Have you ever been upset about something yet felt that it wasn't okay or appropriate to process the resulting emotions? Maybe you thought that they would just pass and go away on their own? Or maybe, it’s been so long since the event that it’s difficult to identify or define the presence of the emotion at all.
The saying, “the calm before the storm” describes the moments of tranquility before the onset of a major weather change. What about if we flipped it to say, 'the storm before the calm’ when we talk about processing an emotional state that has been occupying the body? Under the surface the storm has been brewing all along, there’s an un-ease that can spill over into our daily lives, knowing that we are off or maybe it can show up in an endless array of physical symptoms.
To best be in a flow state, we must welcome calm within the tumultuous storms of life's challenges.
HOW TO DO IT 1: Acknowledge the storm to begin moving towards calm.
To deny emotions is doing ourselves a disservice; they are talking to us all the time on an unconscious level. Using a bottom up approach can be helpful to process them. Grounding into the body, feeling our feet on the floor, breathing (by using HeartMath® techniques) or feeling where the emotion is trapped in the body and placing a hand there. One of the best ways I’ve found is to go outside on the grass, barefoot, breathing deeply and feeling the warm earth beneath my feet. Or, sometimes I find dancing, shaking it out or taking a walk helpful. Screaming into a pillow can also help an acutely stressful emotion run its course.
There is no right, wrong, good or bad emotion. We can, however, think of them as depleting or renewing in the context of how they affect us. I think of them as having a language all their own that gives us signals to come back into our own self trust. We need to work with our emotions as a team. After all, life would be very dull without them.
For example, I’ve always had an issue with internalizing depleting emotions, partially because my instinct in any place of conflict is to freeze. As a result, I’ve found myself at times, stuck with unprocessed emotion over the years. But what I’ve learned to do, and it has been truly eye-opening, is to lean into the emotion and express it before it’s internalized and becomes unprocessed. A perfect example of this is after a trauma, animals will have a natural instinct to express their pent up energy by shaking. After they're done, the fight or flight response is neutralized.
*In brain retraining we focus on the old pathways (the storm) and how to change course by using the rewiring steps to bring us into a parasympathic state.
HOW TO DO IT 2: Accept that storms are part of life and integrate them into the experience.
If we don’t recognize the futility of fighting a storm, it will use our energy better spent on other things. I’d like to say that I don’t have a history of this but I won’t, because it’s not true. Diverting emotions comes easily to me as someone who has a people-pleasing relationship with conflict and disturbance. Instead of standing up to the storm, I sit passively in it wondering how I got here. At the same time, a message from within tells me that it’s possible to integrate it. More recently, It’s become clear to me that acceptance is at the heart of weathering any storm.
To find calm in a storm, stop fighting it.
*In brain retraining, we learn how these emotional outbursts can originate from limbic system dysfunction and how to curb them by envisioning a new path forward.
HOW TO DO IT 3: Know that the storm will pass and that choices made within it may not be wise long term. (It’s only a storm and it’s best to wait it out)
I’ve acted on emotion about as many times as you probably have. We all do it and we all regret it. I could share many stories of times when emotion led me to act like a fool, but let me just give you one everyday example: I recently found out I can no longer go to an event I’d been looking forward to, I proceeded to project that anger and disappointment onto my husband in Costco of all places. I acknowledged and accepted how it affected me and requested that we stop all conversation until I was able to do some breath work to integrate the emotion.
*In brain retraining, we learn how to recognize false messages and maladapted emotional responses and make different choices.
Learning to acknowledge a storm when it’s here by developing our capacity to pause when triggered and also to become aware of when we are triggered. Most of our problems come from us not realizing that we’re triggered before it’s too late.
Learning to accept and to weather a storm really just means learning to become a master weather watcher (curious observer).
Knowing that the inevitability of storms means maintaining a mature perspective of life and realizing that we have the power and tools to create our state at any given time.
How do you change course on a storm that's been brewing under the surface?
Dawn Minami a Certified Health Coach, HeartMath®, Master NLP® and Mental and Emotional Release® Practitioner. She is also the mother of a family that spent the best part of a decade all living with Lyme disease. Having liberated not only herself, but also her husband and 3 children, she is now a passionate advocate for neuroplasticity, breaking free from our patterns and building great health against the odds. Dawn is now making up for lost time pursuing yoga, hiking, singing and spending time in nature with her limbically challenged rescue boxer, Faith. Dawn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Instagram @dawnbradleyminami
*Mental and Emotional Release® is a registered trademark of Advanced Neuro Dynamics, Inc. and is exclusively licensed to the Association for Integrative Psychology, Inc.