Being with Upsets

upsetsWhen we are trying to live in the present moment we perhaps become more sensitive to what is happening to us and around us and as we try to remain deeply grounded in our body there will be sensations that will signal an upset or issue that needs to be dealt with. Psychologist and meditation teacher Tara Brach calls these “somatic markers”. If you have been taking time each day to focus on your breath then that too is a good indicator of your internal state.

At times when I’ve been upset, angry or blaming others for my current state I have generally been able to trace it back to an unexpressed feeling on my part, which my body had been signalling to me all along. In effect I was allowing the actions and words of others to take my power away – as the rumination that follows an upsetting event drains our energy significantly. I was ignoring my body’s wisdom.

When something upsets you – be it in the classroom, with colleagues, parents of your students or  with your own family – Rick Hanson suggests you Be with the Issue / Let it Go / Let in (the good stuff).

I would like to look at “Being with the issue” here. For me “being” with something includes expression otherwise it’s just evasion.

Try this:

  • Sit with the sensations in your body. For me this is things like heat, increased heart rate, perspiring / clamminess, a feeling of being winded, butterflies.
  • Try to identify what you are feeling and name it e.g. sadness, hurt, irritation, feeling of being controlled by another.
  • If this feeling can be linked to something someone has said or done in the moment you can then express your feelings respectfully to the person at hand rather than holding onto the feelings and going over and over the incident in your head.

Some of us have a fear around expressing ourselves honestly in the moment – it can be confronting and we don’t want to hurt people’s feelings but if we don’t express ourselves we are hurting our own feelings. It is definitely outside my comfort zone but you have to be your own advocate. If this is hard for you, you might find the following saying helpful, as I have:

“Real but not true.”

This is also a concept from Tara Brach. So for example someone is upset by what I have expressed. It’s real that that person is upset or hurt, they are going to feel what they do, but it’s not true that I am a bad person for expressing it (especially when my intentions are authentic) even if they think I am a bad person.

Some questions to consider are:

  • Are you listening to your body’s “somatic markers”?
  • Is there an issue upsetting you that could be alleviated by authentic, heart-felt expression?
  • Can you identify instances where “Real but not true” could be helpful for you?

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