Darkness is part of the seasonal cycle and also the cycle of life. There are good times and hard times. The secret of happiness is to learn to flow with the rhythm of these cycles.
Often this is a lot easier said than done. Everything is going great and then suddenly BAM— your car breaks down, your email gets hacked, your computer crashes, you lose your wallet, you get sick, your best friend dies, you argue with your partner — sometimes all in the same week! It’s easy to feel sorry for yourself and even angry.
At times like these, it is helpful to remember that we inhabit animal bodies – a conglomeration of cells and chemistry that respond with their own needs and agendas. Bad events, for example, will trigger an automatic survival response. The heart beats faster, eyes dilate, muscles tense, breath shallows, as the body prepares to fight, flee or freeze. This is an excellent response when facing an imminent threat such as an attacking dog, but less so when the distress is psychological or social in origin.
Emotional intelligence is something we can learn to moderate our reactive bodies.
A key skill of emotional intelligence is holding back the body’s initial emotional response. This can be accomplished by slow breathing, counting to ten or leaving the scene. These crucial extra seconds give the cerebral cortex, the rational part of the brain, time to weigh in and make a more thoughtful assessment of the situation, e.g. My life is not really being threatened. I do not need to fight or flee. What are my other choices?
A few weeks ago, my emotions were triggered when a friend, whom I have known for years, took offense to something I said. I was stunned, confused and caught off guard. I tried to be reasonable while still standing up for my viewpoint. Our interaction quickly escalated into a heated exchange. She did the smart thing and left the room.
It took me nearly 30 minutes to calm down. I share this because it important to understand how powerful the body is. Once it starts sending out it’s chemicals its is much harder to rein things in. And once you are upset it is very easy for things to escalate.
An essential skill of emotional intelligence is recognize when the body is in survival mode and to take action to calm it down.
Later, when I was home and had vented my feelings I was able to reach out to my friend by email and try to rectify the situation. Even now, however, I do not know where we stand. A negative encounter like that can be devastating to a relationship because the feelings of safety and trust have been breached. It really depends on how both parties make sense of the event. Our interpretation of what is happening or has happened can bring us misery or peace.
When we learn to look on the bright side, to see the light within the dark, we bring more happiness into our lives.
Other difficult interactions happened to me around the same time as the argument with my friend. It was the week of the presidential election. I had challenges with three clients. I got through it, but I felt assaulted and exhausted and wonder why I was even doing this. What was going on?
After I got over feeling sorry for myself, i.e. released the emotional energy triggered by the events, I asked 2 questions that helped me shift my interpretation from dark to light:
- Were there external factors contributing to these events? What might be going on with the others? The distress of others is not always about us.
- Was I doing something to attract these events that needed addressing? What was the universe trying to teach me? We can learn from everything that shows up in our lives.
Yes, there were some very significant external factors at play the week of my confrontations. The results of the presidential election unleashed a sizable communal reaction of horror and distress. It showed up on my Facebook page, in my emails, in conversations with friends and in the behaviors of some of my clients. The sensation of dis-ease was palpable, making me and probably a lot of others want to fight, flee or freeze.
Sensitive humans are prone to the energy from the collective field and they may act out the negativity in order to help release it.
Because we are social animals, we are all susceptible to social energy, to varying degrees. You see common examples of this in crowd behavior at sporting events, the synchronizing of women’s menses when living in communal spaces, and the national response to 911.
How do we counter the negative energy of the collective? Awareness is a huge first step. When we are aware, we can choose to moderate the effect — by limiting contact with negative others and by engaging in calming activities, such as exercise, music, massage.
Just prior to my week of challenges, my business had picked-up. I had more work, more income and more social recognition than ever before. I was even honored at a big event with 5 other women. Was it possible that this success was triggering self-sabotaging thoughts or behavior? Success can also be scary to the animal body.
Self-sabotage is a way to backtrack and stay safe in what we know.
Success comes with increased responsibilities — new projects, bigger risks, greater commitment and more potential for failure.
Success can increase public exposure. We may become targets for the negativity of disturbed, threatened or wounded people. How that can play out fill the pages of celebrity magazines.
Our own family or friends might feel threatened by our success. Or maybe we just fear they will, based on past experience.
I recall, for example, that shortly after achieving my Ph.D., I asked my father how he felt about it. He told me that he was embarrassed by his own failure at ever attaining his BA. I interpreted this, at the time, as DON’T SUCCEED so Dad won’t feel bad. This was a huge limiting belief. It kept me playing small for a long time.
You can change a limiting belief by imagining something entirely opposite, e.g. My father was MOTIVATED by my success and went back to college after he retired. He actually did. Unfortunately, the onset of Alzheimer’s prevented him from finishing.
This taught me something else: Don’t put off your dreams!
As we step into a bigger role, as we impact more people, we will likely be tested. Life challenges — like those that came from my friend and clients — help us to develop our skills and emotional intelligence. They make us stronger and better able to serve.
Going back to the presidential election, I believe that the universe is really asking all of us to step into our power. That is the light in the darkness of our times. We are being mobilized.
It is my experience that we rarely step up, rarely make the effort, unless it is absolutely necessary. IT’S ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY NOW!
Those struggling with grief and loss may have a difficult time finding the light in their current darkness. Creating a new story takes practice and support. The new story won’t stick unless the emotions of loss are released first. If you would like some help, please CONTACT ME about scheduling a complimentary Grief and Loss Breakthrough Phone Session. We’ll take a look at where you are, where you want to be, and what you can do about it.
May your light shine brightly,
WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR EZINE OR WEB SITE? You can, as long as you include this complete blurb with it: Grief, Loss and Death Expert Dr. Michelle Peticolas, empowers professional women struggling with grief and loss to find peace-of-mind, closure and a life worth living. If you’re ready to shift into a whole new way of being with death and loss, a new way of living your life, get Michelle’s complimentary illustrated guide, Essentials for Grieving Well at www.secretsoflifeanddeath.com