This week’s session was simultaneously a whirlwind and exactly what I needed. Something I find incredibly interesting is therapist or wellness coaches or whoever always trying to thread the line from parenting to our current behavior and worldview. It’s not really something I’ve ever thought too much about until this last year. Mostly because I thought myself an incredibly autonomous person. But as my once-favorite-book The Celestine Prophecy pointed out: we are direct results of our parents’ personality types.
Maybe this is why I got so into Myers Briggs personality types. I like to know people’s motivations. Not that a personality type can excuse someone from bad behavior. But I like to see the world through different lenses all the time.
It’s why I write. But I digress.
So today we sort of unpacked my relationships with my parents and how that has affected me - specifically my mom. A caveat I always state when talking about my relationship with my mom is that she has always meant well. She has always done exactly what she thought would make me happy. What she never stopped to realize (perhaps because she never had a wellness coach or a therapist who dug deep enough or asked the right questions) is that what made her happy was never going to make me happy. Did I need a personal trainer as a chubby 12 year old? No. But she was skinny and thought that would make me happy, too. Because boys.
Fast forward 17 years later: I’m gay. And still a little above average weight-wise. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
The other thing Megan and I discussed was processing emotions. More than ever, do I wish there was a contraption that you can insert your heart and brain into and it would process them both together and alleviate any form of anxiety, fear, sadness, hurt, or worry. Such is not the case. So we have to deal with the emotions ourself. And we do it in 3 ways:
Psychologically: we explore the narrative / story we tell about our experience.
Oftentimes we merely react or project when we are feeling vulnerable or fearful or anxious or upset or any other number of things on the spectrum of “negative” emotion. I know I do. And the way that manifests is generally in compulsion because if I can’t control other people’s actions, then it leads to me not being able to control my feelings. And then I end up projecting my frustrations in an unhealthy way. And that is, well, unhealthy!
So I am learning how to investigate these stories within myself. How to seed them. How to unpack the emotion and create a story for the what/why/how (and not necessarily the who, because that causes blame again.)
It’s important to allow these feelings and to stay or sit with them instead of immediate repression or expression.
For example, after sitting with my feelings about my new relationship and the inquiring within as to why I have been anxious lately, it was only that I was able to come to the conclusion that a lot of uncertainty for me is triggering. And talking about it creates intimacy that I am not used to after being pressured into or feeling like I had to bottle things up in previous relationships. That’s the story and baggage we carry.
This led back to the parents. Because everything does. We talked about attachment styles (smother mother, emotionally distant dad, guilt things, etc.) At some point, there is a disconnect because we seek similar attention to what we grew up with. Sometimes that’s not necessarily attuned to our specific needs, however. Which leads to the next area of processing emotions…
Spiritual / Mystical Perspective
The most important management tool for emotions via this lens is realizing that emotions are energy. And the awareness of that energy helps you observe the narrative and how that affects the true nature of the emotion.
Our most natural state is love and compassion. Before you close the window and chalk this up to being nothing but a subtext of “The Secret,” hear me out! Have you been in a relationship where you were wounded and then cut yourself off from all possibility of another relationship? I’ve done it. I’ve claimed celibacy more times than I can recall, only to serendipitously be thrown into another relationship a few months later. (See also: the last few months of my life.) But I don’t see it as a bad thing. I see it as practicing staying open, which is the most important part of understanding with compassion. I just needed a few months to regroup.
The goal is the journey, y’all. Things fall into place every moment of every day. We’re constantly moving forward, even if we are backsliding. Those are my pearls.
Physical Expression of Emotion
This one may be the hardest for me. As someone with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, most of my expressions of emotions are physical. If I am anxious, that turns into me organizing my books in color order or counting all of my steps or counting to 8 over and over or washing my hands until I feel like they are clean enough. And these are all physical distractions from anxiety. And the anxiety is fear. And the fear is placed inside of us from things gone wrong over and over before. We only have our own experiences to draw from, after all. So it’s not that surprising of a thing for us to recoil when we feel a current experience mirroring a past one.
But one of the most important things I have learned, especially around physical expressions of emotion is to let it happen if it needs to. I’m not hurting anyone. And certainly, if I am doing it healthily (like cleaning my bathtub instead of showering 5 times or going to the gym instead of walking around the block and counting my steps), I need to let it happen. It’s my anxiety, and I can clean if I want to!
And then I need to make fun of it. Because that’s how I deal with things. I swear that I’ll have a stand up OCD act one day. Until then, I need to imagine what “level 10” of this physical expression would be. And rest assured that I can control it not going there again. I just have to be present.
Okay class, any questions? Kudos to you if you made it this far!
I think the biggest thing gleaned from today’s session would be this: The relationship binary is trustworthiness and imperfection. And learning how to work with them - with yourself, with your parents, with your significant other - is the goal. Once we realize that we are all (on some level) imperfect, it is only then that we can find someone else who works with our personality and allows for our wholeness. Forcing people to live to an impossible standard only leads to disappointment. I have been on both sides of that before and it’s no fun.
Interested in Health and Wellness Coaching with Megan? http://www.copiahealth.com/integrative-health-wellness-coaching/