I have been in a MOOD. A bourbon sipping, Avett Brothers binging, staring out the window, crying at touching commercials: MOOD. Is there a planet in retrograde I can put this blame on?
Just kidding, but I do love blaming celestial events for my uncentered moments.
I started cultivating ‘mindful self compassion’ about 3 years ago now. Unlike unpacking childhood traumas, mindful self-compassion is a set of skills and a way of thinking to help you help yourself in real time. That doesn’t mean it’s easy but it helps you bring awareness to when you’re being reactive or not your true self and when you ARE in your calm centered amazing true self.
For example, my current mood. A little over a week ago I got some news from a person who I have a hard time keeping healthy boundaries with. This news sent me down an old brain path. Brain paths are the series of thoughts that we develop over time. They take you to old familiar moods, behaviors, and usual old comforting negative self talk. I’m using words like familiar and comfortable because even though these brain paths are often really detrimental to your current mental health they are really familiar. You might not realize you’re on a brain path you could step off of. And honestly, it takes years to get familiar with your own paths and gasp— make a new set of healthy paths. It can be hard to recognize that, oh, that’s how I felt about myself when I was 14, not how I feel now.
That’s what happened to me this week. I started interacting with other people in my life in a really weird, old, anxiety driven, attachment greedy way that I had not felt in a few years (likely since I realized I needed better emotional boundaries from said person). I used to just think that was how I felt. That I was just a person with anxiety and attachment issues and I would always be uncomfortable. But after doing lots of personal growth work, I was just so confused why all of a sudden I was feeling like this again because I don’t really like living there. BRAIN PATH AT WORK.
The news I got triggered one of my old negative self beliefs: no one ever chooses me, I’m never good enough because no one chooses me. When I’m my logical self, of course I know this isn’t true in like, every way. But negative self beliefs are insidious and you are so used to repeating them and believing them they sneak right back in, it’s almost comfortable because of the familiarity. I didn’t realize how much anxiety that belief used to trigger in me. It affected 100% of the interactions I had for the rest of the week. By the end of the week I just sat on my couch going, what the F is this feeling??
And that right there is 3 years of mindful self compassion work. The ability to sit with a feeling and say, “THIS IS NOT ACTUALLY ME, this is not how I usually feel, what has happened? What is wrong? I’m off center.” It’s not about trying to understand it (however, these big brain paths often need to be unpacked with a qualified counselor and I have spent many hours crying on couches, believe me.) or making it go away, it’s sitting with it watching it happen in your body. Learning to separate that feeling away from my actual calm, balanced, open true self that is always there but she gets lost down these old paths.
So I journaled more, I mediated more, I walked more, I spent a few days just trying to get a new perspective on this feeling. I try to identify all it’s symptoms: neediness, short of breath, sits in my shoulders, overflow to inappropriate desire for crushes/sexual attention, restless, jumpy eyes, defensive, heavy. All the feelings and physical feelings that happen every time I get a wave of it. There is a balance of letting it be in your body to understand it, and asking it to leave because you’re a badass boss lady and you need your shit together.
Many religions talk about a time when you invite the bad spirit in for tea. You cannot ignore the things that make you uncomfortable. But realize if you can invite that mood, or 22 year old version of yourself in for tea in your mind; YOU are sitting across from them. YOU are still yourself, even in the face of your old or new demons that want to just walk down your old brain paths with your forever and ever. Ask them why they came to you, is there something they need? Or need to tell me? Usually these things are trying to protect you. That’s a sweet thing your subconscious is trying to do, but we can still ask them to leave as we learn new more adult coping mechanisms.
If you’re interested in cultivating this kind of awareness, one of the pioneers is Kristen Neff. She has written many beautiful books and designed various courses in this kind of work. It’s so easy to be nice to everyone but ourselves! It’s a hard skill set to learn. Which seems odd, but is very true. Remember how precious you are!
Be well out there.
Love Dr. J
Stories, projects, and ideas from office to farm. Be well! Dr. J