Am I Repeating Old Patterns or Engaging in a Healing Crisis?

I’ve been in a bit of healing crisis lately, one that has sent me to bed for several days to recover. These difficult passages often create symptoms that show up as spiritual, emotional discomfort that also manifests in the physical. Symptoms of illness can surface as we make ready for a new chapter in life. Transiting from one season to another is stressful and it’s natural to resort to old coping mechanisms. It’s not uncommon to feel restless, disconcerted, and cranky as a result. 

I’m guilty of possessing what can be a hyperactive inner critic. When I’m not feeling well, either emotionally or physically, my first response can be to wonder what I’ve done wrong. I might ask myself, “Did I eat the wrong thing or stay up too late or forget to take my herbs? Is there something I need to uncover or process or forgive? Maybe I need to meditate or pray or get outdoors more.” More often, however, what I’m experiencing is a natural response to a challenging life passage. 
This is exactly what happened to me this past week as I welcomed in a new phase while letting go of some wounds of the past. 

My book is getting ready to go to print and this a HUGE step for me! As part of this process I am simultaneously planning for a new season of growth and releasing of some old patterns and behaviors. So, it was not really a surprise that my decisions have brought up some old fears, self-doubt, and negative thought patterns.

As I battled what felt like a sinus infection and exhaustion, I wrestled–hard–with my harsh Inner Critic. I became overwhelmed with feelings that I could or should be doing something more, something better. Even though I was aware that I was undergoing a huge transformation, I’d forgotten to practice what I often teach my clients: to be gentle and generous with myself, to stop struggling, and allow for a changing of the seasons

“Sometimes your last resort is your best resort.” –Marianne Williamson

Struggling against my discomfort was exhausting and it soon showed up in my body. My sinuses were so inflamed even my hair hurt. I retreated to my bed, feeling alone and pitiful. This time, however, instead of judging my discomfort to be the result of some personal failure, I reminded myself it just might be a signal that a healing crisis is underway. So instead of letting my unforgiving Inner Critic run the show, I asked, “What do I need right now? What is my body and soul calling for?” The answer was immediate, “Rest, support, and gentle compassion.”

Though there were still many details in getting my book ready for print and, I needed to prepare for an upcoming speaking engagement, I cleared my calendar for a few days. I also took a much needed media break and made an appointment with my healing practitioner. I supported my body by taking herbs and drinking lots of fluids. 

Though asking for help does not come natural for me, I engaged in some loving self-care by texting a few of my close Mamma Bear friends, requesting their love and support. Within the hour I received their loving responses. They offered prayers of healing and kind, nourishing words. Another friend brought over some home made soup. Flooded with tears of gratitude, my exhausted spirit drank in the much needed nurturing, providing me with the strength to face old feelings of unworthiness and loss that had surfaced as a result of my commitment to finishing my book and releasing it out into the world. 

Though the release of my grief and self-condemnation was intense, when I stopped resisting, it passed relatively quickly and soon I was feeling more like myself. I know that, though the process may be uncomfortable, my discomfort will soon pass if I surrender to the season at hand and don’t allow myself to become enmeshed in old behaviors and coping mechanisms. I can gently remind myself to enter into the change of seasons with a generous compassion, one that will welcome in a new period of growth. 

Seasons of Reflection: How do you respond to uncomfortable feelings or situations? How to do engage in gentle self-care? What is your soul asking of you?

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Finding Comfort in the Uncomfortable

St. George Island, Florida

As we navigate life’s passages we are bound to come across interactions with others that turn out, shall we say, less than ideal. Misunderstandings, triggered hurt feelings, and surfacing resentments can all be part of the soup involved in navigating relationships.

Past wounds can cause us to lash out in defensiveness or to withdraw, protecting our tender spots. Often we may do both. We may admonish others (or be admonished) to be more thoughtful, to choose better words, or adjust our tone–to be civil. Sometimes, however, this admonishment is simply a tool used to protect wounds, to keep us safe.

Last week I got my feelings hurt–twice, in two days. Hurt feelings are not a new experience for me, by any means, but the intensity of my upset seemed out of proportion compared to the actual events that triggered them. Over-reaction (or under-reaction) is always a signal to me that something bears a deeper exploration. 

On the surface the two instances seemed very different. The first one was in-person and with someone I have been in relationship with for many years, and the second was with a more casual friend on social media. Stepping back from these two experiences a bit I realized there were some similarities. First, though the event itself was fairly minor, I realized that I had inadvertently triggered a huge amount of defensiveness in both people. Secondly, in both cases I felt that I had been misunderstood and/or misinterpreted. I also noted that in both instances, the other parties had used anger followed by cutting me off verbally as defensive coping mechanisms.

In that past, one of my go-to coping tools when confronted with conflict was making nice. Growing up, I was assigned the role of family peacemaker. It was certainly a needed role as family life during my childhood was rarely peaceful. When you are the peacemaker, however, your emotions and needs are often not part of the equation, So, while I became proficient in speaking up on another’s behalf, I was unaccustomed to speaking up for myself. 

Although I have never been shy about stating my opinion, learning to speak up on my own behalf has been an adventure awash with discomfort. Speaking up meant I would have to invest enough value in who I am to stand up for myself. It meant I would have to believe in me. It also meant I would have to risk being the target for another’s misplaced hurt and pain.

Growth, by its very nature, demands a break from the status quo. An acorn will never become the mighty oak if it refuses to burst out of its shell. Breaking free of the protective shell we’ve constructed around our past wounds is guaranteed recipe for discomfort. It’s messy and comes in fits and starts. It also requires vulnerability and tenacity…and rigorous self-honesty. But it is so worth our effort.

In my case, suppressing my feelings in favor of peace, however, has only led to despair and burning resentment. Long ago I made a commitment to forgo any temporary emotional discomfort I might have in favor of dealing with the hard stuff. To me this felt more honest, more authentic–even at the risk of being misunderstood. This process, of course, is always a work in progress. And I need to remember that bot everyone is ready to take the same step of breaking out of their protective shell, just because I am.

Neither instance from last week turned out the way I would have wished.
Being understood is important to me. In both circumstances I felt misunderstood and rejected. It hurts when others don’t seem to want to take the time or effort to hear me out. One party claimed my “tone” was the cause of their disrespectful response and the other decided to end the conversation abruptly–part of their go-to coping tools, I suspect. And even though, due to old conditioning, my first instinct was to soothe their discomfort and then go to great lengths to be understood, in both instances I spoke up on my own behalf, made several attempts to resolve the issue, and then released the other parties to their own choices. To me, the comfort of choosing behaviors that felt grounded in integrity and honesty far outweighed any discomfort over feeling rejected and misunderstood.

Seasons of Reflection: Emotional discomfort is a signal, an alert to the need for growth. How do you deal with emotional discomfort? What is your go-to when someone pushes your buttons or challenges your favored coping mechanisms? It may be time to reassess your coping tools. How can you welcome the growth you desire?