Learning to turn towards difficult emotions like embarrassment and feeling awkward, for crucial conversations!
This is one of our greatest problems in Ireland, we are great at small talk, we are great at talking about the weather. But we don’t particularly like to get too deep. If we do, heck most of us fear that you might learn something about us that we don’t particularly like about ourselves. We stay guarded because we fear we will be exposed and feel bare and naked. You just might learn something about me like that I don’t feel good enough or that I have a deep fear of being rejected so I keep everyone at bay. You just might learn that I am deeply deeply low or depressed inside so instead, I put on a front of what I think you want to see.
Instead of speaking to that which is most vulnerable within we pull up my socks and we keep ourselves to ourselves. This is us, this is Irish people, the stiff upper lip, the holding on to our inner thoughts that are in fact the most universal thing of all, most people experience these kinds of negative thoughts from time to time about themselves. Most people feel low, unworthy, fear being rejected, unloved at some point or other. What do we learn from this approach to emotions?
We learn that it’s part of our culture to hide that which is most common to humanity, most common to this being a human and on this planet. To feel ashamed of and embarrassed by difficult emotions. Well, it’s time to come out, come out about our feelings, all of them, to normalise them for everybody. This being human, is a rainbow, a kaleidoscope of emotions. It isn’t enough to simply want to feel the ‘positive’ emotions all the time. To want to be happy all the time, that isn’t actually realistic.
All emotions have their place in the human experience. But what we have learned to do is identify with our emotions. We entangle our very sense of self-worth in how we feel. In the Irish language, we see our emotions as separate from us. “Tá brón orm” means ‘Sadness is upon me’, in the English language we often find ourselves saying ‘I am sad’ entangling our very identity with the emotion, when in fact it is transient and impermanent. It is ephemeral.
In fact, our emotions are meant to be felt and released. They are meant to be messengers from our body. This body is an incredible antennae that is trying to send us crucial signals so that we can understand more deeply our inner world.
Instead, when we feel these strong difficult emotions we dump them onto other people and we react to them in our outer world, blaming others, blaming ourselves, rarely taking responsibility for what they truly are designed to do.
You see emotions, are messengers, each emotion has a function. A really important function.
There are 10 basic emotions across all cultures and this is what they are trying to tell you:
Happiness – when are needs are met
Anger – an important goal is blocked or feel attacked, blamed, hurt or lose something
Sad – something is lost or missing
Frustrated – an important goal is blocked
Grief – something precious is lost
Fear – danger is present or a threat perceived
Disgust – when something unpleasant is confronted
Embarrassed - being exposed, awkwardness or regret
Ashamed – something is wrong with you
Content – feeling that you are good enough
Love - connection and attraction
Lonely – left out or isolated
So the next time you feel an emotion, positive or difficult, turn towards it in the body.
What does it feel like inside?
Explore it with interest, is there a physical sensation, a vibration to it, even a colour perhaps?
Consider, if it could talk, what might it be trying to tell me?
Consider, what is beneath this emotion?
Because beneath each emotion is an important NEED! Yes, there is a need that is trying to be met, so if you can stop and sense into that need, what is it really trying to say.
Open your heart to the messages from within, they are powerful and they will shift your experience towards one of appreciation for this wonderful existence. This becomes so incredibly vital to being able to turn towards the difficult because if you can do it, you can help model for your family and children how to do it and this becomes the foundation of positive wellbeing and an ability to embrace difficult conversations around mental health and sexual health.
More on this to follow! I’m feeling excited to share these nuggets, I’d love to hear your thoughts and emotions!
This morning, as I prepared breakfast at lightning speed, I grabbed a knife from the kitchen and promptly dropped it in the sink, as any sleep-deprived person might do, but instead of it being a simple mistake, I heard my inner voice say ‘you fecking ejjit’. Clang! The harsh sound of an inner critic that wasn’t championing my desire to feed the girls a beautiful breakfast. Instead, it was there ready to judge me harshly for dropping a simple knife. Maybe it was the gravity of the item being a knife, that led to such harsh criticism. Or perhaps it was the fact that I was working quite quickly in an endeavour to provide a lovely meal to two hungry girls, not exactly being mindful in the moment (eek… mindfulness is something I teach! Double whammy!). Or possibly, it was the simple slip up of not doing something perfectly that made this inner critic find an opportunity to chastise me.
When I think about where this voice has come from for me, I mostly hear my own mothers words. I sadly recognise how harsh she can be on herself. In my mother’s world, I hear very few words of compassion for all the hard work that she does, practically zero words of self-praise or pride. As I wrestle with my 16-month-old twins, I am continually amazed at how my own mother did it. She had two sets of twins and 3 singletons, seven children in total. Not uncommon in the 70s and 80s, but a huge amount of mouths to feed and work to be done.
I now find myself in awe of the fact she managed to feed, clothe and raise us to be, for the most part, pretty cool adults. Still during that time, as she says herself, ‘you just had to get on with it!’ In fact, it is much the same today, the ‘just having to get on with it’ part. Different stresses or strains, different worries. Certainly in my case, less kids! But all the same, the challenges of dealing with screaming children, children who throw their meals or refuse to eat the perfect organic meal you’ve prepared and despite all the meditation, a trigger that will eventually get pulled because of a lack of sleep or hunger.
As an adolescent development and human behaviour expert, and mindfulness teacher, I know only too well how these early years form many of the beliefs children develop that then shape their relationship with themselves and the outer world. How these early experiences can feed into how they can carry with them a deep feeling of ‘not being good enough’ or developing a ‘fear of rejection’ or a ‘fear they won’t be loved’.
I’ve become more and more conscious of the language that I use with my twin girls and how this might become their inner voice. The language that I use with myself, and how I behave. What they see and hear, can become what they translate into their own inner voice. So the question we parents have to ask ourselves, is what kind of inner voice do we want to nurture in our children?
I hear myself say ‘Zianna stop, you’ll fall’ after which I wonder does that prime her to possibly fall, placing a not so subtle suggestion in her mind, even distracting her from her dizzying task at hand [standing on a chair or slide]. I catch myself saying ‘don’t do that, nice girls don’t hit’, and I think to myself, is that where I developed my people pleasing behaviour? Being nice and wanting to be liked, is something I became aware of years ago. Thankfully, I recognise the value of being respected over being liked. Or even simply saying ‘good girl’ when either of the girls does something that I approve of such as eating their dinner, walking or playing gently with the dog. I wonder does using the words ‘good girl’ feed into their psyche that their value and worth as a good person is placed on what they do, as opposed to them feeling inherently of value.
Dr. Stefali says that children have three questions that they want the world to let them know. Am I seen? Am I of worth? and Am I loved?
You might think this is overthinking, perhaps, but I think it is important to interrogate our language and the impact that it has. Particularly on sponge minds like our children’s. It highlights how important it is for us as parents to deal with our own internal baggage so as not to leave it as an unwanted inheritance for our children. Part of this living, for all of us, is trying to navigate the joys and sufferings that come as part of being human, and healing some of the generational traumas that have been passed through our families.
So my question for today is, what inner voice would you like your children to have? And in thinking about that, consider what your inner critic says to you, where you think it comes from and how you might change some of that language into an inner champion?
Parenting is an inside job, we can start by healing our own hurts and beliefs, then by developing an understanding of how we have come to have these beliefs we can begin to let them go and create new more empowering ways of viewing the world. This will help us as we co-create our parenting journey with our children. They are here to teach us, but who are we really parenting when we parent them, is it them or is it our childhood selves? I ask this question because I find myself buying things for them that I would have loved as a child, like a beautiful dolls house or I find myself hoping to enrol them in gymnastics, swimming and do music lessons. These are all things I would have loved to have done as a child. The saying living vicariously through your children comes to mind!
So go gently with yourself and your child, cuddle them tighter and question what messages are you consciously and unconsciously sending to them.
Yours in less criticism and love,
This time of year, people abound with resolutions to create changes in their lives. A new year, a new leaf! What many people find is that by February the initial energy that gets people started dissipates and they go back to their ingrained ways of behaving. The gyms that were full the first weeks in January begin to empty out, commitments to write or meditate daily fade as life gets ‘too busy’ to keep to the new goals.
Implementing and changing habits is a lot like brushing your teeth. If you do it daily, you get results and you don’t have to experience the drill at the dentist’s office. If you don’t do it every day, you won’t. Developing new habits requires that you create a new ritual daily until that behaviour becomes your new way of being. After around 30 days of daily implementation, this new pattern of behaviour starts to become easier for you to implement.
Starting and stopping interrupts your commitment, the mind starts to show you other things that you can spend your time at. This is when it becomes more difficult to keep the momentum, this is when doubts creep in and suggestions like ‘you’re only missing this one session’. However, what people find is that after they miss one session, it’s easier to miss another and another. Then before they know it, building in this new habit becomes a thing of the past.
Whether it is taking up running, starting to meditate, starting to write, taking up cooking nutritious food or letting go of a behaviour you no longer value there are a few things that help. Having a daily ritual, almost like a pilot before take-off. Consider what are the things that you need to do each day to live your life the way you want to. Small changes implemented each day can result in massive changes over 365 days. The old question of ‘how do you eat an elephant?’ – The answer ‘one bite at a time. So, take it one step at a time and you are more likely to create the habits you want in your life.
I always think a good first step is to reflect on the achievements of the previous year. So, grab yourself a nice journal one that you will only use annually for this purpose. Review your entire previous year, the highs, the learnings, the achievements, the celebrations. See it all in its full glory. You’ll do this process every year and it will become the book of your life, now wouldn’t that be nice instead of the scraps of paper or notes here and there.
When you have that done, on a new page, consider the following for this new year:
What is truly important to you? (Health & vitality, family & friends, career, finances, relationship, adventure, fun etc., etc.,) Make a list in order of importance.
What goals would you like to achieve in this coming year? (What things do you want to start? What things do you want to stop? What would make your heart sing?)
Decide how you are going to reach these goals, what do you need to give in order to have success in these areas?
Now create a mini-ritual that you are going to implement every day. Each person is unique so having their own mini-ritual to help get them started and recommit every day to their goals and habits.
My morning ritual is this; meditation for an hour, followed by connecting with what I am grateful for, then sending Metta (which is sending love and compassion out into the world), then I set three goals for the day, week or month that I want to work towards and achieve. I follow this with some journaling as I find it embeds further my intention and other ideas emerge about how I might achieve these goals. If I want additional energy around something that is particularly sticky I record a paragraph of what I would like my brain to hear - self-hypnosis and listen to it at night as I drop off to sleep. I use this to give me momentum in business, life and sport.
Here’s a short 10-minute version https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IeCRHIXBzLM&t=2s
My evening ritual is this; meditation, followed by reflecting on what is great and amazing in my life, then how I could make my life better and finally, I consider who I could thank. This gives me the fuel to continually evolve and change depending on what is happening in my life.
I also meet a coach via Skype to keep me on track with my goals and hold me accountable to myself.
Finally, a wonderful support is either finding a peer group or setting one up. When I started training in triathlon’s I never thought that an Ironman was something that I would do. When I joined my local club and trained with others, suddenly this became something that was possible. Surrounding yourself with people who are already doing what you would like to do will propel you forward much faster. It saves you time because you will learn from them and their mistakes so you don’t have to make them. When I went out on my own over 3 years ago and set up my business I also set up a group of female entrepreneurs who were similarly at an early stage of setting up their businesses. We all had different backgrounds and interest which helped us support and learn from each other in those early days. You are the average of the 5 people you hang out with, choose your peer group wisely and if it doesn’t exist create one to take you where you want to go.
Wishing you a fabulous New Year!