“I don’t want to feel this way any more!”

I came across a post on Facebook the other day that shared a wonderful TED Talk given by Susan David (The Gift and Power of Emotional Courage). That, and some conversations I’ve had recently, got me thinking about why I do what I do.

Susan grew up in South Africa during apartheid which affected her deeply. I spent my childhood in Belfast at the height of The Troubles and while I was fortunate not to see some of the worst of the fighting, it was an ever present background that coloured my younger years. Perhaps that’s why I am so passionate about getting in touch with our feelings and learning how to work with them in a positive and creative way.

One of the lasting memories of my time in Northern Ireland is the banner that used to hang across the City Hall which read ‘Belfast Says No!’. That spoke volumes to me of the rigidity of people’s thinking and the lack of openness that was keeping so many trapped in their fear and pain.

And I think this is just as true on an individual level.

In her talk, Susan says that she has come across so many people who say they don’t want to carry on feeling the way they do. They are referring to emotions such as anger, sadness, disappointment and fear. But Susan believes that these are ‘dead people’s goals‘ because only people who have died no longer feel these emotions.

We generally live in a society that pushes for a positive outlook and has little time for what it has come to label ‘negative’ emotions. (See my earlier blog series: ‘Positive thinking – is it always a good thing?’) I think this has forced many people into feeling that they have to play a particular role, and to disconnecting from their true feelings, causing a part of them to ‘die’ inside. From this place we can easily feel lost, overwhelmed and hopeless.

Susan talks about the women who are told that they ‘shouldn’t’ feel angry, or the person who’s been diagnosed with cancer being told to ‘just stay positive’. And of course there are the commonly held beliefs such as ‘boys don’t cry‘. But what does this do to someone who is feeling angry, or who is reeling from hearing that they have a potentially life-limiting illness? And how are boys – and men – supposed to deal with feelings of hurt and loss? This creates a society of individuals who feel unheard, unseen and forced to wear an uncomfortable and ill-fitting mask, just to be accepted.

So what happens to the real feelings? Do they go away?

No, they just get pushed down, go underground, where they grow and fester.

And we can start to use outside things to cover them up – or push them down and keep them buried – eg food, alcohol, busy-ness and other ‘addictions’.

But deep down, our body still knows that all is not well. E-motions are meant to flow. The word itself gives us a clue to the fact that these feelings are energy in motion. They are there for a reason – they are our barometer; our guide to what is working for us and what isn’t; data that we can use to find our way to a life of joy and wellbeing. In an ideal world we would explore these emotions and process the data they offer in order to make the choices that best serve us. But when we push the feelings down, when we haven’t developed the tools to learn from them and grow, then they get stuck, magnify and lead to dis-ease.

I heard, just yesterday, about a friend of a friend, who is living a life of chronic anxiety. Even when there is nothing immediately obvious for her to worry about, it’s as if she has to find something to fret over. She has become so accustomed to this way of being and her body craves the adrenaline and the energy it brings, but her health is suffering and she’s no longer able to cope with many of the things that she used to do, including her work. Even just leaving the house has become an ordeal for her.

I believe that this happens when we don’t face the truth of what we’re feeling. For a while we can get by behind the mask, but as Susan says in her talk, it’s not sustainable. Like one of those stress balls, we might be able to push our feelings down in one place, but they will generally then surface somewhere else.

As I said above, our feelings serve a purpose. Not only do they give us valuable information but they can be our motivation to make things better.

I think that a large part of the problem is that society labels our feelings and conditions us into certain expectations of behaviour and conduct. However emotions are not ‘good’ or ‘bad’, ‘right’ or ‘wrong’, they just are. You feel how you feel. It’s what you do with those feelings that’s important. If we could stop beating ourselves up when we feel certain emotions then a large part of their hold over us would be gone. Instead we could choose to look at things from a more objective viewpoint and with the perspective of a beginner’s curiosity.

We need to start by exploring the nature of the feeling. Giving a name to the emotion – being as accurate and un-dramatic as we can – is the first step in developing Emotional Intelligence. When we do this, we know exactly what it is that we’re dealing with which helps us to move on to the next step…

What is going on behind the feeling?

  • Why am I feeling this way?
  • What triggered this feeling?
  • Is there an unmet need here?
  • What resources can I draw on to meet that need?

We can use journaling, somatic dialogue (tuning in to a part of the body and asking it about how it’s feeling and what it might be holding), art, movement and other techniques to explore the many layers of our being in order to tune in to our inner wisdom.

This can be a very empowering process but with that comes responsibility. We need to be conscious in the way that we use this new knowledge about ourselves. The aim is to show up with authenticity, integrity and even vulnerability and to allow and encourage others to do the same. (You might like to explore Nonviolent Communication by Marshall B Rosenberg for further ideas on this.)

If you are someone who has wanted the painful feelings to stop, or you feel that you’re wearing a mask, and you feel ready to explore a different way, then please get in touch. I’m very happy to have a no obligation chat to discuss ways that you can tap in to all the wonderful resources that you hold within yourself.

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Some thoughts on my highs and lows of winter horse care!

The last couple of weeks have felt pretty tough here at Equenergy. This is my first year of being a horse carer, having welcomed Dax back in May last year, and Rika in October when we moved to Wales and got our own land. It has been a steep learning curve!

About a week ago, on Friday, we had the first snow of the season and, obviously, the first since our move. Suddenly I was having to feed the horses much more hay, as they were unable to access any grass. We were already running a little low, and had arranged an order for the Sunday anyway, but it quickly became clear that there probably wouldn’t be enough to get us through the remaining day, night and morning before we picked up more supplies.

I went through uncomfortable feelings of guilt at not being better prepared and getting into a situation where the horses might suffer because of my lack of foresight…

This came on top of me already feeling rather low, mostly due to exhaustion, which was the result of a combination of factors:

  • the short days which never seem to have enough daylight to get everything done
  • the relentless-seeming round of daily poo picking; often in wind, rain, mud and semi-darkness at this time of year
  • juggling appointments, working on the house, business stuff (such as updating my website, networking, etc) and caring for the animals
  • still not having any proper internet, phone or TV connection
  • the time it takes to get things done because of the above challenges.

As you might have spotted, reading the above list, another drain on my energy has been the high level of expectation that I place on myself!

At times I’ve felt rather alone and vulnerable, and it was at one of these moments that I received some comments on a post that I’d made on Facebook. From the perspective of this low point they hit a nerve and felt like criticism. I was tempted to hide away and feel sorry for myself, but instead I decided it would be more productive to take a step back and look at the situation with a more objective view.

Doing this I quickly realised that the comments were far from being critical. They were actually just someone who cared deeply about an issue, expressing their thoughts. However their message threw a spotlight on a need in me that I hadn’t been addressing (old insecurities about how people see me and being ‘good enough’), which was bringing up old hurts and leaving me experiencing emotional discomfort. I could see that this provided a great opportunity for me to work on this inner pain in order to release it, taking a further step in setting myself free from the things that hold and restrict me. I explored the sensations I was experiencing and used them to identify where I needed to change my thoughts to be more supportive.

There are a variety of ways that we can do this kind of exploration:

  • journaling
  • mindfulness
  • meditation
  • talking with a friend or a professional coach / therapist
  • I personally used EFT (emotional freedom techniques, or ‘tapping’) as this helps to reduce painful emotions, meaning that I could look at things with greater clarity

I’ve had to remind myself, too, that change is often painful, as it pushes us out of our comfort zone. This is true, even when we were the ones who decided to make the change. Even when we know in our heads what to expect, the raw reality, and the unknown duration of the discomfort, can make it hard to keep going, and to keep trusting that we’ve made the right choices. This is especially true when we’re feeling tired, alone or unsupported.

Often when we’re feeling low, our inner critic goes into overdrive. I had to remind myself that this part of me is just trying to keep me safe, but in actual fact it’s made up of thoughts and beliefs that are untrue, or at least greatly exaggerated, and viewed from a negative bias. But I am able to choose my thoughts and beliefs, which in turn impacts on my perceptions, emotions, behaviours and the outcomes I experience. If I choose to focus on more positive, uplifting, optimistic thoughts, then I will experience more supportive, hopeful feelings, leading to behaviours which are more likely to produce the outcomes that I desire.

Sometimes we can get stuck in a negative cycle, particularly when we’re feeling run down, which is why it’s so important to take care of ourselves, doing our best to get quality rest, eat healthily, spend time outdoors in the fresh air and engage in exercise that we enjoy. It’s also important to reach out for help when we need it. Things can feel too big to face alone, but with another pair of hands / eyes, suddenly they seem much more manageable. Also, we are social creatures. We need to feel connected. When this is missing from our lives, the world can feel like a very big, scary and lonely place. Even if you feel that no-one can help, it’s still worth reaching out, as even doing something as simple as meeting a friend for a cup of coffee can bring a bit of brightness to your day and make things seem much less bleak.

Taking action in this way has also helped me to remember the many ‘highs’ of our new life here in Wales, and having horses with us. It’s so lovely to be able to spend time with them, either connecting through activities, or just being in their presence and feeling their calming, grounding energy. I’ve been seeing some subtle changes in Dax, where he seems to be processing things and being less reactive. He can tend to show some fear aggression, reverting to inappropriate behaviours – such as biting and pushing – when he feels anxious, but having started some clicker play with him, I’ve seen how he’s using his brain to find other ways to approach situations. Doing this in a safe environment seems to be giving him confidence in other areas of his life as well. Occasionally he seems to take a backwards step, but Rome wasn’t built in a day, and it can take time to change habits that have been held for long periods of time so I just need to remain patient and keep remembering all the good things in him so that he can see these too and step into them more fully.

Another ‘high’ is that Rika is opening up more and more each day. When she first arrived here, everything was so new for her. She’d been taken away from her people, her herd and the environment that was familiar to her. It has taken her a while to find her feet but she now regularly approaches us to say Hello, or for a cuddle or a scratch. She’s such a gentle and graceful creature that it’s a joy to spend this time with her!

I’m also deeply grateful for this amazing space all around us. The landscape is so beautiful and the light changes almost in every moment! We are surrounded by birdsong from early morning to well into the evening and it’s magical to watch the onward march of the seasons.

If you are experiencing painful emotions that feel like they’re taking over your life, and you’d like to explore some constructive ways to address the underlying issues so that you can reconnect with your balance, joy and wellbeing, then please get in touch for a no obligation chat.

PS For those of you wondering about the horses and their hay: I rang our lovely hay man, Gwyn, on the Friday and he happily gave us a couple of bales the next day which easily got us through to Sunday when we collected our order. This reminded me again that worry is unproductive and that when I reach out, help is there, supporting me through the ‘dramas’ of my life and showing me that, in fact, all is well in the end 🙂

So many questions…

Last week I looked again at some important questions that this journey with Dax has raised recently and the answers that I have found so far.

This whole process has been a very interesting one for me.  It has caused me to question so many things – myself, my approach, my abilities and my beliefs.  This has led me to also ponder the various opinions offered to me.  Most of them have come from people that I respect, and yet their views have sometimes conflicted with each other, and sometimes with the views that I have held up to now.

This has meant that I’ve had to re-evaluate much of the information that I’ve been receiving – either from people or from books and articles that I’ve read.  I’ve tried to search for the things that resonate and feel ‘true’ to me, but found this hard when I’m no longer sure exactly where I stand.  Things have felt fluid and uncertain.

I’ve had to face up to these uncertainties, and my own loss of confidence.  Suddenly all the things that I thought I knew, all that I’ve studied and learnt, seemed to just fall away leaving me feeling empty and lost.

But I’ve come to realise that maybe I was looking for ‘truth’ and ‘certainty’ where there isn’t any… It’s perhaps a case of setting an intention (to do the best for Dax), creating dialogue with him and seeing where we can go, this boy and I.

  • Do we have a journey together?
  • Are we strong enough and brave enough to take the first steps and see where they lead us and if we feel some good potential there?
  • Can we trust each other to be open and hold space for the other, especially when fears come up and behaviours might reflect this?
  • Are we courageous and trusting enough to face the learnings, and to keep going when things get tough?

Given time, and space, I think we might be able to do it… but these two were feeling in very short supply in my world! I felt sleep deprived and overstretched…

Yes, this horse asks for so much – but I also see that what he is bringing up in me is my own inner ‘ask’ too…

It has all felt too much sometimes.  Occasionally I’ve felt so overwhelmed that I’ve wanted to press rewind and go back to the time before we sold our houses and I started this whole crazy plan!  But I can’t – practically, or emotionally – I’ve opened Pandora’s Box, for better or worse! I still don’t quite know where it will lead, and at times I’ve felt blind and lost, but something still feels ‘right’ – like this is a process that I need to go through… I manifested this… even if at times it has felt like a ‘kill or cure’!

The process has felt like a very lonely one at times.  It was as if Dax was the only other being in our little life-raft, the two of us being tossed around together.  There may have been others around – some offering great support without which I would have been very tempted to give up – but really, it was just the two of us, waiting to see if we would survive, or if we would decide to abandon ship and go our separate ways…

I talked before about facing our inner shadow.  This process brought me face to face with some deep seated fears:

  • that this is too big an ask for my wonderful husband, who doesn’t really want to move and who fears for my safety around this large, sometimes unpredictable, animal
  • that I’m being watched, judged and found wanting
  • that I am failing Dax

These fears might all be ‘just in my head’ but it doesn’t make them feel any less real!

I’ve said before that Dax’s moods are an enigma – and yet in a way they’re not.  When I think about his history, I can so get why he might suddenly seem to switch…

  • being taken from his mother
  • being left to starve
  • being passed from one person to another as a youngster, then again moving away from his home to come live with me

He has such deep wounds held within, and sometimes we can find these impossible to express without them exploding into a ‘beast’ that feels out of our control… such deep pain with no outlet… not a wonder his moods swing… not a wonder that he can appear to be struggling, ‘unpredictable’ and ‘grumpy’…

But then I wonder if I’m making assumptions about how he’s feeling, which actually are way off…

I’ve offered him various ‘releasing’ techniques – such as Reiki, massage, TTouch and essential oils – but it seems that he is not ready to go there yet.  He will start to show signs of relaxing and then it’s as if he pulls himself back.  So we’re taking it ‘slow and steady’, just doing little bits as and when he seems able and happy to engage.

I’m also trying to keep things light and to remember the value of fun and humour.  Dax is an intelligent horse with an inquisitive side so he needs to find expression for this too.

There have been shifts in his behaviour.  For example he used to get defensive if you stood at his shoulder, or tried to touch him here, turning to nip, but I haven’t seen this behaviour in a long time now.

Part of what has helped us is me going ‘back to basics’ and remembering to just enjoy being with him, with no agenda or expectations, and no pressure – on him or myself.  With animals, particularly horses, this apparently ‘overly simple’ strategy is often overlooked.  As humans we often see things as Big Complex Problems needing Big Complex Solutions, when sometimes what we need to do is just strip everything back and go for the simplest approach.  In our busy, noisy lives, it can be a real challenge to just Be and to en-joy the moment.  But it is in doing this that we unlock the potential of that moment and gain access to our intuition, our insight and to deeper listening, connection and understanding.

I want to be able to see Dax’s many good qualities, not just the less desirable behaviours.  In doing this, I hope to be able to create a space where he is set up to succeed, rather than to fail – to find his balance and contentment and to let go of his fears.  I hope, too, that he will see me as a consistent carer who will accept him in all his moods and always look for the good in him, behind any behaviours, while also supporting him to let go of the fears that create those behaviours.

 

If any of this is resonating with you and you have questions or comments, I’d love to hear from you.  Feel free to comment below or to contact me.

THE CHAKRA SYSTEM – part 3 of 8

THE SACRAL CHAKRA – SWADHISTANA

Located slightly below the belly button, this energy centre relates to the gonads (ie the ovaries in the female and the testes in the male) which secrete sex hormones.

It is also linked with the lower back.

The colour of this chakra is orange;
its sense is the sense of taste;
its element is water
its function is desire and pleasure.

The foods for this chakra are liquids.

This chakra is about feelings and emotions and it is strongly connected to sexuality.  It affects the male and female reproductive organs and so problems in this area can result in impotence or frigidity as the person can come to believe that sex is bad and can cause them to be hurt.  They might also feel abused and confused, believing that they are unlovable.

It is also about the balance of yin and yang energies — our inner feminine/masculine balance.

Other issues include kidney and bladder problems and stiffness in the lumbar region.

When it is balanced and open this chakra promotes self-respect and a sense of abundance.  It enables the you to enjoy pleasure and to create healthy sexual experiences.  You feel precious, cherished and special.

This is the second chakra to open.  The first gives us a sense of self and this is followed by an understanding of ‘other’.  The infant begins to understand that the others in their world are separate beings rather than just extensions of themselves.

This chakra relates to creativity.  This is often thought of as reproduction, but it is also the childlike energy to be spontaneous, joyful, creative and exuberant.  When this chakra is functioning well it gives us a great sense of freedom to be ourselves.

Our energies can fluctuate during the day, and our chakras can be more or less open in any given situation depending on what ‘pushes our buttons’.

Why not take some time to pay attention to how you’re feeling — whereabouts in your body do you feel tension / pain / ease / lightness?

Are there repeating patterns in your life?  Do they serve you or do they leave you feeling stuck?

If any of this has resonated for you I’d love to hear your thoughts.  Please leave a comment or contact me if you’d like to ask any questions or discuss things further:

www.equenergy.com

07980 669303

robyn@equenergy.com

 

(This post was taken from my article on the chakras.  You can read the full text here)