 8’s emotional exercise.  Title?  Your Feelings Lists.  I was hesitant but felt urged to proceed.  It can’t be that bad.  First question?  List some of the things that tend to make you angry.  Shit.

I shut the book.  Don’t I have cleaning I should be doing?  I am out of bread and milk and other stuff I’m just sure I’ll need later in the day.  I haven’t taken my furry angel on a long walk lately.  No better time than the present (to do meaningless crap that keeps me from emotional progress), right?  I proceeded with cleaning and grocery shopping and dog walking, making progress as the everyday American but not as the on-my-journey-to-healing Kristin I profess myself to be.  Days passed and my mind wandered.  But as it always does, like a boomerang on an emotional mission to freedom, my mind came back to me and connected with my body and soul, now focused and willing to put in some work.

Fast forward to this morning, and the alarm sounds.  Coffee is already made (thank you, Mr. Coffee Maker’s automatic setting).  I complete my routine morning tasks:  brushing my teeth, greeting my dog and tending to his watering needs, watching the weather forecast (rain all day), making small talk with my boyfriend until he leaves for work.  After a kiss goodbye, my list-some-of-the-things-that-tend-to-make-you-angry journey has begun.  This some-of-the-things list, as it turns out, is quite long.  Its substance consists mostly of incidences surrounding a past roommate, past co-workers, and a past relationship on the part of my current boyfriend.  This last one really irks me.
 
See, about two years ago, there was an overlap between another girl and I when my now boyfriend and I were kinda-friends, kinda-dating.  We were not exclusive and I was dating as well.  But for some reason, when I think about this fact and the pictures I saw of them together (thanks, facebook), I get angry.  I begin imagining this intense love affair that they had and how he didn’t really like me when we were spending time together back then and how he was secretly always thinking about her.  I begin feeling like a fool who was obviously used as a tool to pass the time until he would see her again.  These images enter our current relationship and I begin thinking that he misses her and thinks about her and would really rather be with her than me.
 
As I am feeling the full range of emotions brought on by this anger, I am reminded of the counselor’s words at the horse therapy workshop I attended.  “Recognize what you are feeling.  Don’t judge these feelings or form an opinion about your feelings.  These feelings do not say anything about you; they are just feelings.  Experience them and recognize how your body reacts to these emotions.”  I find myself inhaling deeply.  My stomach is jumpy and I feel shaky.  I feel anger running through my veins.  It’s difficult, but I force myself to sit still and allow myself to just feel my feelings without telling myself anything.  Oh, how I want to tell myself reasons why I should and should not be feeling these emotions, but I stop myself and just feel.
 
Slowly the anger passes, at least the majority of it anyways.  I still feel its after effects – jumpy, anxiousness in my stomach and heart, reminders of the past hurts I have experienced.  I’m ready to move on to the next question in the exercise.  Yes, there’s more.  Now I must list, in this order, things that make me feel:  1) Sad;  2) Afraid;  3) Guilty;  4) Happy or Joyous;  5) Fulfilled or Satisfied.  The idea of exploring these emotions is a bit scary (i.e. emotion #2), but as much as I am afraid, I am also curious as to what I’ll end up writing.

As I list the events and people and circumstances which evoke each feeling, I begin noticing some patterns.  When I freely and intently express the individual emotions of sadness, fear, and guilt, and walk myself through the details of how these emotions became attached to said details, I realize that anger eventually surfaces and carries me to the end of each emotion’s experience.  Anger for being judged and ridiculed, anger for the unfairness of things that have happened to me, anger for my anger; every emotion eventually leads me toward the anger of feeling insecure and victimized.  And, from sadness to anger, from fear to anger, from guilt to anger, the details I listed for each are mostly, if not all, things from the past.  I’m not even angry about anything that is happening to me right now.  In fact, as I closely examine my life and explore the emotions of joy and satisfaction, right now isn’t all that bad.
 
And speaking of joy and satisfaction, as accustomed as I am to wallow in pain (and apparently pain of the past), I allowed myself to freely experience the why’s and what’s of these two emotions as well.  What a stark contrast to the others!  Everything on my joy list ended in “–ing”, that is, reading, writing, running, blogging, volunteering, being with my dog and boyfriend and sisters.  Anger, sadness, fear, and guilt were all about said’s and did’s—things that have already happened, things that are “said and done” (lovely expression that I now understand).  They were also about things that haven’t happened, my assumptions about the assumptions of others—how people view me, what people think of me, the ways people judge me, how others’ lives are better than mine.  In this case, no one has said or done anything.  I have no factual information which would lead me to believe anyone views me as a "horrible, terrible person who has and will only fail."  I just assume, and I assume the worst.  My fulfillment list is affected by these assumptions.  Every action that led to my feeling fulfilled or satisfied included completing difficult tasks which lead to future rewards.  Good, huh?  No so much.  So many of these tasks I don’t ever begin or I don’t see them through because I am afraid I will fail or I think a person like me (cough…guilt) could never do something of this magnitude.  Joy and fulfillment are here, but where am I?   

Joy is happening all around me, joy that I can see and touch and experience, yet I’m hanging on to the –id’s and –ed’s of yesterday.  Hell, of yesteryears!  My sadness, fear, guilt, and anger are each anchored in my past and in my distorted reality, both places in which my authentic self has no control.  But today, here and now, I not only have control and the ability to live a better life and create and complete wonderful things,  I am surrounded by positive, healthy influences which stand beside me in the forms of people, animals, opportunities, and so much more that I’m sure I haven’t even noticed yet.  I am taking notice now, and now is all that matters.  

I must remain in my joyful present, and put my past to rest.  It’s got to be exhausted. 



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