52 little practices for a year of big change.
THE PRACTICE: Observe and connect with the feelings which follow your thoughts.
This practice builds again on the last one. It connects to the feelings which follow your thoughts and gives you power within your life experiences.
Your emotional feelings follow your thoughts. This is why becoming aware of your judgments (your thoughts about your experience) is so important. When you become aware of your judgments/evaluations/assumptions and are able to observe the feelings which emerge from your thoughts you gain the ability to choose how you experience the world around you. When someone disagrees with you, do you want to feel defensive or curious. It’s your choice. When something unexpected happens do you want to be scared or excited? It’s your choice. Scared isn’t bad or good. Excited isn’t bad or good. Both are feelings. They just are.
GET READY TO PRACTICE!
1. Consider a recent experience.
For your practice consider a recent experience during which you felt intensified emotions. For example, someone “cut you off” on the freeway, a friend didn’t return a phone call, a colleague spoke to you in a way you didn’t like, etc…
2. Write a description of the the experience.
Don’t worry about your judgments. Just write. For example:
"I made my son a sandwich and brought hit into his room while he was doing his homework. In stead of being grateful he was disrespectful and refused to eat it or even let me put it on his desk."
3. Circle all the judgments.
Now, look at what you wrote and pull out the judgments. Circle all the judgements. For example, “He was disrespectful.”
4. Rewrite the experience as an observation.
Remember - an observation only includes what you can capture in a photograph, a video or voice recording (without narration). For example:
"I made my son a sandwich and brought it into his room. He said to me, "I didn't say you could come in here. Next time knock." When I gave him the sandwich he said, "I didn't ask for that. Please leave."
5. Connect with how your thoughts feel in you body.
Take one of the judgments you circled and say it over and over in your head as you notice what your body feels like. Give the sensations physically descriptive names, like: tense, hot, cold, tight, relaxed, numb, light, heavy, etc…
6. When I think/thought ________________ I feel/felt _____________ in my body.
Write down this sentence and fill in the blanks, “When I think/thought (fill in with your judgment) I feel/felt (fill in with your physically descriptive words) in my body. For example:
“When I thought, ‘he was disrespectful’, I felt tight, tired, and heavy in my body."
7. When I think/thought _________________ I feel/felt ________________.
Repeat the exercise, but this time, when you say the judgment, notice the emotional feelings which come up. Give those feelings feeling names like: happy, sad, angry, surprised, interested, defensive, hopeless, hopeful, uneasy, overwhelmed, etc… See the list of feeling words I have attached to this. Write down this sentence and fill in the blanks, “When I think (fill in with your judgment) I feel (fill in with your emotionally (descriptive words). For example:
"When I thought, 'he was disrespectful' I felt angry and sad."
Watch out for words like: disrespected, unheard, uncared for, betrayed, criticized, insulted. These words are all judgements. Saying, “I feel disrespected” is really saying “I think they don’t respect me” or “they didn’t treat me in the way I wanted them to” and “I was having feelings related to that.” You might feel sad, angry, frustrated or hopeless when you think someone is not respecting you. Maybe you feel all those feelings, in layers. I don’t know, you may not know, and no one else will know unless you go deeper into “I feel disrespected”, pull out your judgment of the situation and connect with what feelings lie under the surface.
Once you have done this exercise with one situation I invite you to continue practicing. I have to practice it over and over and over. It always connects me. It always empowers me.
Next weeks “little practice” will build on this one.
A word of caution.
Trauma creates somatic triggers. When trauma is triggered the fight, fight, flee, fawn physical response takes over your body and disengages your logical brain. When you are in this physical state you likely lose a sense of choice. This response needs to be attended to before you are able to make a conscious choice. This is why breathing exercises are so powerful. They bring the body back into a calm state and create space for the logical brain to come back on line. Physical exertion can do this also. So can time in nature, or a cold shower. This is why breathing, going for a run, taking a cold shower, walking in the woods or other similar physical experiences can create a change of perspective. All these practices soothe your somatic system.
Chronic trauma and old traumas which have continued to be triggered over and over throughout life are often stubborn and buried deep in your somatic being. Even if you can logic them you may not be able to reprogram them with a few practices, or even lots of practices. Reprogramming can take years of practice, and require considerable support. I share this because when I say “it’s your choice” I want to make it clear that it may not be your choice at the moment you are triggered. Your body may be taking over your ability to choose. Don’t ever blame yourself for not choosing a different perspective when you are in an intense moment. Instead get self-curious, get self-compassionate, get self-loving. Re-write your experiences after you have them. Notice your judgments then. Notice your feelings then. And learn.
And - get support from professionals, loved ones and wise ones. Trauma often gets triggered in relationships and it gets healed in relationships. You are not alone.