We have all watched children learn to walk. First they pull themselves up onto wobbly unsteady legs as they hang onto some piece of furniture. As their legs get stronger, they take some tentative steps while still hanging onto something. With encouragement of Mom and Dad, they let go of their “support” and take those first tentative steps to walking and running and roller blading.
Life is movement. When divorce, chronic illness, accidents, death or tragedy of any kind hits, we are faced with learning to walk all over again.
What change has in common is venturing beyond the world we have created or knew into unknown territory. I knew how to be a wife – I don’t know how to be a single person; I knew what I wanted for my family – I don’t know how to raise children, work full time and deal with a spouse who cheated on me but is still in my life. I knew how to make goals and achieve them – I don’t know how to move forward with a chronic illness that takes all my energy just to exist. I knew how to work within my career choice – I don’t know how to function without a job or the possibility of one.
When the shock wears off, we are left facing our loss and the fears, anxiety, and depression associated with it. This isn’t what I had planned for. This isn’t what I had expected.
In my last blog I asked you to get a notebook and write down what you are experiencing right now and to identify the specific emotions you are feeling. While it might seem insignificant, becoming better acquainted with our emotions uncovers the thoughts connected to them, like invisible threads that can either encourage or motivate or keep us discouraged, fearful and depressed.
Shock insulates us. When shock wears off, we want to resume life as it was before. We are willing to do anything rather than face what life has thrown at us.
But at some point we can no longer deny it, run away from it or bargain it away. We are faced with accepting the unwanted change. The time has come to sit down and face our pain, fears and anxieties and work with them.
Our emotions have a voice. They scream in our ears, I can’t do this. Eventually we acknowledge we don’t want to do this. Our thoughts paint pictures of what we lost and what we are left with. Lost is the excitement of goals we wanted to achieve, replaced with a lifeless and joyless existence filled with hard work, no satisfaction or pleasure. Everything looks gray or black.
Between now and my next blog on Thursday, in your notebook get some colored pencils and color the emotions you are feeling. Draw a picture of your loss and what this change means to you.
Acknowledging and confronting our fears and anxieties is the first step to making change work for you instead of against you. Untangling the web of emotional thinking is the next step.
©2013 Marlene Anderson, MA, LMHC, NCC