Hitting the wall
I hit the wall this week. Everything was going so well. I was not only embracing lockdown but enjoying aspects of it. Then, very suddenly, I became deeply tired and overwhelmed.
The signs starting showing at the weekend. I was working on a bike (one of a few projects on the lockdown list), and nothing was going smoothly. More telling, was that every time I encountered a difficulty, I was getting angry in an animated way and turning the air blue with the feedback I was offering the universe. I like to blame ‘the universe’ when things aren’t going my way.
By Monday the internal chatter was on overdrive telling me how I needed to re-double my efforts, and what a looser I was being. However, everything I touched seemed to have a different idea. Do you ever just feel like you have bad energy and everything you touch turns to shit? I do. 15 minutes into a run (part of the lockdown routine) I gave up, turned around and plodded home.
Being curiously awake to your thoughts, feelings and behaviours, and what you’re attached to, is an important practice in moving Towards Safer Uncertainty.
Not my first rodeo
I like to think I have reasonable self-awareness, but it still surprises me how hitting the wall can sneak up on me. It’s not my first rodeo and once identified, I know I need to stop and make some space to ‘go inside’ and feel.
Interestingly, as I shared my current experience with friends and clients in video chats, I was hearing very similar stories back. Most comments were along the lines of; “I’ve been having a weird week too, it’s nice to hear it’s not just me.”
Doers, Thinkers and Feelers
A long time ago, back in the honeymoon period of lockdown, I was appreciating less noise and distraction in my world. I was noticing simple pleasures like a clean house, having time to cook properly and the odd power nap. In some ways my world felt more connected as video conversations with friends and family all over the world became a daily thing. I was enjoying the space to be.
And then I fell into the Doers strategy. Make goals, to do lists, get busy, do, do, do. Avoiding unwelcome feelings by absorbing yourself in tasks. The same only different is the ‘Thinkers’ strategy. Attempting a unifying theory of everything, again for the purpose of feeling safer and avoiding unwelcome feelings.
If either strategy sound like you, maybe it’s time to stop and feel your feelings.
Confiding in trusted people and talking about it helps. There is plenty of encouragement and guidance for that on various media platforms right now. I want to offer something different and additional.
And for the record, there is nothing inherently wrong with doing or thinking. In leadership it’s how you make the right things happen. There is however, this third aspect sometimes referred to as intuition and being emotionally intelligent. It is the bit that is guided by feelings. Our goal is to become trilingual in doing, thinking and feeling.
How to hear your feelings
We have body-based wisdom. That’s stating the obvious for the Feelers of the world, but it can be a blind spot for Thinkers and Doers. Many psychologists will tell you that emotions exist to force a decision. Emotions bring information that help direct us. Learning to access the wisdom in our feelings can be liberating and powerful.
Eugen Gendlin developed a practice he calls Focusing, for ‘going in’ and receiving some body based wisdom. Although it is better to be led through his process, it’s possible to self-coach.
Let’s do something with it – Focusing
What follows is the bones of a coaching process I use with myself and others. I used it this week and it helped. It is not set in stone, rather a good starting place to learn the technique. Here’s a useful explanation from Eugine Gendlin (worth reading before doing the following).
1. Clear a space
How are you? What’s between you and feeling fine?
Don’t answer; let what comes in your body do the answering.
Don’t go into anything.
Greet each concern that comes. Put each aside for a while, next to you.
Except for that, are you fine?
2. Felt Sense
Pick one problem to focus on.
Don’t go into the problem.
What do you sense in your body when you sense the whole of that problem?
Sense all of that, the sense of the whole thing, the murky discomfort or the unclear body-sense of it.
3. Get a handle
What is the quality of the felt sense?
What one word, phrase, or image comes out of this felt sense?
What quality-word would fit it best?
Go back and forth between word (or image) and the felt sense.
Is that right?
If they match, have the sensation of matching several times.
If the felt sense changes, follow it with your attention.
When you get a perfect match, the words (images) being just right for this feeling, let yourself feel that for a minute.
"What is it, about the whole problem, that makes me so _________?
When stuck, ask questions:
What is the worst of this feeling?
What’s really so bad about this?
What does it need?
What should happen?
Don’t answer; wait for the feeling to stir and give you an answer.
What would it feel like if it was all OK?
Let the body answer
What is in the way of that?
Welcome what came. Be glad it spoke.
What learning is there for you?
It is only one step on this problem, not the last.
Now that you know where it is, you can leave it and come back to it later.
Protect it from critical voices that interrupt.
Does your body want another round of focusing, or is this a good stopping place?
Big summary question: What have you become aware of through Focusing today?
If you’d like to explore this more fully in a guided one to one session then drop me a line.
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Photo by Patrick Tomasso on Unsplash