If you feel agitated, instead of trying to calm yourself down, simply accept yourself as agitated. If you feel sad, instead of trying to cheer up, simply invite the sadness to hang out as long as it wants to.
If you feel petty and judgmental and badly done by, pat that petty judgmental victimized self on the cheek with total gentle love, and don’t try to talk her out of it for a second. Tell her she’s perfect, and you love the petty look on her. Very now. When you are furious, let the anger grow as big and red and boiling as it wants to. (You might want to walk away from your children first.)
Say hello to your intense irritation and your prickly boredom. Also your grandiosity, exhaustion, and ambition.
I know this sounds simplistic. I know you’ve heard all about ‘feeling your feelings.’ But I’m telling you, try it.
It’s the most radical thing I’ve ever done.
As a life coach I have lots of tricks up my sleeves to handle life’s ups and downs. I can question painful thinking, shift my story from victimized to heroic, and make step-by-step plans that will take me to the moon if I really put my mind to it.
This is something different.
It doesn’t try to change anything. It just looks at what is and says, Ah yes, we’ve got room for that here. Come on in, darling. If this doesn’t sound crazy to you, you’re not paying attention. It’s so crazy it should have blue eyebrows and pierced knuckles.
What will happen if we don’t Manage Things around here? If we don’t cajole, smooth over, take deep breaths, grit our teeth, buckle down, and soldier on? Won’t all hell break loose?
So far, all evidence points to: No.
But don’t take my word for it. Try it out yourself. And when you get little hits of what it feels like to love and accept yourself even when you’re having all these warty embarrassing feelings? OH MY GOD. CALL EVERYBODY.
It reminds me of that Rumi poem:
The Guest House
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
from The Essential Rumi, Translated by Coleman Barks
I’ve loved that Rumi poem for years, but I never really took it literally. I mean come on. I’m crazy, but not that crazy.
Only now I am.
And I recommend that you try it. You’ll be shocked at how much room you have in yourself. When you stop fighting them or cajoling them or trying to persuade them to come back next Tuesday instead, all those feelings lose their fight. You’ll find sadness pooling gently, rage roiling without burning, joy leaping without anxiety–all at once, usually. Try letting them take up as much room as they want, and ask them if they need anything from you.
In my experience, they’ll say something earth-shattering, like, Oh, I just needed your attention; just a little compassion. And did you notice, that’s what it feels like when you don’t draw good boundaries? Look at that. Just making sure you’re paying attention. And then they drift off into the ether.
It’s an experiment. Go forth and try it. And report back.