Sometimes when things in my life don’t go as I’d hoped, I find myself ruminating on it too long after the incident has passed. I mull endlessly over what I could have done differently, imagining what I would change if I could do it over, and beating myself up for my mistakes.
It keeps me stuck in the pain, and prevents me from discovering the wisdom hidden beneath it all.
I recently talked to a client who was in the middle of a long awaited week off work. But instead of relaxing, she was still ruminating on an unsuccessful proposal from the week prior. Sullenly she complained, “Something bad like this always happens before I go on holiday, and then I spend my entire time off thinking about it instead of enjoying myself.”
In the open space created through slowing down and taking time off from work, her mind starts looking for something to keep it busy. So her inner critic finds the most recent imperfection to review again and again.
Here’s the thing:
Staying busy protects you from having to feel your feelings.
But when you don’t stop and feel your feelings, you miss out on the wisdom they contain.
So together, instead of moving on to how we could solve the problem, we slowed it down even more.
Feeling your feelings
She put one hand on her heart and one hand on her belly, took some long slow deep breaths and scanned her body’s sensations. She recognized the tightness in her throat, the constriction in her heart, and just allowed it to be there. She could name the energy as sadness and frustration.
When she brought a nurturing, loving response to herself, she softened and realized she wasn’t actually angry that the proposal had not been accepted, or afraid that her reputation at work would suffer.
Deep down, she was sad that she had ignored her own intuition. Her inner knowing had been that the project was not actually a good fit, and she shouldn’t submit the proposal at all.
When she slowed down to become aware of her feelings and cultivate self-compassion, she realized what she thought was self blame and fear of the repercussions from her mistake, was really a remorse about not listening to her own heart.
Again and again I find this to be true for me as well. In difficult times, my go to response is to speed up and try to think through possible solutions to the problem. But when moving from that place, I often end up spinning my wheels because I’ve missed the real issue.
It’s still hard for me to feel my difficult feelings, and I can spend a lot of time in self criticism. But when I can slow down enough to forgive myself for my imperfections, and lovingly explore the messages from my heart and body, the insights that arise bring healing, and the power to move forward stronger and wiser than before.