Scratch the Surface!
Last month I wrote about the process for spiritual transformation—which includes any kind of change you are making toward expressing your full potential.
The question now is, “How do I support myself in that process?” It seems that there is always something coming up and pushing you buttons, doesn’t it? People or situations demanding that you get out of your comfort zone, reminding you of that other awful thing that happened, and so forth. What do you do with that? It can seem like those “button-pushers” stand in your way, but you can use them to stretch and grow from the inside out.
There are three levels of processing demands: Observe and Release, the Agitated Energy Process, and Journaling to Go Deeper.
Observe and Release
This first level includes those thoughts or situations that come up and are easily pushed out of our minds. The trick is to be aware of those things—to be conscious of the thoughts that are going through your mind at a given moment. Observing your thoughts helps you to release the ones you don’t need and act on the ones that you do.
For example, if you are working on releasing judgmental thoughts of yourself and others, you would need to be aware of when those judgments arose. Once you are aware of them, you simply notice and release them on the spot, rather than jumping into a conversation about them in your head. No need to chastise yourself nor analyze the thought; you know what it is, you noticed it, you let it go. End of story.
Agitated Energy Process
This next level of processing involves looking more closely at what’s coming up from inside you. I learned the “Agitated Energy Process” from my husband, which he had learned from his mentor at the time, the late psychiatrist Dr. Mary Allen. Over the years I have changed it just a little bit in order to make it more accessible to the people I meet in my practice.
Here is the revised process:
1. When you feel emotion in your body, or simply become aware of surfacing thoughts that you aren’t able to Observe and Release, ask yourself, “What is the emotion that I’m feeling?” Try not to think about the answer; just let it surface. Gently label the emotions that you’re feeling. Is it anger, frustration, sadness, fear, or some variation of these emotions?
2. Next, ask, “What story am I telling myself that’s causing me to feel this way?” Again, don’t think too hard about it, just let the story surface. What is the emotion telling you about the situation at hand?
Using the previous example, let’s say I have been doing very well at not judging myself or others—Observing and Releasing like a pro. After a few days, I notice that one person at home or at work who did that thing to me that I keep judging and cannot seem to stop myself. You know who I’m talking about. If I am NOT able to simply sweep it away, most likely it is causing me to feel agitated, which is how emotions show up in the body. That is my wonderful cue to go deeper! First, I label the emotion. Let’s say in this example it is anger. Then I ask myself, “What story I’m telling myself about the situation?” Let’s pretend that I am telling myself, “That person is trying to make me feel bad about myself, and I don’t like it!” Excellent! I allow that subjective observation to surface, without judgment.
3. The final step is to ask, “What is the new perception I could take that would be calming to me?” Here, I am giving myself the opportunity to look at the situation in a different way.
Let’s say the new perception that arises within me is, “I don’t know what is going on with that person, but my job is to be in charge of myself, what I am feeling and doing.” Then do a quick self check-in and see, “Do I feel calm now?” If so, then, I am done with this process. If not, then I can restart at the first question, and repeat the process until I feel at peace. This is a deceivingly effective on-the-spot processing tool since it doesn’t take an hour of journaling, and you can do it anywhere.
What if that process does not calm you? Then what? Ah, then it’s time to bring out the big guns, which I will address next time. In the meantime, pick one of these levels of processing and practice with it. You’ll be surprised at your mental and emotional clarity throughout the day. Let me know how it goes for you! I would love to hear about your experience!