Recovery: Dad, family, letters = closure

Short post today.  I don’t have a lot to write about and too many ideas percolating.

Last Thursday, I hand wrote 3 letters and put them in the mailbox for Friday pick up.

  • One letter to my Dad
  • One letter to family I talked to last December
  • One letter to the rest of my mother’s family

Handwritten letters felt more authentic and right than computer printed letters.  A blue mailbox eliminated the need to provide a return address.

It’s been 3 days since I sent the letters.  Yes, I am still scared.  Yes I am not happy about having to send the letters.  Yes I wish I didn’t have to do any of this.

But our lives are going to mix again in the future.  It’s inevitable since I am close to my paternal grandmother. Going back to visit friends and loved ones increases my chances of running into one of them by accident.

And that’s my closure.  I wrote to them; gave them a means to connect if they want it; and kept myself safe so that this life can keep growing and changing.

What does closure mean to you?

Thanks for reading.

Resources: TED Talks about Negative Feelings

I really enjoy watching or listening to TED talks.

My first experience of TED talks was through the BARCC Hotline when a counselor suggested I listen to Brene Brown’s presentation about shame and vulnerability.  Since then, I’ve discovered other wonderful resources about feelings, nutrition, brain physiology, magic, etc.

Unfortunately, I’m not that great about keeping up with TED talks and many other video resources.  Movies and video don’t really have a big impact on my senses, so they are low on my priority list for distractions, resources, or coping strategies.

In this way, I am grateful for my friends who do enjoy videos and share links on social media.  This video made its way to me via Facebook.  As I write this post, I’m listening to the TED Talk about negative feelings.

The free account won’t let me embed and show the video on this post, so please click on the link above or here to watch.

Psychologist Susan David shares how the way we deal with our emotions shapes everything that matters: our actions, careers, relationships, health and happiness. In this deeply moving, humorous and potentially life-changing talk, she challenges a culture that prizes positivity over emotional truth and discusses the powerful strategies of emotional agility. A talk to share.

This lesson took me many years to acknowledge, let alone understand.  Now, I’m working to accept my negative feelings.  Maybe some day, embrace them too.  Then I’ll be able to let those feelings go and move on.

Thanks for reading.

Anger: Learning to acknowledge and feel anger inside

 

My Terrible Temper

Have I mentioned that I have a terrible temper?  Well, I do.  And that temper gets let out when I do feel angry – not frustrated, or upset, or irritated – so I work hard not to go there.

The only times I truly feel anger (even rage) are when I get triggered into flashbacks or fight/flight/freeze/faint responses.  And then, it’s often one or more alters who feels this anger and shares the memories with us.  We all work together cope with the anger safely now.  No one wants to lash out or take this anger out on undeserving people in the outside world.

Only the outside world?

Sometimes it feels that way.  The anger inside me/us is deep, old, and strong.  Much of it is directed at people who are not part of our lives anymore.  But before they departed our lives, these predators convinced the majority of us that we need to be angry with ourselves and not them.  Even now, many of the alters in our system still believe this and turn the anger inwards.

Feeling the Energy Change Around Me

When you or someone around you is angry, do you feel the energy or environment change around you?  Does your stomach start to hurt or your head suddenly ache?  Do you feel scared of the anger?  Does it change your mood?  Can you feel the anger intensify as an argument escalates?  Can you feel the anger die down as people calm down and try to talk it out using different tones?

I do.

That is what I experience every time I feel angry or someone around me feels angry.  Why?  Not sure, but here is my reasoning.  **Here again I feel the need to remind guests that this is only my opinion (the AlterXpressions System) and not that of anyone else.**

Anger is an emotion.  Emotion is charged energy.  Energy spreads out once it’s released into the atmosphere.  And because anger scares me, I tend to reject or deny or avoid it.  I would look for an escape when the anger is around, but not directed at me. I would try to avoid confrontations so that I don’t experience the trembling, sick, shaky, confusing, negative feelings afterwards.  That never worked though.

Instead, the avoidance, rejection, and denial seemed to attract more and more angry feelings, negative energy, confrontations, explosions of anger from myself etc. into my world.  Got to the point where I was afraid to be around anyone in case the anger spilled out of me or someone else around me.

What changed?

  • Learning (as an adult) that feelings are real and that expressing one’s feelings is a natural, healthy part of being human.
  • Understanding what emotions are and how our mind uses the information they provide to help us stay safe & make connections with others.
  • Finding caring individuals who understand the language/experience of trauma and are willing to help victims/survivors teach themselves coping techniques for overwhelming feelings (aka Dialectical Behavioral Therapy).
  • Learning other coping techniques to help understand how feelings/emotions affect thoughts & behavior (aka Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) so that patterns can change for the better.
  • Understanding that energy can be changed
    • Feelings eventually go away
    • there are many other techniques to help accept the feelings instead of denying them.
    • aka meditation, grounding, Acceptance Commitment Therapy, Exposure Therapy, Hypnosis Therapy, Somatic Therapy, and the list goes on.

Once I stopped rejecting the anger and started accepting it, the anger felt less intense each time.  My temper stopped getting the better of me.  And I stopped attracting so much anger and negativity into my life.

Another Use for Grounding

Every anniversary and holiday I struggle with overwhelming feelings and anger.  They make the time off feel stressful because my usual coping strategies and techniques are necessary but not sufficient.

**While I understand many of you may feel skeptical about reading books like this, please do  try to keep an open mind.  Many of the ideas and information on this website and blog come from alternative healing and alternative thought resources.**

And then I went to my favorite new age book store last Sunday and found a book called “The Reluctant Empath”.   The authors are two practicing shamans who tell the story of a young man who struggles with being extra sensitive to his environment.  The authors discuss coping strategies & grounding techniques for dealing with the energy and feelings the boy used growing up.

Two things stood out from the first 4-5 chapters:

  1. These people were not telling me I need to shield myself from the negative or the positive feelings & energy as the only effective way to cope
  2. These people were telling me that there is an alternative that works better BUT
    1. It’s counter-intutitive
    2. It takes a lot of practice
    3. It means facing fears

What is the alternative?

Grounding out the feelings – yes a grounding coping strategy

Now, I’m not going to be the best at explaining this concept right now.  To be honest, I’m still learning how to use it.  But here is my take on their grounding technique:

Our minds & bodies are conduits for energy.  Energy helps our heart beat, blood flow, brain work, etc. as it flows through us.  Why not use that flow to move external energy in, through, and out of ourselves instead of letting it get stuck in our bodies?

Their technique resonated with me because I use something similar to cope with negative feelings and tolerate overwhelming feelings.  My version of this is the visualization technique discussed here

Conclusion

I used to think my problem was with expressing angry feelings.  Now I understand that the issue is with acknowledging and accepting these angry feelings.  By facing my fears around anger and acknowledging anger instead of rejecting it, I am changing the way I think and feel about the emotion and myself.  I can accept myself and the anger inside me now.

By acknowledging the anger as part of me, I am learning how to face and cope with some of the scariest parts of my past so that my recovery can continue moving towards true self-acceptance and a thriving life.

Thanks for reading

 

 

Coping Strategy: Letting go of negative feelings visualization

This is my first time trying to articulate a meditation practice that I created and want to share.  Please excuse any awkwardness as I try to put this into a framework that makes sense outside of my mind.  Feel free to skip the background section and go right to the visualization practice instructions at the bottom of the post.

Background

I have always struggled with expressing and letting go of negative feelings, especially anger and shame.  My parts also struggle with finding healthy, positive, safe ways to express and then let go of anger.  Shame is something all of us try to acknowledge and let go of, but sometimes requires the assistance of an objective third party.

Many people will say that exercise, journaling, crafts, punching pillows, yelling, dancing, tearing paper, drawing, etc. can help release the negative energy that comes with anger.  I agree with those people in a general sense.  Personally, every single one of the suggested activities can be or is triggering and makes my feelings worse.  Only in the past year have I been able to utilize any of these strategies without being triggered.

Lashing out is not something I ever wanted to do.  Therapy and internal reflection taught me how to identify triggers that caused the lashing out at other people/objects/beings.  Real friends and mentors helped me become aware of my words and actions so that I could change my behaviors through a combination of CBT and DBT.  These days I hardly ever lash out at others.  And when I do, I work hard to reflect on why and not feel shame about making a mistake.

The Hotline and therapy sessions along with self-help books eventually helped me stop lashing out at myself – punishment, self-harm, reckless and dangerous behaviors – except under certain conditions when I have to use last resort coping strategies.  Meditation, reflection, and grounding strategies helped me the most with this kind of lashing out.

But none of these strategies or techniques helped me safely express the negative energy that comes with feeling angry or let go of the negative feelings that come from a flashback.

I had to figure out a way to express or let go of the energy stressing out my body without physical activity that caused more instead of less pain and negativity.

That’s how this meditation or visualization practice works.  It helps me let go of the negative feelings and associated energy bursts without moving or harming anyone.  Maybe it will help you too.

The Visualization

Move into a comfortable position that supports your whole body (I prefer lying down)

Close your eyes and take several slow, deep breaths.  Inhale for 10 seconds.  Pause for 10 seconds.  Exhale for 10 seconds.  Repeat.

Next imagine you are sitting in a clear bubble.  You can see everything around you (a 360 degree view), but none of it can reach you inside the bubble.  You are safe inside the bubble.  You control what enters and leaves the bubble.

All around you the negative feelings are moving – sometimes they look like dark clouds, other times bright streams of light; maybe monsters, or spiders, or ghosts.  But you are safe inside your bubble.  The negative feelings can’t hurt you or take over.  The negative energy can’t hurt you or take over.

Now imagine a large recycling container with a vacuum on one side and a hose on the other side.  The vacuum sucks the negative feelings and energy into the container.  The container recycles the negative feelings and energy into neutral feelings and energy unrelated to you and any of your experiences.  Then the hose pumps the neutral feelings and energy back into the universe.  All of this is done using a remote control.

The remote control is inside your bubble.  You turn on the recycling container and adjust the speed.  As you watch, the vacuum starts sucking up the negative feelings and energy. You control the speed and sound of vacuuming and the recycler.

Slowly, but surely, the area around your bubble changes, becomes lighter, less crowded, less foggy until all of the negative feelings and energy bothering you right now is gone.  You turn off the recycling container, put it away, and observe your surroundings.

Notice any color changes, or sensory changes.  Notice your breathing – is it still slow and deep, or rapid and quick.  Observe how your body feels – are the muscles relaxed or tense?  Observe your energy levels – have they lowered or evened out or something else? Observe your feelings – do you feel more or less clearheaded, calm, relaxed?

Take two slow deep breaths.  Inhale for 10 seconds.  Pause for 10 seconds.  Exhale for 10 seconds.  Repeat.

Continue to breathe slow and deep.  Open your eyes when you feel ready.

***feel free to substitute your images for mine at any time in the visualization.  Some people prefer sitting inside an auditorium with a clear dome or laying on the grass instead.  The goal is for you to try this meditation and then adapt it to suit your specific needs if it works***

Thanks for reading this long post.