Emotional Balance: Riding the Wave

In considering content for my blog, I often write to provide what I hope are stimulating and helpful compilations of wisdom from my many life teachers, a little personal experience and coachy questions that you can choose (or not) to consider for yourself.

This blog called me to write from a personal experience – what happens when I experience anxiety.  So acknowledging my sense of embarrassment and vulnerability that shade my writing for this blog, I want to offer this reflection on emotional balance.  My personal Feldenkrais practice is leading me to exercise greater and greater discernment in my experience.  So I am called to Feldenkrais the hell out of emotional balance.

Monday morning I jumped into a 2-day wave of anxiety.  Two challenging conditions (worries about money and loneliness) in my life collided and I was locked in.  Back to basic self-care – breathing, staying with my emotions and a part of my consciousness watched me rolling over and over in this wave.   When I was absorbed in some part of my daily work, I could surf.  When I shut the laptop, shut the door after a meeting, I was back in the blue, rolling over and over, coping breath by breath.  One version of staying functional while riding an emotional wave.

Emotions – they come and they go.  And sometimes it feels like I get locked in an emotion capsule, stuck until I can find a crack to open up to a more spacious feeling, to let in light, to re-connect with a larger horizon.  I am fenced in by my own feelings.

Our language points to assumptions about emotions as a kind of pressurized energy – something we need to release. 

I boiled over.

I needed to vent.

The language of emotional self-regulation sets up an idea of our emotional experience – as if we have an internal pipeline that can only take so many emotional pounds per square inch (epsi) before we are in danger of blowing.

What happens when you feel a strong emotion?  Is it less like you having the emotion and more like the emotion has you?

I have, in the past, struggled with some perspectives of processing authentic emotions. 

The authentic emotion mantra: Feel your feelings.  Feel them fully.  Fully processing them will allow them to pass through.  Failure to acknowledge or feel emotions fully can lead to states of depression, of anxiety.  (Note to self: what did I ignore to end up in a 2 day anxiety wave?). I struggle with the way this mantra implies a kind of closed-system structure for processing emotions – that all of the experience, all of the attention, all of the personal care work happens within.  

I learned early in life that expressing strong emotions was a burden to others, unwanted intensity and part of the bucket of bad behavior.  Nice girls don’t have strong emotions – it is just so unpleasant for others. Maybe you can relate. 

I experience my emotions within an environment. My concerns about making a living and living with solitude are ongoing ones.  There are skillful means at play to address them – working, growing towards creating sustainable income in work I love and flowing love into connections with people in my life.  And the conditions persist.  In this dynamic life experiment, my emotional balance teeters.

In my multi-decade journey towards abiding with my authentic emotional experience, I have known something was missing for me.  I always wonder about the kind of energetic hangover I feel from fully acknowledging my emotions.  In feeling fully, I tend to feel unbalanced.  It is tempting to only go inside – to ruminate over my feelings, maybe find fault with myself – like throwing another bucket of water into the wave of overwhelm.   Talking through emotions with others helps but rarely do I feel balanced after a good processing talk with a friend.  Just emotionally hung-over.

In my last blog post – What you don’t miss until it’s gone http://www.kindpower.ca/what-dont-you-miss-until-it-is-gone/, I looked at physical balance from the lenses of intention, environment and structure.  Physically, balance is dynamic; when falling, my choice in movement is not reversible but I can choose to respond to my intention, my environment and to manipulate my own structure, to change the process of my movement to go with the fall. 

What if we explore emotional balance through the lens of reversibility?  Can I feel an emotion and reverse it?  Can I make choices in how I go with the flow of my emotions?

When I fell into anxiety, I felt swept away, an emotional momentum that took me until finally passing through me. Could I go with the wave, staying with the shape, the feel of it so I can choose how to exit it? 

What are the resources that would support me to meet that wave, to meet the moment of feeling?  When I acknowledge my feelings coming into a state of anxiety, I can feel I am afraid, I sense something intangible that doesn’t feel right.  I feel my need to be vigilant, alert, dreading the first splash, my attempt to withstand the surge.  I tense up, literally tightening towards my head, losing sensation in my feet and hands. Bracing against what comes amplifies it.

I find I get lost in a strong emotion like anxiety when I lose touch with my intention.  My recent experiencing tumbling in waves of anxiety comes from feeling fully my confusion and uncertainty as I navigate a new path for my business, for my life, encountering new situations, dilemmas and not knowing what to do next. 

Noticing the arising need for grounding (putting my awareness into feeling my feet) and centering (putting my hands, my breath into my belly) and re-creating my felt sense of self from the ground up is useful when I am swept away.

When grounded, I can connect with my purpose.  Why I am here trying to make Kind Power real and not somewhere that feels more secure, feels easier.  Intention gives me a vector, a direction to navigate when I find myself rolling over and over in a wave of emotion. I can put my intention on, even while teetering, while falling, to change the shape of how I move through feeling unbalanced.

This way of abiding within my emotional experience includes staying connected to my environment – both a feeling in and a feeling out.   My intention becomes a life line connecting my unbalanced self to the ground, the ground I sense within and without.   I can roll with the wave, feel what I feel and not get stuck.

So one discernment is noticing my sense of spaciousness – the tighter I hold my anxiety, the more I am locked into the content of my emotions.  I need a sense of space to roll with my emotions – within and without.  Balancing my internal experience with my external environment gives me ground to have my feelings so they don’t have me.  Having come through this wave of anxiety, it is relatively easy to point to the personal resources that support me how to meet the overwhelming wave of fear, dread, despair, the compounded way my experience of anxiety presents itself.   It is relatively challenging to locate them while rolling over and over in each wave of anxiety.  Emotional balance seeks space to have and hold what seems overwhelming, to choose an intention to follow when it is hard to know what is up and what is down. To keep breathing, keep feeling the earth.  To open up the space for the self that knows it is more than this crippling anxiety to re-create myself from the ground up.