Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Mind Change Day 20: Emotional Awareness

While it would be lovely to spend the last 10 posts on environmental awareness--soaking in sights and sounds and tastes and noises and sensations--that is (for me) the easiest part of this program, the one I've had the most practice with. I'm alone a lot, I'm sensitive to sound, and I can slip into a mindful hyperawareness with relative ease and a reminder.

I still have to remember the reminder, though, and pull my attention back from rumination when I'm having a rough day. Sensory awareness is the perfect foil to rumination:

  • first, "catch" yourself ruminating and write down the thought
  • then analyze what the ANT (automatic negative thought) is, and write it down
  • see where you have a cognitive distortion, and what's a more accurate interpretation of the event
  • crumple the paper (I'm not a ripper) and throw it away
  • focus on how you're okay in this moment, and pick a sensory detail around you to ground you
I also am mindfully aware of my senses when I walk, when I'm in bed and can't sleep, when I'm taking a breather from a group or a lot of noise, when my kids raise my ire, when I'm driving quietly, when I'm exploring a new place, when I'm sated and happy--I could do with more regularity (sitting for 10 minutes morning and night in a more meditative kind of head space, for example), but this is a strength.

What is not? Emotional awareness. Remember Stage 2 and all my objections? I will not hop back on that roller coaster but I will say that if I can find a way to slide away from a negative feeling I tend to feel successful, like I evaded the slippery beast. Even when I know it will turn around and bite me in the rump. 

How do I know this? Elongated experience.

Tonight I revisited something that happened 2 weeks ago with my husband something that was not the topic of conversation, something that I had prided myself on sucking up because complaining about it was pointless. 

Except, of course, it wanted to be heard, Got me all riled up, reliving it. Yes, Mark looked pained, and sad. I apologized for the confessional rant (it was over something I'd completely locked up on, and felt both guilt and anger over the struggle), but I had kind of expected this to show its ugly face, given the chance.

It did. 

Then I focused on calming the hell down. My face was flushed, my voice shrill, I was swearing a bit, and though we were in a booth at a restaurant I knew anyone who passed by or was in a nearby table would hear how keyed up I was, and how hard it was for me to say why. 

We talked about what could be done differently next time. This was a short conversation. What I did had basically needed to be done, and I did the best I could. Moving on was the key. 

I said that I'd feel better in our bedroom when I got home, There's a corner chair that is my favorite place to sit. I had work to do there, a lot of books, some All-sorts, a fabulous lamp from Costco. Soundproofing on the door, so it was quiet. The rug was out front drying and I asked if we could bring it back in, that upped the coziness factor. 

Then I settled in and settled down. It was a physical kind of agitation and being physically contained helped. If it was more mental, I would have talked in circles until I let go of my tail, then done the same thing. The kids came in and there were some troubles but I stayed seated and let my husband handle them. Annoying news came in via phone and I passed it on to him with a promise to deal with it tomorrow but didn't otherwise react. I got work done. My husband said dinner had been nice. It had, with this one interlude of anger and sorrow. 

No...it had been nice. I thanked him, and kissed him. The food was good. I loved his company. 

For me, the key to emotional awareness isn't avoiding emotional outbursts. They happen, and I'm not a taking-prisoners kind of arguer.The reasons I hadn't complained at the time were valid (mutual exhaustion), and this wasn't a bad time to process my anger at myself and others over the events. 

For me, the key is apologizing (when appropriate), and then getting myself back to baseline before so I can let go of the muscle tension, the clenched jaw, the tight throat. If not, they'll build into a bigger outburst, over something less valid. Then I'll look like a giant jerk, which I hate. 

So, minor success? 

It will be if I sleep ;). 

Love, Lisa

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