I grew up in a pretty religious environment, and as I got older and more questioning, one struggle stands out. When something difficult or tragic happened, many of the religious people around me would respond with some version of the message that we should sort of just accept the difficulty, and trust in our higher power.
I can feel my blood pressure rising now, even as I write that summary, because that’s just not how we work. There’s a stark hierarchy to human experience, and like it or not, emotion is at the top. Feelings like fear and frustration don’t just evaporate in the face of calming ideas.
My point is not to criticize religion. My point is simply to put a spotlight on an important step that can be ADDED to any strategy or belief system, when we are seeking to be authentically brave.
So here it is …. we don’t have to try to feel one thing at a time. Our current situation will probably mean that fear will be a more constant part of our lives, than maybe it ever has. We will of course still have moments of happiness and calm. But within those moments we may also experience fear.
Sometimes we will viscerally feel the fear. But our adaptive brain will also numb, or turn off our conscious awareness of it, for periods of time.
So we have a new longterm task ahead of us. Fear is rational sometimes. But the fear part of our brain is not always the wisest. And in times like this, the fear part of our brain can waste our energy in ways that actually work against us, both in our relationships and with our health.
In the coming weeks we will be called to oversee things about ourselves that we may never have thought about before.
We will need to oversee our feelings and distinguish fear-based reality from actual reality. We will need to watch out that we aren’t letting fear or frustration tell us how things really are, or what is possible. Fear is always a valid feeling. But it is not our best decision-maker.
So we may need to look for our feelings more consciously. When we find fear or frustration or sadness, we’ll need to give it our compassionate attention for a second or two … AND THEN we can call on our courage to look for the purpose or lesson that we can draw from the circumstance.
Think of it as an emotional seesaw … vulnerability first, THEN strength.
I’ll share my own efforts as of late …
- “I am afraid someone I love will get sick” … I am really afraid of that (so I try to stay with that feeling for about 5 seconds) … AND THEN I’LL SAY … “Okay … I will do my best to be as mindful of my love and appreciation for all my loved ones today.”
- “I am afraid I will get sick and/or worse” … I am really afraid of that (so I try to stay with that feeling for 5 seconds) … AND THEN I’LL SAY … “Okay … I will do my best to use that fear to avoid complacency. I will do my best to live with intention and appreciation for this present moment. I will do my best to create as much connection or contribution as I can right now.”
- “I am afraid we’ll all be limited to texting or social media for a very long time … and I sort of hate texting, and screens and social media if I’m being really honest.” (Anger is the feeling here, so I’ll try to lean into the internal feeling of anger for at least 5 seconds) … AND THEN I’LL SAY … “Okay … I will do my best to use this as an opportunity to stop being a technology curmudgeon. I will try to use this as an opportunity to get over my resistance to something that isn’t my preference. And I will try to remember gratitude for the tremendous blessing that digital communication is providing us during this necessary social distancing.”
I urge you to try the emotional seesaw as a way of staying real with yourself …. compassionate with yourself. You don’t have to jump to bravery.
You can be scared, AND brave or grateful all in one moment.
Make space for your vulnerable reality … and you’ll make space for AUTHENTIC strength soon after.
This is true for our interactions as well. Supporting each other works best when we make room for all of our feelings, not just the brave ones … So what do you think? Comment below with your thoughts, or please share this post with someone else who could benefit.