Feelings

It has been a roller-coaster of emotions for me these past eight weeks. On many days I have coped by blocking my emotions out. I have either acted by automatic pilot, and / or kept myself very busy, doing anything except taking the time to stop and simply feel my emotions. At other times, my emotions have poured out of me like a torrent of water from a broken tap that would not stop, and I felt things deeply.

My writing stopped for several weeks.

Then when I started writing my journal again, I wrote in a staccato, factual fashion, with no depth of feeling. That was because I was finding it very difficult to process five or six different emotions all at once. It became easier to describe what was happening, rather than how I was feeling. How could I describe all that I have been feeling? All the time my mind has been blank, yet racing at a thousand miles a second. How could I describe that?

Earlier this year I had been working through my transformation to the new me; beginning with my foundations of comfort, then moving on to my foundations of freedom, and the freedom to discover myself. As part of that process I had reached a point where I began to feel my own feelings. Like a light coming on, I realized that I had a right to those feelings, and a right to express those feelings. To some people, that may seem like a strange discovery. Not for me. To me, this was a revolution happening. It was a huge change.

For many years I had been suppressing how I really felt, I had been suppressing the true me inside myself. I was the product of growing up as the introverted sister with two extroverted siblings. I became the product of the introverted wife married to the ultra-extroverted husband. I learned to play the part of second fiddle. I learned to fix and support but never shine. I learned to think that I did not matter, that my feelings did not count, that my opinions were not that important, that what I did was not significant.

Earlier this year I found my own significance and my own feelings began to surface. When I began to feel my feelings and recognize them as my own feelings, I wrote down as the first part of my life purpose “to find my voice and speak my truth“. In other words, I had resolved, to not only act true to myself, but to also begin to speak out about being true to myself. I resolved to begin telling my whole story, to voice out loud how I really felt inside my heart and to express what I really thought, rather than what I thought other people would expect of me.

Then life got in the way.

Before I had a chance to write my story (the story that had been), more of life began happening. Life unfolded in an expected and sudden way and I was swept along by a stream of emotions: joy and sadness, hope and desperation, elation and disappointment, aloneness and togetherness, comfort and distress, brokenness and harmony, confusion and clarity, quandary and resolution, closed and open, indecisiveness and decisiveness, anger and calmness.

At first I could not process them, to feel them. Then I did. I began to feel them. Some of them hurt, yet I allowed myself to feel their intensity.  The numbness that had been blocking out my emotions lifted. It had been so foreign to me to allow myself to feel any emotions. It was even more foreign to express those emotions.

Yet, to feel them is to live more fully, to express them is to become true to myself.

To write about them is now, for me, a necessity.

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Not quite at the crossroads

“Those held in highest esteem… are neither the great artists nor the great scientists, neither the great statesmen nor the great sports figures, but those who master a hard lot with their heads held high”. Viktor Frankl

ID-100152029. artur84In his classic book ‘Man’s Search For Meaning’ about hope from the Holocaust , Viktor Frankl, a psychiatrist, describes three phases for those who survived the concentration camps. The first period was the shock of losses and admission to the camps. The second period was the daily life in the concentration camp. The third period was after liberation. Frankl goes on to describe that, rather than love or achievement, people’s main drive in life is having meaning and that he believed those who survived the ‘second phase’ were those who could find meaning in their bleak situation. His own vision and meaning was that he pictured himself after the war helping people find meaning in their lives.

Whilst a divorce is nowhere near the horror of the holocaust, I have found the concept of there being a middle ‘nowhere’ phase as liberating. I have found much divorce advice focuses on getting ‘over’ the loss (phase one – shock) or making changes to your life (phase three – liberation) and there is little help at accepting life in a transition situation; or of making a good life for yourself out of a traumatic situation even while you are still living within that situation. Involved in a lengthy property settlement as I am, it is not only that my life is caught between past and future, I am confronted by the ongoing turmoil of the process itself with little triggers on a nearly daily basis that keep throwing me back into a constant state of trauma and sometimes confrontation.

Focusing on the trauma, unfairness or injustice of the past or the trauma-triggers in my current daily life plunges me into darkness or anxiety. Likewise wishing for my future to come with an ‘I wish this process was over’ attitude sets me up for suffering.

What has helped me most to alleviate my suffering through this process has been instead to focus on:

(1) Creating a vision for my future with a purpose that can give me meaning for my life today. My vision of ‘finding my voice and promote human welfare’ whilst a vision for my future, gives meaning to my current situation. In my future role I will be more able to empathise with others because of where I am today and I see myself in a role alleviating suffering.

(2) Re-framing my transition as steps towards my future; has helped give me meaning to the thankless administrative processes I previously viewed as ‘mud-trudging’.

(3) Understanding and acknowledging my self-worth and significance; has enabled me to appreciate the good in what I am doing right here and now.

(4) Creating a revival identity including conviction to core values has enabled me to reinvent myself right here and now as someone who I can be proud of in my future.

Other techniques that have helped in the more traumatic periods of discomfort have been building foundations of comfort and stability to create certainty in my world of uncertainty, breaking down my list of overwhelming tasks into manageable steps, enlisting help when needed, and making difficult decisions based on core values.

In summary, what has helped me through on a daily basis is acknowledging I cannot force things to happen faster. I cannot bypass the pain of the process. I cannot fast forward to my future. But I can learn to find a place of quiet, not allow myself to get dragged down by the negatives of the situation, and be content with where I am and who I am right here in this present moment. At the same time, I can still hold on to my dreams.

While I am not quite at the crossroads to my new life, I am finding ways of making joy in my present situation, appreciating who I am and what I am capable of, while still working behind the scenes at my dreams for my future, where I want to be for my long-term happiness, and continually striving for a better tomorrow.

 

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You may also want to read:
Lauren Between Fear and Love. Stop, breathe, reframe.
Louise at Dare Boldly, holding onto your dreams. And Dream Big

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Creating my revival identity

 

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When I was swept off course and thrown into a hole, it took every ounce of effort to simply survive. I refused to call myself a victim and instead I became a survivor.

A victim sees something has been done to them beyond their control. Someone else is to blame. The situation is unfair. A victim’s reactions are that of flight, fight or freeze (running away, retaliating, or doing nothing). Although these reactions are normal in the heat of a crisis, there is the danger of the mistreatment becoming part of you and seeing yourself identified with bad treatment, brokenness and weakness. This is victim identity.

As these flight, fight, freeze reactions are accompanied by intensely painful feelings of guilt, anger and fear that I wanted to avoid at all costs; an alternative response that worked for me was survival. In other words I focussed on self-protection. I did not want to see myself as a victim and so I channelled my energies into making sure that I never became one again. I created my survival identity of building up courage, stability and comfort.

Some time ago I read that the term ‘survivor’ is simply another label for ‘victim’. If you identify yourself as a survivor, you are still focussing on the event that happened rather than focussing on how to get out of the hole, heal and recover. Despite my brave stance at seeing myself as a survivor, not a victim, I was still seeing everything through the hurt inflicted upon me and trying to avoid more pain.

Over the past six months, I have been working through a process in a book (see below) which describes breaking away from victim or survivor thinking by creating a healing identity. To create a healing identity, you focus on your strengths, your values, your modes of resilience and a desire to improve your life. By creating a healing identity you overcome victim reactions of blame, retaliation and resentment. Many of the techniques suggested in the book have truly worked for me and especially looking beneath my pain to my unmet needs and striving to find new ways of fulfilling them.

One of the lingering aspects hard to overcome has been my survival comforts that I have used to ground me and protect me from further hurt. When I try to break out of my comfort zone I often go into panic zone and retreat.

Recently I read a blog-post by Ian from Leading Essentially that described how the two zones of comfort and panic can lock you out of expanding your horizons. He described one technique to break free from this mentality is to develop an understanding of your unique capabilities that you may draw on when you get out of your comfort zone. I took that to mean strengths and attributes that have aided me in past achievements, or resilience factors in weathering past adversities. In other words I could venture out from my comfort zone knowing that I had those attributes to fall back on, if needed. I decided to work on this by really thinking about my strengths and my resilience attitudes.

I see this as creating my revival identity as a bridge between surviving and thriving, whilst still in the process of some healing. Here are some attributes of my revival identity –

My education and life experiences provide a stable base for future achievements.
My thirst for knowledge and learning will give me the courage to improve and grow.
I am creative and inventive.
I can draw on my analytical and problem solving skills to get me through any challenge.
I will live by my core values of courage, fairness and kindness.
I will act only for protection, connection, contribution, and appreciation.
I have a new purpose to find my voice and promote human welfare.

While focussing on creating my revival identity, getting ready for my new life, some remarkable things happened.

I stopped thinking about the hole I was supposedly in.
I stopped thinking about being wronged.
I stopped thinking about the pain I was suffering.
The pain stopped.

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You may want to read ‘Living & Loving after Betrayal: How to Heal from Emotional Abuse, Deceit, Infidelity and Chronic Resentment’ by Steven Stosny

Contribution and finding my new bike

 

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Having spent 37 years pouring my heart and soul into being the very best wife and mother that I could possibly be, my purpose in life seemed to end with the ending of my marriage. This happened at a time when my younger two children were spreading their wings. My main two roles in life and the driving forces of my being were suddenly gone.

Work roles

With my world crumbling at my feet, I found that getting up every day for work gave me a sense of purpose. Having meaningful work to do everyday helped sustain my sanity the first year after separation. It also provided me with my sense of normality, as a link to my previous world, and the comfort of a regular routine.

About a year ago I had an epiphany. I realised in that instant the real meaning behind my work had been to provide for my family and that was gone. I resolved that I would change the direction of my life. The drawback to that decision was that it would take some time to logistically change directions and for a while it became a plodding painful process to keep getting up to go into work as my work no longer held meaning for me.

That turned around when I re-framed this current period as my ‘transition to my new life’ and set myself some goals for my transition. One of my transition goals became ‘dignified management of our business’ while-ever it was retained. In that change of focus my daily work shifted sharply from being something that provided me with comfort and stability to one that provided me with an avenue of contribution. Without realising it at the time, my own needs had moved up from the self-focussed ‘I need protection and comfort’ to ‘I need to contribute and give back to society’. In the period since, I have channelled my days at work into being a fair, kind and balanced leader. In return I have received a feeling of accomplishment and contribution.

Community roles

Prior to my marriage ending I had been active in the community by voluntary involvement in an environment group. In my distraught state after my husband left me, I resigned from the group and not not returned. During my cocooning period of reflection when reviewing my beliefs, my mind drew a blank when I reached world affairs I had previously been vocal about. I became concerned my underlying beliefs had disintegrated and I was apathetic and uncaring. I now understand that in my state of crisis, I had to focus on my own survival as a priority. I had to heal myself before I could again begin to help other people.

About a year ago, I found that I had begun again to read articles about national and world issues. It was a defining moment for me. Gradually that moved to reading books, exploring websites and contributing by making comments on other’s blogs. That gave me a feeling of making a contribution, even in a small way. This has fed a growing strength inside me of my need to ‘give’ shifting slowly away from my basic need to ‘receive’ comforts.

My new role

One of my prime instincts within me is a need to care for others. This need was satisfied in my roles as wife and mother. The hole left for my nurturing instincts by my marriage collapsing was deep and painful. I felt my very purpose in life had disintegrated. Whilst I have since channelled those caring instincts into being the best mother, grand-mother, daughter, sister, friend and leader that I can be; I know that is not enough. I know that I have to move on to helping people less fortunate than myself.

Last post I wrote “With the best of intentions of picking myself up, fixing myself up and getting back on the bike; I have come to realise that it is not me that needs fixing, it is the bike.”

My old bike (my drive) was being the best wife and mother that I could possibly be.

My new drive will be to find my voice and promote human welfare.

That will become my new bike.

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Foundations of comfort – I am significant

 

ID-10045481. digitalartAbout eighteen months ago I was in a phase of playing inspirational songs to make me feel better and my favourite one at the time was ‘I am woman’ by Helen Reddy. I happened to mention it to my accountant who laughed telling me that as I was an intelligent, capable, resourceful woman. Therefore he could not understand why I would need to play inspirational songs to make me feel better.

It is impossible to describe the crushing effect the ending of my marriage had on my self-esteem. Whatever self-respect and self-confidence I had before was completely shattered in a single moment. It was not only that my soul-mate and companion of forty years had chosen someone else over me which crushed my self-worth as a person and who I felt I was. The action of him walking away from our life together made me feel that I did not matter and everything I had ever done for him and with him was of no significance. Everything I had poured my heart and soul into was of no worth. If it was worthwhile, why would he walk away from it?

For two years I had let the message given to me by his actions and words become the voices in my head telling me that I did not matter, telling me that what I did was of no significance. I now know that those negative voices are not my voices and what those voices were saying was not the truth.

This is the truth:

  • I am significant because I have raised four magnificent children who admire and  adore me.
  • I am significant because I am fair and kind; and always show respect, empathetic listening and understanding to others.
  • I am significant because I stand up for my beliefs.
  • I am significant because I have provided employment and valuable services to the community for 35 years.
  • I am significant because I have journeyed my divorce with grace and dignity.
  • I am significant because I have been the one entrusted with taking the property settlement to its conclusion and I have done that with integrity and fairness.
  • I am significant because I have fully embraced aloneness.
  • I am significant and an individual person entitled to my own thoughts, beliefs, feelings and needs.
  • I am significant because I have offered inspiration and support to blogging friends.
  • I am significant because I have helped others through personal issues.
  • I am significant because I encourage others to be their best selves.

To get to this point of really believing that I am significant, I have been fortunate to have had loved ones, friends, blogging followers; and professional advisors who have kept reminding me of how significant I truly am over and over and over again.

Thank you to all who have had a firm belief in me and my abilities and have helped raise me up to this point of feeling immense pride in myself and my significance. In turn you may all feel proud of your own significance in helping this individual turn a corner.

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My ‘turning sixty’ resolution … to live by my core values.

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As a younger person I always had a plan for the future as to what I wanted to do with my life. Each year my birthday resolutions would be a great list.of things to do and projects to embark on. So many of the things on those lists never got done. Likewise my life on a daily or weekly basis had always been one of never-ending ‘to-do’ lists all neatly categorized into work, family, self, and community; then sub-categorized further into urgent, non-urgent and pending.

When I turned fifty, I resolved that I did not want to focus anymore on what I wanted to do, but rather on what I wanted to be. This was an enlightening moment for me and included such things as being optimistic, assertive, determined, dependable, kind, and moral. Ten weeks after my husband left me I revisited those commitments, resolving to hold onto my core values and to develop a framework of principles and beliefs to live by. I did that over a twelve month period. I have set up a page with links to the posts on those reflections.

During that reflective period, when I came to ‘higher’ principles such as peace, freedom and democracy, I became stuck. Even though I knew I believed in those things and had openly stood up for those beliefs in the past, it seemed they would require from me such strength of moral conviction and character that at the time seemed quite beyond me. I even felt I may have lost those values. I know now that is not the case.

What I believe now is there are four levels of living by your own core values and these are:

  1. thinking (holding a belief or value)
  2. stating (resolving that belief is true by writing it down or saying it)
  3. committing (having a plan to act on it)
  4. acting on them.

Even the very best of us would struggle to act on more than one or two core values at a time; although several other values can be held one or two steps down at the resolution level. When I was back in the pain of grief it was taking all my energy to act on one value only and that was the value of courage. Two steps behind, I freely stated other values and beliefs such as kindness, responsibility and dependability; intending to act on them whenever i could. However, for the values very high up, it hurt to just think about them and, at the time, I could not think of any way I could act on them. They were held at level 1.

I have moved on.

At my sixtieth birthday celebrations with my family I spoke freely of all my values (level 2). When I came home I went one step further and committed to act on five of them: courage, kindness, fairness, responsibility and appreciation. I wrote down several ways of how I could act on those values and I drew up lists of those committed actions, what I resolved to do. I will be exploring those commitments over my next series of posts.

In some ways this may seem like going back to where I started from. Back to to-do lists, rather than to-be lists. However, it is different because the to-do lists are now underpinned by those to-be wishes. In my commitments I have added that little word …. ‘why’…. the purpose behind the actions.

As for those higher values?

1. Over the past six months I have seen myself browsing the internet and reading about world-wide issues that need resolving such as famine and poverty; I have engaged in discussions on issues of national and community importance with others; and I have commented on posts and articles. I have moved those values from thinking to stating.

2. Whilst holding every respect for those who commit to and act on global, national and community issues, I no longer consider those values are any ‘higher’ than other values. There is much honour in acting with grace and dignity throughout a personal crisis; or indeed acting with integrity throughout normal everyday life. I do not feel I have to solve world peace to live authentically as me.

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My resources for pursuing my purpose

The purpose of our lives is to be happy. Dalai Lama, Tibetan Leader.

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Having determined my purpose in life is “living to my highest self and inspire others to do the same”; and in considering how I may go about doing that; I found myself in a quandary when I came across the above quote. I thought I was supposed to find purpose and meaning in my life, then I would become happy. Now I read that I am supposed to find happiness; and then that will become my purpose. I became confused.

Here are another three quotes that added to my confusion:

“The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson

“The purpose of life is a life of purpose” Richard Leider

“Your purpose in life is to find your purpose and give your whole heart and soul to it”
Gautama Buddha

So in moving on, I had been wading through trying to work out my life’s goals and aims in order to fulfill my purpose and this had been proving a bit difficult when I became unsure as to whether I should be aiming for happiness or purpose.  (Message to self: it is far better to be confused about whether to pursue a life of happiness or a life of purpose than to be stuck back in pain, anger, despair, fear and turmoil.)

Then I came across this quote:

“Accept yourself, your strengths, your weaknesses, your truths, and know what tools you have to fulfill your purpose.”  Steve Maraboli, Life, the Truth, and Being Free

Aah! Light-bulb moment. I think I will start from there – my resources. If I look at what I already have to work with, it may become easier to find out where I need to go.

My 35 years business experience has taught me that, whenever you begin a new project, you should always firstly look at your resources – in business that is infrastructure, money, and human resources. The next steps are to look at what resources are missing, fill in the gaps, then march on to completing the project. The initial step, however, is always looking at your resources; look at your starting point.

In my life’s direction it is a little bit back to front because I am not sure of my actual project and therefore my goals. However, I thought there would be no harm at looking at the starting point – at what I already have to work with.

This post is therefore outlining my new beginning, a first draft appraisal of listing what resources I already have. Later I will explore these in more depth and then move on to my goals. The first 8 in my resources list are my strengths. The last 2 are the people and the tangible resources I have in my life. The beauty of looking at all this from the point of view of my “resources” or the things that I have, is that it makes me focus on my strengths and my positive attributes and the people and tangible assets I already have in my life. This is a fantastic strategy of moving away from that dark place of grief and despair where I was focussing on my losses, my weaknesses and being negative towards myself….

In listing my resources, I have realised that I have got more to work with than I had previously thought.

Here is my list. .

My Resources For Pursuing My Purpose

  1. Character strengths
  2. Personality strengths
  3. Attitude strengths
  4. Talents
  5. Skills
  6. Education
  7. Knowledge
  8. Experience
  9. Support
  10. Security

Onwards and upwards to my new life with enthusiasm and vigour 🙂

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