Thursday, November 12, 2009

Feeling your feelings


 A nice reminder


Last week I tweeted "Forget afternoon snack attacks, instead I get afternoon crisis of confidence". I think it is interesting to ponder on the nature of feelings and how, despite knowing (sometimes) exactly where they stem from, exactly how they are manifesting, exactly their lack of merit, we are powerless to stop them. They rise up and throttle us by the throat, leave us shaking and gasping for air. If we are lucky, we recognize where they are coming from and can talk ourselves out of panic.

My afternoon crisis of confidence is one of those feelings that I watch come up (in slow motion almost) and wash over me. Even though I can see it coming, feel it hitting me, I can't turn away, I am powerless against the feeling. So instead, I have learned to just feel the feeling. A not very good person once said, "whatever you feel is right" and its true. It's what people do with feelings that makes it a mess. I have learned that sometimes feelings are like scars, remnants of a former experience. You can't necessarily hope to get rid of them, but you can definitely come to grips with their existence. 

Now, as the wave washes over me, my confidence falling like a lead weight off a tower, I simply take the feeling and throw rationale thought at it. I imagine lobbing confidence boosting bombs at my feelings, which seem to lessen the blow. I just let myself feel it, but not give in to it. I don't freak out or try and hold on to the feeling, I don't try to get anybody else to buoy me through the feeling. It is just a feeling, not a rational concern. I don't need to make my irrational feelings into an interpersonal issue. Plus, teaching ourselves to self soothe when these feelings hit us, is among the highest skills one can hope to build in their self work. It is hard when you feel like crap to tell yourself that you are fabulous and believe it. It is hard to logic our way out of something that is not logically.

Often these feelings are not new feelings, in fact, I have not been struck with an overwhelming feeling that I was like, "really, that's a new one and news to me!". It is usually something that I have gnawed on for a long time in the past, something I worked through the best I could at a time when it was applicable. Or sometimes it is related to something that I can't seem to work through or find an abiding peace about.

A perfect example of that is in fact exactly how I feel today. I have learned over my 4 years of running marathons and 3 years of running ultras, that approximately (but sometimes can happen any time during the week after) 3-4 days after a race, I am struck with an incredible bout of depression and an even worse bout of dismorphic body image. I suddenly feel like a depressed sad cow. Yes, it is not rational, but that is how I feel. Sure the necessary post-race eating and post-race swelling (in my legs which occurs regularly unfortunately for me), create a circumstance that just make me want to hide under a blanket and wear fat clothes. Sometimes I do. Or I eat 5 cookies and feel worse about myself.

I understand it is not rational, but I simply can't make it go away. So I just feel what I feel. I simply tuck in, put my head down and ride it out as best I can. Trying to come away unscathed or even trying to get out of it early by doing something phenomenally confidence boosting, like running really fast or fitting into a size 2 pair of jeans with a bit of room (but you of course are gambling when you are having body image issues on putting on any sort of form fitting clothes, lest your usual size doesn't fit!).

Just feeling your feelings hastens them to exit. Let it flow and let it go. I try and not hold on to them. It takes a good amount of work but in the end it is just another intensely good exercise in our own self care.

Frankly, I feel better already!

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