I am generally an optimistic, happy person. The glass is ½ full; I try to look for the good in even the most challenging situations; I believe that people are inherently good and that everything will turn out the way it’s supposed to. I am grateful for my health, my family, my friends, my beautiful home and for living a joyful life.
I would describe my typical outlook on the world as ‘shiny’ or ‘bright’.
I’m also empathic. That is, I take on the emotions of other beings, sometimes to the point of feeling their pain as if it were my own. In fact, I think that my empathy combined with my shiny outlook, has served me to find great meaning in my life: guiding me to start my nonprofit which sought to inspire and empower to kids to make a difference in their communities, and my current work of supporting women to discover who they are beyond being a mom.
But there are times when my empathy can get the better of me. During the height of the lockdown, when all hell was breaking loose with the world – politically, socially, environmentally (with the wildfires) - I had to unplug so I wouldn’t succumb to the depths of despair in whatever episode I was watching play out on TV. The pain people were suffering and the seemingly never-ending litany of negative stories was too much.
I became somewhat paralyzed.
It’s during those times that everything I believe gets called into question leaving me reeling and up ended. The anger, sadness and pain are overwhelming. Maybe everything won’t turn out for the better? Maybe people aren’t inherently good after all?
It’s a feeling I can only describe as the opposite of shiny: it’s dull and gray.
Over time, I was able to pull myself out of it, primarily by shielding myself from the news. I also relied on my old ‘stand-bys’ from my self- growth toolkit – practicing gratitude, finding opportunities to help others, getting out in nature, meditating and general self-care.
More recently however, I found that old familiar ‘dull’ feeling returning, and no matter how hard I tried, nothing was working. I felt no space for creativity. Everything felt difficult. Nothing was in flow. I was a hammer and everything was a nail.
No matter what I did, the dullness just kept hanging on like a cloud just over my shoulder, despite shielding myself from the news and trying to focus on positive, uplifting things. I was frustrated – why couldn’t I work my way out of this?
I needed additional support. I called in my coach.
After we caught up and I explained what was happening, she asked me how I was feeling. And suddenly I had this overwhelming feeling of deep sadness. Through tears I said ‘sad. I just feel really, really sad.’
And there it was. It became evident that no matter how much I was trying to shield myself from the world events at large, they were seeping into my consciousness. And making me really, really sad.
But how can I have so many amazing things happening in my life, so much to be grateful for and still feel sad? What’s wrong with me?
She reminded me that in order to move through those feelings, you have to acknowledge them and make space for them. Until you do, nothing feels good.
Then she said something that really drove the point home: ‘It’s like taking a psychic dump.’
Then she gave me this analogy: ‘You know how when you’re constipated, and you feel horrible. And no matter how beautiful the plate before you, you can’t eat it. You’re blocked and bloated and uncomfortable and nothing tastes good, nothing feels good.’
Always up for a good poop metaphor and all too familiar with that feeling, I answered ‘Yes, unfortunately I do’.
Well, your feelings are similar to being constipated. Only instead of poop that needs to move through, you have emotions that you need to move through. Until you identify it, acknowledge it and feel it, you will feel bad. There is no room for joy.
The light went on. I realized I needed to allow for my sadness instead of trying to push it away. I needed to feel it and let it wash over me. Just because I felt sad didn’t mean I couldn’t also have joy. One doesn’t cancel the other one out. It is possible to feel an emotion – to have it be a part of me - and not let it define me. It’s possible to be ‘both’ ‘and’.
I can be extremely grateful for all the good in my life and maintain my belief that people are inherently good. And there is a part of me that feels sad.
So how do you initiate a big psychic dump?
Identify and acknowledge the feeling you’re feeling. ‘I feel _____’. Give yourself the time to sit in quiet and reflect.
Identify where it resides within your body, and visualize that place. I felt the sadness in my core. It was gray, and black and kind of an amorphous blob.
Create space around it in your minds’ eye. This helps to identify it as part of you without having it identify as you.
Move through it. Sometimes you need to let the feeling overwhelm you – for me, I had a big, snotty cry. Well, a few if I’m being honest. And I can’t promise I’m done yet!
I can say that just the naming of it helped me to start the healing process. I am starting to get my shine back and the gray periods are becoming less and less. I am also continuing with self care – spending time in nature, meditating, exercising, spending time with friends – which always heals the soul.
How about you? Is it time to get your shine on?
It’s never too late to begin to live a life of true purpose and intention. If you enjoyed this blog and want to take things even further, or simply would like to have a chat about what the future is going to look like for you, I am happy to help!