Updated: Sep 11
These past few days have been rough on me. I've withdrawn almost completely from my cellmates and I've been wearing a dark brooding cloud like a poncho. I've compromised my own goals, both personally and professionally. Small things have been getting to me. I've been feeling powerless and hopeless, imagining a reality in which lockdown became an almost permanent reality. My fears had me.
Yesterday, I started to emerge from this dark cloud and I was able to start the process of disrobing from the poncho when I recalled that I am not my shoe.
Say what now?
How in heaven's name, does this even require mention? Of course, I am not my shoe. Well, it's just a statement of fact. I am not my shoe, nor am I the seat I am sitting on or the utensils with which I eat. The same applies to you. These are all things that serve us. When we need them; and we use them in accordance with our needs. So none of us would use a fork as a shoe, and the idea of using a shoe as an eating utensil is just gross. I loathe cluttered surfaces, and I don't handle it too well when things are out of place. [I'm getting better at coping with this generally, but this past weekend, it had me crawling the wall!] So if you're anything like me, when you're not using the things you may need for various reasons, from time to time, they're either being cleaned or they're packed away. Not to trouble us by cluttering our space and our lives. Obvious right? Let me recount to you how a coaching conversation I had recently went when a client shared her perceived inability to move forward in a particular business project she was emotionally invested in: Coach: It seems to me that you know what the next steps are. What's holding you back? Client: I can't afford to make mistakes. Coach: What does it mean to you to make mistakes? Client: It will be embarrassing. Coach: So what.? Client: So what....(takes in reality deep breath) I'll embarrass myself. Coach: And then? Client: And then no one will want to do business with me. Coach: Yes? Client: That will mean I am a failure. Coach: It does? Client: Yes it does. And I will be an embarrassment. Coach: Really? An embarrassment? What does that mean? Client: It means that I will be an embarrassment to my parents. Coach: Your parents? Do you know this? Client: Yes. And my Uncles and Aunts. They invested in the making of me. They taught me to strive. And I am just desecrating their names and their reputations! I'm such an embarrassment! Coach: So you're not taking the next steps because you're desecrating your parent's and your uncles and aunts names and reputations? Client: Yes Coach: Have you spoken with them about this to hear their thoughts on this? Client: They are dead. Coach: Oh Client: Yes. I am such an embarrassment and I'm taking their good reputations down with me.
Do you see what the Client did there?
Besides the fact that she catastrophised failure, which is such a necessary part of learning, she also went from having the feeling of embarrassment to identifying herself as the feeling of embarrassment. She took it on as an identifier of who she is, not just as a momentary experience; and not just as a function of something she's done. It also went from what she could be in the future to who she is in the present.
My client is not special, she's not off her rocker, and she not doing anything remotely unusual. She is me. She is you. She is all of us.
We don't always see our emotions for what they are. They come to us as messengers from the various places of intelligence within ourselves. They're alerting us to something, and it's our job to sit with them to discover their message. Once we fathom their message, we are free to make choices about that area of our lives.
Instead, we do what I did over the weekend, or what my client did. We take on the emotion as if it is us. Who we are. We identify so deeply with the emotion that we become the living manifestation of that emotion. If they're joyous, empowering emotions, then I guess that is not a problem. However, when they are ominous emotions that invoke self-limitation and take us away from our hopes and dreams, this is a challenge we must overcome. When we fail to overcome it, we no longer have the emotion. The emotion has us, and we lose our autonomy to create and to run our lives.
What if we approached our emotions like we would our shoes? Or the utensils we use to eat? Or the seat we sit on? We use them when needed. When they've done their job, we cleanse them, and we free our surfaces of them, and we pack them away, to be used when needed again. They do their jobs without running our lives. [assuming a healthy relationship with our stuff] And because these things of ours have value, we treat them with care and with diligence.
Over the past few days, I've been watching my children. The cooler weather has meant that they're needing to wear warmer clothing. They look odd in their winter clothes of last year. They've both grown so very much! My daughter has happily packed her clothing that she simply cannot wear any longer into a bag to give away. My son, on the other hand, holds on to stuff. At a great cost to himself because his wardrobe becomes too full and too messy and I penalize him for that.
And so it is with our emotions. If we are unable to process our emotions, they become burdensome in our lives, impeding our growth and rendering the achievement of our goals almost impossible. Letting go is a critical part of the growth process. Whilst we are help captive by limiting emotions, we are essentially powerless to make space for new and enabling emotions and emotional states that will power us in the direction of our goals.
Another realisation dawned on me as my "I am not my shoe" mantra settled into my senses. That is that I had quite stubbornly stopped my daily journaling practice. The very thing that had kept me in my most resourceful state was abandoned by me when my fear hijacked my best intentions. Journaling or speaking them out loud is my way of making sense of my emotions. Of refocusing them, and re-interpreting them, and even re-purposing them. And of course, it's my mechanism of freeing myself of their hold over me.
And so, with a good dose of journaling behind me, I feel freer, more me. More in command of myself. Make no mistake, the fear brought on by this strange time is still there. The difference is, that I am no longer the living manifestation of that fear. It no longer has me. I have it. I command it. I put it to use to serve me. I will let it go, when it's service to me is done.
If you're feeling stuck and if you are over-identifying with your emotions, remember, they are there to serve you, to guide you, not to direct you.
If you're looking for more guidance on how to do this, please contact me here, or on facebook. Also, check out my offer at the link below. It will revolutionise your life.