You know the feeling, when that thing you were dreading ended, or got canceled, or turned out to be nothing serious.
I remember being all the way across the country and seeing a friend’s post on Facebook asking, “Does anyone know the name of the cyclist that was hit by a car on River Road this morning?”
Since my son frequently trains on that stretch of highway I was instantly overtaken with panic.
Within a few seconds, a million terrible, bloody thoughts raced through my mind. “No, No, No”, my mind was screaming. I dialed his cellphone; no answer. I dialed the house; no answer. I dialed my other son, who answered to say that his brother had ridden that morning but was home, safe, and in the shower.
Relief! He was okay.
Then the panic was replaced by another uncomfortable emotion…anger. Anger directed towards the hit-and-run driver that left a cyclist for dead on the side of the road. Thankfully, the injured cyclist was alive and taken to the hospital by some good Samaritans who saw him in time. Relief. He was going to be okay.
We all need to recognize the feeling of relief, and then learn how to produce it. Here though, is the caveat – feeling relief from the pain or uncomfortable emotion is quicker and easier when we allow our self to feel the pain or uncomfortable emotion.
We rarely do this. Instead we resist the pain or emotion by pushing it down (“I’m not going to cry”), distracting our self (Ice cream!! Pie!! Ice cream AND Pie!!), denying that it exists (“I’m fine”), numbing ourselves (“Make mine a double.”)
That painful feeling. That uncomfortable emotion. We run from it. We bolt.
Pema Chodron, author and Buddhist nun, once said, “Never underestimate the inclination to bolt.”
When I hear a client tell me they feel relief, I know that whatever action produced the relief was more than likely the perfect choice for them at that moment.
So I want to give you these 3 steps. Yes, those 3 agonizing steps. (They’re agonizing because you really just want to bolt!)
- Recognize the feeling of relief – start becoming aware of that feeling when you experience it
- Recognize the feeling of resistance – again, awareness (without judgment)
- Choose to Feel that feeling you’ve been resisting ( or denying, numbing, pushing down, bolting from)
Remember a time when you felt that amazing feeling of relief? I want to ask you to relive it right now.
Just for a few seconds, remember first whatever it was you were resisting, and then, relief.
Can you feel that resistance and constriction being replaced by nonresistance and relaxation?
In some situations this progression happens naturally. Like in the situation above where I was concerned freaked out that my son might have been hit by a car, and then felt relief when I found out he was safe.
But what about emotions and feelings that are unrelenting and unable to be resolved by hearing a positive outcome? The sadness of a broken heart, the grief of losing someone we love, the fear of what could happen next?
This is where we find a gift in being able to feel our feelings fully: When we sit with them, when we are able to be curious and non-judgmental about them, when we let them expand, when we give them space to exist, and when we acknowledge them.
Do you know what happens then?
Most often, they dissipate rather quickly. This is because what we resist persists.
And then we realize that that thing, that monstrous feeling we’ve worked so hard to resist, is really not as bad as we’ve imagined it would be. It is often more of a shadow than a real monster.
Once we stop resisting we make space for metamorphosis. That ugly caterpillar of sadness, or grief, or fear can be replaced with that beautiful butterfly of relief.
Love & Magic,