Image by Pete Linforth
Have you experienced some turbulence in these last months? It seems like these recent times have presented many folks with personal unexpected life-altering struggles.
Our own trials and tribulations, in addition to the surreal political situation and what's happening throughout the world is taking a toll on our emotional, physical, psychological, and mental well-being. If you want to recover from whatever dose of reality you've encountered, help, in the form of this month's article, is on its way.
Transitions are a Part of Life
Unexpressed past and present hurts, losses, and painful transitions are inevitable. It can be a death of someone dear, the ending of a lovely job, a divorce or breakup, a compromising illness, a hard-fought sports or competition defeat, financial stress, moving out of the old neighborhood, or hearing about other's sufferings. Denial that the event is a big deal only prolongs the pain and increases feeling untethered, flat, and miserable.
As long as we have attachments to people, possessions, and situations, we will have emotional reactions to changes and endings. We might think that we'll feel out of control if we allow ourselves to acknowledge what we are truly feeling. This false notion keeps us from being able to process the transition and fully move on.
Losses occur when something of meaning is no longer in our proximity. Hurts are injuries, whether they are physical, emotional, relational, or spiritual. In both cases, the internal, physical sensations of being heartbroken nag at us.
What is the price we pay for not facing our devastating transitions?
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We can feel sadness, feeling so detached that day-to-day activities don't hold our interest or seem meaningless. We can fume in anger, not wanting to face the harsh reality that things didn't work out the way we wanted. And we can feel shattered with the world seeming extra cruel. Our sense of safety can feel compromised and we may become acutely aware of our own and others mortality and vulnerability.
An Overview of How to Navigate Transitions
I don't want to get too theoretical here, but to really process what has happened in your life, you need to cycle through and use all five of your tools.
Remember the 5 Tools
In terms of dealing with our particular calamity, here's what's needed:
1. Emotions -- handle them responsibly so they don't leak out on others
2. Thought -- make sure you embrace the reality about your transition
3. Intuition -- after using the first two tools, look within your heart to see what's you need to do to feel complete
4. Speech -- make any necessary communications
5. Action -- move forward, and do what you know is best/highest
In this article I'm primarily dealing with how to use the first two tools (emotions and thoughts) because they are the ones we most often skip, but provide a firm foundation to take action so we can truly let go and move on.
Processing a Significant Transition
First, you need to acknowledge that you've experienced something significant and know that it has impacted you. With this important step out of the way, it's best to talk with someone you trust about what you're experiencing. Maybe it's a friend, family member, counselor, or just yourself. It doesn't matter who. The person just needs to feel safe and nonjudgmental. They need to lovingly listen and encourage you to talk about what happened -- what you miss and what you appreciated most about what is gone. That means they don't share their "wisdom" or personal experiences, but compassionately and silently witness your pain.
As you talk, focus on what evokes your emotions. Know this, emotions are just pure energy in the body. They are predictable physical sensations that are part of being human. Emotions mean sadness, anger, or fear. Probably all three are involved to some extent. Freedom comes from facing your loss and allowing yourself to feel your natural emotions.
I'll go over the 3 emotions one by one. There are only three emotions that need to be addressed. The first is often sadness, though some people are initially pissed about what happened, and others might react with fear.
Crying is healing because it's the body's natural reaction to hurts and losses. It expresses the pain and loss and frees you up to move forward once again with flexibility, confidence, and an open heart. Cry, sob, and wail until there are no longer tears or feelings of sadness when you recollect the hurt or loss at hand. How much time this will take is determined by how deeply it affected you. Expressing the pain is not about dwelling on regrets but honoring your emotions.
You can cry alone, in therapy, or with a friend. Say the "dreaded" G word -- good-bye -- to fully acknowledge the ending. This can seem incredibly hard and usually brings up more sadness -- "Good-bye." If you can't seem to cry, here are some ways to get the ball rolling:
* Look at pictures or mementos
* Visit shared places
* Reminisce about good memories
* Verbalize what you appreciated, loved, and liked about what you've lost
* Write about what you will miss
* Look at the good you experienced
While you are crying, saying the following things can help you get in touch with your emotions and face the reality.
I miss you.
I feel so sad. I just need to cry. My heart hurts.
We had good times.
I love you.
It's really over.
I wish you well.
If you feel anxious that awful things might happen again in the future or wonder how you'll survive, it's necessary to deal with your fear in order to truly process your loss. Instead of tightening up, shake it off. (Here is a link to Taylor Swift's video about shaking. Now this gal understands both fear and life.)
Like a dog cowering at the vet, shake and shiver the fear out of your body. It will probably seem weird at first, but give it a try (ham it up to get started). While trembling to honor the physical agitation you are experiencing in your body, (heart racing, knot in stomach,) keep your mind on the reality. Your focus on future thoughts and possibilities will only feed the fear. Try repeating truths to combat this..."Everything will be all right. Everything is okay. This is not in my control. Some force larger than me is in control."
Anger might also be lurking because of how unfair this unforeseen tragedy seems. Find a constructive way to release this: pound old telephone books with a flexible plastic hose, push against a door jamb, shout into a pillow, or stomp out the anger energy - hard, fast, and with abandon -- where no one or nothing of value is destroyed. While moving the anger energy, you need to remind yourself that, "This is what is. That's the way it is. Life is not always fair." Keep repeating these phrases until you truly accept that life's not always fair and that the cosmic plan is unfathomable.
There is often a tendency to get down on ourselves, feel helpless and hopeless, or sorry for ourselves during these times of transition, so it is important to entertain positive thoughts about the person we know we are when we're clear.
Along those lines, it's important to forgive yourself for any regrets. Learn whatever lessons you need to take from the hurt or loss and move forward. Repeat as needed "I did the best I could at the time."
Your Bright Future
Whenever you feel like you are sinking, spacing out, and just going through the motions of living, remember it's a sign that you need to talk about it more with someone safe, as well as to honor your emotions. Maybe that means setting aside a few minutes in your day to cry, shiver, or "pound" and say good-bye again. It's time to check with your intuition to determine what action you need to take to truly let go so you feel complete and can fully handle the present and make the best of your future.
It takes time to heal when we lose something or someone dear. By talking and honoring and expressing our human emotions, we realize mourning and dealing with the emotional component is a natural human process. The upshot is we can once again experience our other three emotions -- joy, love, and peace.
Your energy will gradually return. Your heart will be filled with a sense of sweetness as you say good-bye and focus on the positive effects of your loss or hurt. You'll be ready to say hello to the present, re-engage, and open your heart again.
©2019 by Jude Bijou, M.A., M.F.T.
All Rights Reserved.
Book by this Author
Attitude Reconstruction: A Blueprint for Building a Better Life
by Jude Bijou, M.A., M.F.T.
With practical tools, real-life examples, and everyday solutions for thirty-three destructive attitudes, Attitude Reconstruction can help you stop settling for sadness, anger, and fear, and infuse your life with love, peace, and joy.
About the Author
Jude Bijou is a licensed marriage and family therapist (MFT), an educator in Santa Barbara, California and the author of Attitude Reconstruction: A Blueprint for Building a Better Life. In 1982, Jude launched a private psychotherapy practice and started working with individuals, couples, and groups. She also began teaching communication courses through Santa Barbara City College Adult Education. Visit her website at AttitudeReconstruction.com/
* Watch an interview with Jude Bijou: How to Experience More Joy, Love and Peace