I’ve been in one of those times when it feels like the river of life has been flowing quickly. Do you know what I mean? It feels like I’ve been paddling along in my canoe or kayak, and the fun kind of adrenaline has been flowing. I’ve been feeling the excitement of preparing for the second call of the new Diving Deeper program – I’m SO excited about what’s possible for all of us – and along with that, also preparing for travelling to a workshop this weekend, which means I need to get this eNews written before I go!
Monday my creative juices were flowing, and I realized what I was preparing seemed like the perfect topic for Thursday’s Diving Deeper call – Yes! Check that item off the list! I love when things unfold organically like that!
Whitewater kayaking – navigating rough waters
Then at supper Monday evening, I was surprised when out of the blue something I said triggered a big reaction in Bruce. Suddenly the river felt a lot more turbulent. But having been so in the flow, I picked up the pace, dug in, and kept going without too much difficulty.
Although on the surface we managed to navigate that one, the underlying turbulence continued, and when a similar pattern emerged at supper on Tuesday, I felt like I was caught up in a whirlpool – swirling and eventually tipping out into the water, trying to hang on, gulping, and definitely not enjoing this part of the ride!
Not only was it not fun, but try as I might I couldn’t get out of the vortex of the whirlpool. I felt stuck, swirling in a maelstrom of emotions. Only one thing was clear – I knew I needed to keep my focus on holding and soothing me.
I knew my old pattern of abandoning me – paying attention to and trying to ‘help’ (read fix!) Bruce would at best be ineffective. Not only was he not open to that, but had I taken my attention off holding and soothing me, hurtful and disrespectful words would have come spewing out of the part of me that was feeling so scared and angry. Then, on top of everything else, I’d have the pain of being out of integrity with me and I definitely wasn’t going there!
So what to do? As I so often say, this isn’t a journey we can take in isolation. I reached out to my friend and evolutionary partner, Aline. Together, we were able to do what I couldn’t on my own – I found my way back home to me. And the bonus of my being deeply grounded again? When Bruce and I connected later, I was able to communicate what I’d been trying to say earlier in a way that he could hear, and the next day he was open to reaching out and nurturing an even deeper connection with the parts of him that had been feeling at risk.
Each of us has our unique journey, so there’s no one right way ‘back home’. However there are a number of practical steps that many find helpful as we’re on the journey of what my coach Lissa Boles calls “Leaning in and cultivating mastery while feeling misery!”
Noticing, Accepting and Nurturing Ourselves When We Feel Shaky
Practical Steps in Coming Back Home to Ourselves
As we do this, remember we’re building trust in ourselves. As humans we trust when we have a sense of emotional safety in our body. Notice this is a sense of emotional safety, NOT comfort! Emotional safety allows us to be with our discomfort without having to hide, fix, or run away from what’s there.
- First notice that these experiences are happening to us – they’re not who we are! There’s the part that’s upset, and the part of us that’s noticing the part that’s upset. Even if the part of us that’s upset is VERY BIG, when we stop to notice, there is ALWAYS the part of us that’s noticing the upset.
- If it feels challenging to hold onto the noticing part of us, reach out for support! Connect with a trusted friend or mentor who will hold with you the possibility that you can navigate this – like you would for a friend having this kind of experience. Sometimes it just feels too big and scary to be here and take these next steps on our own. We’re human. We’re created to be in community. There’s no shame in reaching out.
- Be curious about what’s happening. On your own or with your friend, notice whether this feels like a familiar pattern. Ask yourself “When was the first time I remember feeling like this? What was happening? Where was I? How old was I? What skills and capacities do I have now that I didn’t have back then?” Often in these situations, our adult selves have disappeared and our reactions are being driven by very understandable (though no longer effective) protective mechanisms we developed long ago.
- Be a compassionate witness to yourself. Continue to notice what’s happening – your thoughts, the sensations in your body, what you’re feeling, and what the upset part of you is needing, what are the real fears or desires? There’s no make wrong here, we want to really deeply understand and witness our own experience in the way we’ve always longed for someone else to do.
- Take some deep breaths, allowing all the sensations flowing through your body to be there. Breathe some special love into any parts of you that feel tight and constricted. Welcome and feel fully whatever is there – embrace and invite all of you to be present.
- Soothe those tender parts. Let them know how sorry you are that they’ve had to navigate life in such a painful way, and that it’s so understandable why they made the assumptions and choices they did. Assure them they’re no longer alone, that you’re there, you see them, and they’re being held and loved by you. You’ll sense when they’ve felt really witnessed. There’s often a big breath – more like a sigh – that’s a sign of a release of the tension that’s been being held. This is the signal that those parts that have been reacting in that old pattern are likely open to our beginning to mentor them.
- From that deep, wise, grounded part of you encourage and mentor them into what’s more deeply true. Share the more nuanced perspective that those upset parts had no way of accessing. This is more than a contradiction of what they’ve felt or feared. For example, if they’ve been feeling not seen or heard it’s not enough to say “You are so seen!” That just makes them wrong, and repeats the injury. And never tell them anything that might make them feel better in the moment, but they might have to un-believe later, like “Everyone loves you!” This is the moment to really tell the truth – “Not everyone will listen, and that’s painful, but you have something really valuable to contribute. I’m committed to learning how to stand and speak our perspective clearly, and to nurturing relationships where our voice is heard and honoured.” Again, you’ll feel when what you’ve said has ‘landed’. There’ll be yet another sense of release of tension and opening to possibility.
- Make good on your commitment to them. Nurturing yourself in whatever way seems appropriate. Learning or honing the skills, and expanding your capacity in whatever way you said you would. And remember to honour your own humanity as you learn. Don’t expect perfection from yourself! This isn’t a one time, quick fix thing. This is a coming back home, and a deepening of your relationship with you in a profound and powerful way.
And as you reflect on your own life – especially navigating the whitewater parts – I’m curious to hear the things you’ve found most valuable in coming back home to you after you’ve been in a state of discombobulation. What’s your experience of trying any of the things on this list? And what else do you do? What’s your most reliable way – your favourite ‘go to’ action or practice?
By the way, if you liked and would like to have a pdf for yourself or to share, feel free to grab a copy of those Practical Steps to Coming Back Home to Ourselves here.