Sometimes, we feel bad. Scared, guilty, worried, anxious… All the feels in the general category of ‘bad.’
When you combine feeling bad with geekly propensities towards intensity, feeling-in-detail, and overactive minds, you get a whole heap of trouble.
Overthinking, ruminating, severe anxiety. Paranoia, at the extreme end of the scale.
The mind runs amok with the shoulda, woulda, coulda’s of beating oneself up, re-running events over and over in your mind’s eye, and planning a thousand different outcomes to the one which has actually happened.
Motivation is skewered by paralysis-analysis as the fast and inventive mind discovers even more ways that your venture or excursion could go drastically wrong.
Underneath your mind making havoc for you, are some emotions that have yet to be known, felt and released. Sounds trite? Keep reading… it’ll fit together.
Imagine a hamster, yes, a hamster, running away on its little wheel. This hamster loves running a wheel. It’s totally driven to run on the wheel. When it stops running on one wheel, it skidaddles to the next nearest wheel, launches in and speeds away. Imagine hamster-wheel-heaven with an infinity of wheels.
Now make the hamster invisible.
You see a wheel spinning. It’s rattling and squeaking. The bars of the wheel flash in the light as they fly around. You want to stop it. So you grab a pencil and jam it into the wheel housing, locking the wheel.
Then a few seconds later, the rattling starts again. It’s slightly different, but the same squeaky rattling, the same irritating flashes of light. Pick up another pencil, jam it, and relax.
And another wheel starts up. Aargh!!
Pencil. Jam. Relax.
… squeak squeak… rattle rattle…
It’s not going to work. No matter how many pencils you jam into however many wheels, it’s going to continue.
Your only way out is to sort out the invisible hamster. Which you can’t see, remember, and maybe you don’t even know it’s there.
Your mind is the set of wheels. The squeaking, rattling and flickering is your anxiety, overthinking, or stress, making you uncomfortable. Your anxiety-damping strategies are the pencils. The hamster is the emotion – or emotions – that you’re currently ignoring (consciously or unconsciously).
You need to talk to your hamster – the emotional part of yourself – and help it to calm down, and not be so frantically desperate to run wheels.
Connecting with the emotional part of yourself can be quite an undertaking if you’ve not been in contact with it for a long time. Some of us have a tendency to be disconnected from ourselves. Some of us have patterns from our families-of-origin that encourage such disconnect. So there can be things in the way.
Usually, there’s a way to connect. It may take time and effort. It may be uncomfortable – venturing out of your comfort zone is, by definition, uncomfortable! But it’s possible.
Physically, go for a walk, a swim, or generally move yourself in a way that you enjoy. Get into your body. This makes no sense until you know what being in your body feels like, and if the last time you were in your body was a long time ago, you probably have no idea that you’re not in your body. If you have no idea whether you’re in your body or not, assume that you’re probably not! Put a regular walk into your day, or some stretching or yoga exercises (find a session on YouTube that you enjoy), or simply have a long shower or soak in the bath.
The art of feeling into your emotions and experiencing them directly can be learned. Through meditation, through dialogue with good friends (who can handle emotions themselves) or a counsellor or coach, through yoga, Tai Chi or any of the other self-awareness building physical exercises. Emotions are in the body, felt in the body, so the more you’re in contact with your body, the more you become aware of the hamster and what it needs.
If you’re avoiding being in your body, through alcohol, drugs, overeating, undereating, living in your head (immersed 24/7 in books, TV series, internet, gaming) or other escape routes, be kind to yourself. There’s probably a lot of emotions in there to be discover and processed, so take it gently.
When you can make contact with your emotions, you can unravel the hell-bent-ness of your inner hamster and find out what it really wants. Mostly, our emotions want to be felt and acknowledged. Sometimes they need to be acted on – unhappiness: get out of this relationship; hurt – grieve that loss; anticipation: prepare for this forthcoming event.