Have you ever had a stronger reaction to a person or situation than what you know was warranted?
Welcome to what I call, "The Train Wreck of the Unconscious." It's a term I coined a few years ago as I watched someone I loved literally play out his childhood during our adulthood.
The entire experience got me thinking about our unconscious selves.
Typically, the process of coming to therapy goes something like this:
1. Person calls therapist to make appointment to address a specific issue.
2. Person comes in for first appointment and goes into details about specific issues that his bringing him/her in.
3. Person starts EMDR. (Click here for more information on EMDR as a therapetic tool).
4. Much like an iceberg, person begins realizing that the surface level issue that brought him/her into therapy is really driven by under-the-surface situations that have never been fully dealt with.
5. Person begins to feel feelings, process information, and articulate past situations that haven't been brought to the surface before.
6. Specific issue that brought person in for therapy is starting to work itself out and no longer becomes main issue of focus.
Whew! Yes, that was a generalized overview and therapy does not always happen this way for everyone. However, most people begin to see that those under-the-surface experiences very much play into how we show up as humans currently.
So, Stacy, what if I don't have the time, money, or means to come to therapy? How can I figure this stuff out on my own?
After over 20 years of working with humans, I've boiled down the above scenario to 3 questions. (Note, I'm a big believer that working with a trained professional-- a therapist, counselor, psychologist, etc.--will assist you in this process, but I realize that's not always feasible for everyone.)
Here are 3 questions to help you out:
1. Who does this person remind me of from my past?
2. What was happening to me when I was the age my kiddo is now?
3. When have I felt this feeling before?
Let's break these down.
Who does this person remind me of from my past?
When we sit with the strong feelings that we express in the moment and we ask ourselves the above question, almost always there is another person from our lives that has caused us to feel the feelings we do. For example, let's say you and your spouse have gotten into a conflict. You have this huge emotional reaction and think to yourself, "Why am I handling this situation this way?" Once you've become more regulated, you can ask yourself, "Who else does my spouse remind me of?" What action is he/she doing that reminds me of when someone else has done that action to me/with me?
When we sit with this question, we often realize there is another person in our life who has done the same thing to us, or with whom we've had a similar reaction. Once we know this, we become much more conscious of how our spouse's behavior reminds us of the behavior from someone in our past. Then, we can begin to navigate the healing process of what does our past self need to not be stuck in those past feelings about that past person?
What was happening to me when I was the age my kiddo is now?
If you don't have kids, this question may not be for you. Since I work with a lot of parents, this question comes up on the daily.
Typically, parents land in my office because they are stressed about their kids and what is occurring with them. Often, parents say something like, "I don't know why I'm getting so upset with them, I realize they are just kids, but their behavior is driving me crazy."
Then, I ask, "What was happening to you when you were the age of your kiddo now?" I can almost literally see a light bulb going off in his/her brain. MIND BLOWN. There's usually an answer that involves something like this, "Well, during that period of my life, I (was having a hard time in school, being abused, experiencing my parent's divorce, lost a best friend, lost a pet)." The list is endless. Almost inevitably, we have the hardest time parenting when our kids reach an age where we struggled as kids. Thus, it's REALLY important to know what we were going through and feeling during our own childhood so we can heal that part of ourselves and show up for our kids in a more healthy manner.
When have I felt this feeling before?
I often explain that all of our feelings are stored in a filing cabinet. Have you ever attended a funeral and sat in the church and reflected on all of the funerals you've ever attended or people you've lost? Sure! Most people do. This is an example of the grief drawer your filing cabinet being opened and stirred up.
When we have a really strong emotional reaction to a current situation, oftentimes it's like that feeling drawer in our filing cabinet was opened and we started feeling ALL the feelings from EVERY time we've ever felt that feeling in our lives. Thus, a much stronger reaction than the situation warranted.
When we ask ourselves that question, "When have I felt this feeling before," we can often land on situations where we never actually expressed the feelings we had about that situation. Perhaps our pet died and we had to go through the motions of executing taking care of the dying pet. However, we never cried, or journaled, or expressed the grief of losing our pet.
For us to be our healthiest self, we have to feel the feelings of each experience in our lives. Otherwise, we engage in our own Train Wreck of the Unconscious.
Yowzer!! That's some deep stuff today. I hope that learning these 3 questions will help you with your own healing. You deserve that!
Drop me an email at [email protected] and tell me which question most resonates with you?
Sending you copious amounts of love.
Go Be You,
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