Have you ever thought “Maybe I’ll just run away and join the circus and escape all this crud going on in my life”? It can sound pretty appealing some days, to just walk away from our troubles, people who trigger us, that feeling that it’s the Groundhog Day movie stuck in a loop.
I had a wise mentor early in my life who used to say quite often… “No matter where ya go, there ya are.” It turns out this quip is very, very true. That unless we take a look internally at the patterns, the hurt, the circumstances, the relationship issues in our lives – even if we change locations, we WILL repeat them at the next stop on the path. The only thing is, they will usually get BIGGER if we ignore or suppress them by pretending they don’t exist or by blaming someone for our hurt. Different places, different faces, but the constant is you and your unhealed stuff.
Unpacking our own emotional baggage is something that takes a great deal of courage because it requires that you get vulnerable enough to become curious about YOURSELF. To lay down your heavy bag of blame, anger, suffering, sadness and instead use your emotional muscle to pry open the box you have the root cause of your pain stored in – many will turn back and unfortunately miss the opportunity and the gift that unpacking your emotional junk contains.
What I’m talking about here is NOT going back over your childhood, dredging up painful memories of hurtful times. YOU ARE NOT THAT PERSON ANY MORE. What I’m talking about is getting CURIOUS in your NOW whenever you feel anything other than positive emotion. Negative emotions are cues to pay attention and dig in a little. To ask some questions of yourself.
Let’s say I wake up one morning super irritated. Everything and everyone is really getting on my nerves and I feel edgy, angry, ready for a fight. Hypothetical, of course. Now, if I am unconscious, I will go into blame. Someone else is responsible for how I’m feeling, they should do this, they shouldn’t do that. If they just wouldn’t. If they just would. This is a very typical REACTION in this kind of feeling. REACTIONS are mostly unconscious ways of dealing with things.
Conversely, if I choose to tap into being conscious, I would RESPOND, slowing down and I will start to ask MYSELF some questions about me and what I'm feeling. My counselor Joy suggests starting with “Is everything okay with my body? Is my exercise regimen on track? Do I feel well? Did I eat something I don’t normally eat?” Check in physically for some clues as to why your emotions are not positive. Then next up she says ask yourself “Is there anywhere in my life where I am out of integrity with myself? Not living my truth? Saying yes when I want to say no? Not living my beliefs?”
Unpacking our less than positive feelings is all about getting CURIOUS. Not judging ourselves for how we feel, just questioning what is behind it so we can take it out, shine our light on it, and let it GO! What we THINK is easier is to stay focused on blame or feeling sorry for ourselves by being in a victim mentality or just hiding – running away and joining the circus. All this does is prolong our healing and gaining wisdom from the situation.
So sure, you can run, you can distance yourself from that person who triggers you, often that is very necessary. AND after you do that – THAT’S when the real work begins. That’s when you have to unpack that 50 lb. duffel bag of emotional junk you are dragging around – that is, unless you want to repeat the lesson you just had the opportunity to learn with that person you distanced yourself from. This is why I believe so many second and third marriages end in divorce… when we don’t take the opportunity to learn about OURSELVES and the story or meanings we tell ourselves in our relationships – we usually just stay in repeat by blaming the other person, denying our part in things or staying in anger or victim mentality. Sometimes we are so asleep in our lives that we aren’t even aware of our negative emotions. It has become a habit to be irritated, frustrated, sad, guilty and we no longer even register that we have dimmed our own light.
“What is this here to teach me?” This person, this situation, this diagnosis, etc… Or “Is what I am thinking about this situation true?” Those are the RESPONSES that will lead you to wisdom, to healing, to an open heart. As soon as you get the lesson, you get to move on. Responses, unlike reactions, take thought and willingness to slow down and get curious rather than defend, close down or blame.
We all get to choose. Choose to stay chained to our unquestioned patterns and emotions or to have the willingness to get curious about how we feel and the story behind those feelings. Healing happens when those stories are no longer in the driver’s seat of our lives. People who trigger us – no doubt, when we are around them our old pattern will come right back up to the surface if we don’t work on our stuff when they aren’t around.
In her book Concious Uncoupling Kathrine Woodward Thomas lists as the three biggest mistakes in a relationship breakup as having to do with not looking at or owning our own story...
Mistake #3: "Buying into the myth that time heals all wounds. It's not time that heals you, it's YOU. If you broke your leg, you wouldn't just leave it to time to heal it - you'd use tools to help it heal so you didn't limp the rest of your life! You have to be proactive in healing your heart."
Mistake #2: "Not owning your own sh@#. Blaming either the other person or ourselves. Blame stunts growth because it victimizes ourselves." See past Sandy Chat's for more on this topic!! If the only rule in your relationships was that you both agreed to own your own emotional stuff - your whole life would change. I guarantee it.
Mistake #1: The biggest mistake Thomas lists in leaving a relationship: "In an attempt to detach from someone we love, we start hating them." Again, this adds up to avoidance of ourselves by focusing on the transgressions of the other person. Often we replace the negative bond of love with a bond of hatred or blame - this is actually keeping the connection alive with the other person, just in a negative way that hurts US through it's toxic thoughts and words that we carry. Not the other person. You don' have to hate someone to end a relationship with them, amazing idea, huh.
Look closely and you'll see that all three of these biggest mistakes we make in ending relationships are attempts to avoid looking within and you can certainly choose these routes, and many do. But if you are hoping to find love and happiness - these routes will not lead you there. These are routes that lead to repeat of the same story line with new cast members.
As Brene’ Brown says, when we get to our own truth we then have the opportunity to write our own ending to the storyline we have going. There’s a saying that says “Don’t judge me by the chapter of my story you walked in on.” While I’m guessing this was intended to say don’t judge me based on the info you have about me, you have no idea what brought me to this place. I think we need to apply this to ourselves. Don’t judge YOURSELF for the chapter of your story you are in. Choose what comes next in the story of you by getting curious and focusing on what you want. You can even wear a cape if you like! – heck, it’s your story, write it the way you want it to go!
Want to listen to more on this topic? The Double XX Factor show on KMA is a three minute burst of inspiration that you can listen to any time! Click here for the latest from Spencer Williams and myself and what we are learning on our path as we continue to open up places in our lives and clear out the clutter!
Sandy Edie Hansen
I use this space to "Chat" about things I am working through and learning in my life currently. Join me!