I have noticed that I can be having a really good day and be emotionally hijacked by something from my past arising within me and clouding my experience. It may result in minor negativity or cause total turmoil. It could even be a positive impact. The key point is that my current state is suddenly changed from within, not at all related to my external world. Sometimes the bubbles of emotion come in clusters, really upsetting my equilibrium; other times they occur singly. Each bubble arises with my awareness growing as it nears the surface, and then it reaches the surface and pops. Its contents then become part of my current experience. Like real bubbles that carry gas and scent from the bottom of a lake, the bubbles from within are more intense in their moment of bursting, erupting emotion linked to some past experience into our current world.
At such times I find it best to recognise and acknowledge that I am working with emotion from the past, and process the associated feelings through journalling, talking with my partner, or some other means that enables me to accept and release the emotional eruption. Even positive emotion bursting on the scene needs releasing otherwise we are losing our connection with the present and are being dragged back into the past. The most important thing is realising and accepting it is a natural part of life. The past does reinsert itself from time to time without provocation. It does not signify that we are stuck with an old issue or have some fault with our emotional world. Our psyche naturally lets go of it rubbish, its own cleaning process of our attachments to the past, and when it does we get to deal with it in our current state.
When something goes wrong in an organisation there is all too often the cry, “Who’s to blame?” It is as if there can be a single point of failure in a large, complex organisation, and that all that has gone wrong can be attributed to an individual. Perhaps there has been a situation of fraud, negligence or gross misconduct in which case some person(s) may be easily identified as contributing to the situation. However, even in such clear situations, there are often systemic factors supporting or aiding the guilty. Usually the situation is not so clear, the problems less defined, but organisational politics and scapegoating demand someone be blamed. If someone can be blamed for a situation then it redeems and relieves everyone else, and the organisation can carry on in the false belief that the issue has been dealt with…until it occurs again.
I am aware of organisations where being placed in certain roles is like a death sentence. Wait a year and that person will be found at fault and will exit the organisation. The flip side to that are those positions that, no matter who is in the role, are recognised and rewarded for their valued contribution. Both types of role, forever guilty or perpetually successful, regardless of who fills them, suggests systemic issues rather than the contributions of an individual.
Whenever blame is sought, there is a problem of irresponsibility. Rather than attributing blame, it is better to seek systemic solutions. Everyone needs to honestly ask, “How have I contributed to this outcome?” This approach does require time, effort, responsibility, and team commitment to improved group outcomes. The approach has the potential for getting toward the root of issues and better appreciating the complexity and interrelationship of functions across the organisation. With that understanding it is harder to blame a single element, and the development of organisational wisdom becomes possible.
I wouldn’t call it a great movie but the movie ‘Anger Management‘ released in 2003, starring Adam Sander and Jack Nicholson, did highlight an aspect of anger that is often overlooked and ignored, that of inappropriately not feeling or expressing anger. I can totally relate to this.
I spent many years believing I was patient and tolerant as a person, and that I was naturally even tempered, and well in charge of my emotions. I did not get angry. I did not feel angry. I felt composed most of the time. If I did not feel composed I squashed the feeling response until I did. I grew up with little emotional response to things that occurred around me, and my judgement of myself was that this was good. As an approach it kept me safe, and I now know that is what it was all about, feeling safe. By stifling my experience and expression of emotion I was able to control my external response to people and situations. I looked calm and did not take any sudden action, or cause any ripples with those around me. In fact I had layers of protection that ensured I kept myself to myself.
I had a four-year-old part or role that ran away and hid, feeling unwanted and inadequate. I had a seven-year-old part that looked after the 4-year-old part, keeping him safe and hidden, and could be quite comforting. He was very vigilant to danger and emotionally shutdown. I could cope better as a 7-year-old if I did not show my emotions. The 11-year-old part of me was even more protective, even more emotionally shutdown, keeping both the 4 and 7 year old parts safe, with less of the caring component. At 17 I developed another role within myself that was a response to anger and physical danger. It would use anger and urgency to silence any part of me that wanted to speak out or be noticed. Anger was buried very deep within me under all these layers.
For more than 15 years I have been developing awareness of each of these roles within me, understanding the events at the time that encouraged these roles to develop, addressing the threats and fears that these various roles were created in response to, and learning to express myself more immediately and authentically, sometimes with anger. I now know that anger was a strong part of my life, but feeling unable to express it, I directed it at myself. That was damaging on many levels. Unexpressed anger is problematic and needs to be worked through so full, authentic expression is possible.
Gratitude is a gift to yourself in that it can help expand your sense of who you are and your sense of well being. By connecting with blessings in your life, acknowledging them, and allowing the experience of feeling blessed to wash over you, you also get a increased sense of being okay, worthy, and a strengthened confidence that whatever hurdles you are facing, you can overcome. Ah, the cynics among you might argue, believing you can overcome is potentially deluded, that there is no guarantee. Of course that is the case, but better to face a challenge with a sense of well-being and worthiness than with a belief that you are undeserving and merit bad things happening. Get into gratitude and practice feeling grateful for everything you can identify, and enjoy the benefit of an expanded sense of self. It won’t hurt, and it can make a positive difference to your whole outlook on life.
Little drips of water over a very long period of time will wear away granite. Something that is more sure than water on granite, and far quicker in its process, are the voices in our head that mirror the words we received from our care givers as we grew up. Whatever they said about you, particularly the negatively charged emotional phrases when they were angry or mocking, resurface and repeat on a regular basis. Something may happen during the day, something remarkably insignificant, and you sense a growing anxiety, perhaps frustration, or get angry or into a rage very easily. You may find you are questioning who you are as a person, what you have to offer, and wondering how anyone could love and want you. These little messages which we dismiss mentally as small, irrelevant and to be ignored, undermine self-esteem and can leave us in an unproductive, grumpy, depressed place.
Recognise the voice that is undermining you, acknowledge it, and lovingly let it know that you no longer need that input. Treat the voice with the love you wish it gave you, and find your strength and courage to pick yourself up again. Smiling in recognition at the voice of negativity can open you up with warmth and love, and assist disarming the negativity more quickly. Friends who honestly know you may be able to support you in these moments, these internally generated episodes of fog.
When you are experiencing fear, even if unconscious of it, the tendency is to contract and strengthen protections around you. Much of this process is unconscious and the patterns so ingrained that you don’t even know it is happening. There are some broad categories of fear-based reaction, which I generically refer to as Survive Reactions, fight and flight are very instinctual, based in the amygdala of the brain. Freeze and fabricateare higher brain level reactions. These all carry a short-term focus, are reactionary and at best could be considered tactical. Thrive Responses are based on consciously making choices that are longer-term focused, are based on love rather than fear, and have the potential of creating positive results into the future. The individual thrive responses are assert, attend, act, and authenticate. By recognising when a survive reaction is being used, you can develop a capacity to intercede and choose a thrive response, and create different results. Through practice in developing awareness and owning your ability to choose your own actions, your quality of life can change and your personal power will increase.
Responses vary but many people have a natural response of putting the hurt behind them, looking for the positive way forward, and getting on with life. That’s a great capacity and skill to have. There are times when parking our current feelings and getting on with life is crucial. However, anything overused can be problematic. An alternative, and one not so commonly espoused, is to take some time and be a friend to the part of you that is hurting, or angry, or confused, or whatever it is, and love that part. Ask that part of you what it needs, what it is afraid of, and as a loving friend deeply listen. Loving yourself in those moments of distress and intimately connecting with your feelings and needs, can have potent and lasting healing power, and is a fabulous means to building a meaningful relationship with yourself. It has an integrative benefit where the often shamed and isolated part(s) of you learn to trust, connect and be with the rest of you. Resilience and power can develop more fully in that environment.