Tag Archives: emotions

anxiety-God-emotions

Aware of emotions

One of the sessions I attended at the Center for Mind Body Medicine’s Cancer Caregivers training was called Mobilizing, Transforming and Celebrating Emotions. The presenter talked about the need to be aware of our emotions and to express them through movement, drawing, writing, etc. He talked about catharsis and coming into balance.

The presentation was followed by a small-group session where we were led through a guided reflection to help us become more aware of an emotion that was affecting us. We then expressed our awareness through a seven-minute writing exercise—a dialog with that emotion.

Anxiety was the emotion that presented itself to me both during the presentation and again during the guided reflection. The group leader suggested some questions to bring greater awareness of situations we experienced the emotion and ways it was impacting our lives.anxiety-God-emotionsMy dialog with anxiety went like this:

Me: Where do you come from? What do you want? What can I do to lessen your impact on me?

Anxiety: Lessen my impact? Who said you need to lessen my impact or that I want to move out of your life?

Me: I want you gone—or at least I want you to be less powerful and have less control in my life. I want to be at peace, not to have my stomach clench when I am asked a question or when an emotion arises. I want to be able to live in joy and not guilt, to be confident and not second-guess myself, to trust my experiences of affirmation. I want to be proud of my accomplishments and to believe in my capabilities.

I think—I believe—that I can only be free to what “new” God is doing in my life, to actually trust it and embrace it if my anxiety lessens.

Coming to this workshop, I can see how much my anxiety has lessened by what I share—and I can see how much anxiety I still have.anxiety-God-emotionsAnxiety: Perhaps that is the secret—trust and celebrate every, single time you push against me; every time you move against your resistance and fear. Take it in, Jim used to tell you. So, I say it, too. Take it in. I am part of your ancient history. You are not that little girl any more. You can protect yourself. You know what you need to be safe and free. Do that.anxiety-God-emotions

 

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fear-trust-faith

Trust

I think that my blog post last week sparked my thinking about the ways fear has impacted my life. Since writing about love lost, I have been flooded with memories of other occasions when I made decisions based on fear rather than trust.

How many times have I lost love because I was too scared? How many missed opportunities for love have there been?

Fear is useless; what is needed is trust, I tell myself over and over. But living those words continues to challenge me.fear-trust-faithI recently watched Inside Out, an animated film about the emotions that influence our lives—joy, fear, anger, disgust and sadness. Riley, the girl in the movie, grows up in a loving family; when she is eleven, her father’s work takes the family from Minnesota to California. Everything changes, and she goes from primarily being joyful to being terribly angry. In her anger, she loses trust in her parents and makes decisions that are clearly misguided.fear-trust-faithAs I watched the movie, I wondered about my own decision-making history. I wondered how many times my family and friends have watched me make decisions based on fear or anger—and stood by shaking their heads at my misguided choices.

After I had lived in l’Arche for about six months, I came back to Pennsylvania for a two-week holiday. My friends were shocked at my appearance. In those six months, I had lost twenty pounds or so and apparently looked unhealthy. I knew I was fatigued and generally unhappy, but my friends’ reactions were alarming.

“You can’t go back there,” one friend after another told me.

Not go back? I had to go back. I had made a commitment.

But, like Riley in the movie, I was having a really tough time. Change can be so difficult.

How could I admit—after just six months—that I had made a mistake or that I could not do what I had set out to do? Pride and fear paralyzed me.fear-trust-faithGoing back meant my health would continue to suffer. Moving back after six months felt like a failure. Neither option held much hope for me; either way, I felt like I was a disappointment.

Looking back on that time, I can now see options and possibilities that were not clear to me then.

Back then, fear was motivating my decisions. Fear of failure, fear of looking weak, fear of disappointing. My judgment was clouded.

Inside Out shined a light on how memories stack up to create a preference or inclination. If I have lots of joyful memories, I am more likely to expect joy and to look for it. If my memories are sad, fearful or angry, I am more likely to see through that lens.

Moving from fear to trust is a conscious decision, and I have decided to recall two joyful memories every time sad or angry memories surface. Hopefully this small exercise will help tip the scales away from fear and toward trust.fear-trust-faith

 

Buried feelings

“How do you feel about that?” is a very popular question among spiritual directors. On my recent retreat, the director asked that question on day two. How did I feel about something I had shared. “I feel good about it,” I told her.

But she wants more. She wants my emotional response, and “good” is not good enough. I get it. She wants me to touch my emotions. Unfortunately, I don’t have easy access to a lot of my emotions. I have emotions; they are just buried deep within.

Sr. Julia was my spiritual director in PA, and “How do you feel about that?” was a favorite question of hers. I don’t think we ever met without her asking how I felt about something I had told her. It could have been something at work or something in my prayer or, well, just about anything. How did I feel about it?

My stomach knots as soon as I realize the question is coming because I usually don’t know how I feel. (You would think that after thirty years in spiritual direction I would be prepared for the question, but somehow I keep forgetting that it is coming.) Sr. Julia would then suggest we do an exercise called “focusing” to help me get in touch with my feelings. Resistance was my first reaction; I would fight it and try not to roll my eyes (sorry, Sr. Julia).

And then she would guide me on a walk of my interior, emotional landscape. A word or image would come to mind and I would voice it. She would repeat what I had said. She would prod, “anything else?” Yes, the image would expand and soon I would be in touch with my feelings. After one focusing exercise with Sr. Julia during the time I was taking care of Jim, I wrote this in my journal:

I saw a huge, high waterfall—an abundance of water coming over the edge. At the bottom, the water roiled. Then I became aware that the roiling water was polishing the rocks below the surface of the water and making them smooth. I went under the water and it was quiet—like a womb or a tomb. The tomb of Jesus came to mind—God with Jesus in the quiet, in the darkness, with turbulence outside but inside, peace, quiet, trust, love. I am the rocks beneath the water.

How was I feeling? Like the outside world was overwhelming me, and I was being polished by the outside forces, my rough edges were being smoothed; inside I was at peace.

Ultimately, I am grateful to be asked how I am feeling and then pushed to discover what might be buried deep inside.