Three ways of dealing with difficult emotions...
Everything I do to avoid discomfort. And not to talk about fear or feeling lonely. Over the years I have become more aware about the various strategies I have used. I think especially when they don´t seem to work any longer, like old crutches falling apart.
I am busy preparing for the first ever solo show outside of my own studio (yes!). All sorts of feelings and thoughts are showing up. Some are enthusiastic and full of hope and then suddenly there is lack of energy and even some fear. What if nobody comes to the exhibition? If those who show up will find my artwork unresolved, childlike and incompetent.
At the same time as I know having a deadline is helpful for my focus, I also sense the date as a sharp edge. Time to show up in full regalia and I don´t even have a dress!
I will use my own example with the exhibition to show three different ways of dealing with the situation. You might recognise some of them, after all we are in the same boat here. Hopefully you will find it helpful!
First there is avoidance:
Hiding under the bush, turning your back to the discomfort or fear, procrastinating or diving deeply into something totally unrelated.
- This week I have avoided the fear of rejection by not emailing the church to plan the event. As a result of that I can´t send out the invitations yet.
Wishful thinking is not avoidance as such but can still fit into this category. Nothing is really being done that will change how you feel or relate to the situation.
- I wish for a friend of mine taking charge of the marketing outside the organisation (not his business though, so it will not happen).
Second option: Just do it
Feelings is for somebody else. I have to act now!
This strategy often seem resourceful and brave from the outside, a lot is being achieved with no regrets. The problem is that if you in the process push away all your feeling capacities, in the long run there can be anxiety and exhaustion as well as adding more avoidance strategies to the table. Among them there is alkohol, eating disorders, shopping, drugs, sex abuse etc.
This strategy was my favourite during 20 years in book retail business. What was said about me then was “hard working, nice and curious with leader capacities”. Behind the doors was a person not wanting to be seen as shy or not up to the task. My burnout years later was the best gift life could present me with even though I did not see it as such at the time. Why so? It helped me see and learn how to be a more present and loving human being.
Third way: my preferred one now.
Stopping, listening and become aware of your thoughts and feelings, also those you would prefer not to feel. Then to allow and embrace (I prefer this to the word acceptance) what ever is showing up. I use a lot of self talk: Thank you for telling, I was not aware of the extent of your feelings. Really out of the ordinary, no wonder you are experiencing all this.
And then adding: You know- I will do it anyhow, because it is important for me!
At a first glance this third way seems slower but if you try it, it can be a winning and sustainable path to an easier and more fulfilling life. It´s worth all the work, I know it!
Where does all this exploration lead me with the exhibition?
Work in progress: busy painting some smaller pieces, planning the marketing and starting to send out the invitations. Of course I still notice the discomfort and fear from being out of my comfort zone but I have decided it is totally worth it. I want to show my art and I am going to do it.
If you are interested in learning more about mindfulness practice and inquiry I highly recommend the teacher Tara Brach. Here is a guided meditation for you.