I have always considered myself to have a resilient spirit, but I admit that I do have some weaknesses. This week's lesson was about examining our stress factors and the types of situations that make us feel bad. Then we looked at how we numb ourselves against these bad feelings. There were four steps to this process of letting go of our numbing techniques in order to "lean into" the pain.
Leaning into the pain? Why would you want to lean into the pain when you can just eat a macaroon and feel instantly better? Brene explained that by numbing the pain or bad feelings, we are also preventing ourselves from feeling joy and happiness. It's akin to taking pain medication. You may be numbing the pain, but you also may be numbing out good sensations. Same may be for depression or anxiety medication.
In order to explore this part of ourselves, she asked us to make four collages, using magazine pictures and words/phrases that spoke to us somehow. I flipped through about 5 magazines and cut out anything that jumped out at me...arranging them later into four categories.
#1 LEFT SIDE
What causes you to feel bad? What causes you to want to numb yourself?
Being judged by others, disorganization/messiness (especially when I can't find something I need), bad time management, unnecessary drama, frustration, fear, being angry at someone or about something.
#2 RIGHT SIDE
What do you use to numb your bad feelings?
I eat. I go for the Snickers or the macaroons. I make excuses for why I need ice cream or cake. I eat tons of chocolate. I drink wine or wine coolers. I spend money. I focus more on my iPhone than on the people around me.
In fact, I make all kinds of excuses why I need to eat, spend money, check my email 100x a day on my iPhone, horde chocolate and drink.
For the past few months, I have refrained from drinking my daily glass of wine on week nights though, so at least I am curbing that. And, even on weekends, I only have one glass of wine with dinner. However, it makes me tired and more irritable than usual. Then, I am unable to do my nightly chores in a timely manner, so it was always one reason the kids and I got to bed late.
My main issue, even more than food, shopping and alcohol, is my addiction to the computer. I really really need to make some boundaries for myself. I am not sure how to do this, but I do realize it's getting worse. If I am not checking my iPhone, then I have my iPad with me and I am looking at that. After dinner, I usually sit down at the computer for a little while. It's probably not necessary to do this most of the time. I just do it because I'd rather look at a computer screen than do the dishes, clean up our apartment, fold laundry, interact with the kids, etc. It's a bad habit, and I need to work really hard to break it.
Being outside in any season
Swimming and cycling
Organized spaces, especially colorful books
Drinking tea, especially with friends
Colorful, healthy food
My union/marriage with my husband (but only when we are getting along)
Notice that a computer screen did not make it on this collage. Notice that these are small things but significant for one's daily peace of mind. If I can find ways to fit cycling and swimming (and perhaps walking) into my life on a weekly basis, I would probably be feel less stressed out when I meet with adversity. If I could get my house more organized again and continue adding color to it, I could look at that every day and feel happy even when other things are going to shit. If I continue to make healthy, colorful dishes, at least half the time, I wouldn't feel bad when we have to get take-out once in a while. These are simple things.
#4 What did I learn from the first three collages? What are the things I can do to manage my stress and bad feelings without constantly turning to my numbing techniques?
Brene told us to make a list of things we can do rather than numb ourselves from pain.
My list includes the following:
Cook & eat well
Finally, Brene explained that in her research, she found that whole-hearted people tend to have certain things in place that are a daily part of their lives. These things allow them to cultivate resilience without turning to numbing techniques every time something is not going right.
Whole-hearted people are
- Resourceful and have good problem-solving skills
- Likely to seek help
- Believe that you can do something to help manage your feelings and cope with problems
- Have social support available
- Connected to others, such as family and friends