My last blog on The New ABC of Managing Difficult Emotions outlines a simple process that many of you have told me is really helpful.
Many of you emailed me asking for the downloadable graphic. Many of you shared how you were going to use this process: with your children, to manage your own emotions and to help your clients. I am so glad.
There is one story I want to share with you, because it is so clear and inspiring — and so helpful for others to consider as well.
A young woman wrote to me about how her fear of rejection has interfered with her life. How it has prevented her from creating lasting friendships, how it gets in the way of her sharing what is going on in her own life with others, and how it cripples her attempts to love her partner with an open heart and be loved in return. It makes her feel too vulnerable, too fragile and she feels that it is just too risky that she will be hurt. Again. She feels trapped.
So, she avoids joining activities that sound fun and takes people’s unavailability for catch ups personally, rather than seeing that it might just be that they are busy at that time. When she does find herself in new social situations she feels excruciating self-consciousness, high anxiety and usually leaves without making eye contact or speaking with anyone new.
When she read about the New ABC of emotions she used the steps to be honest with herself about her fear of rejection and for the first time, could let herself send that feeling kindness and understanding, rather than layer on more pain by being disappointed in herself. When her inner critic wanted to remind her how she had let herself down again and would never be loved, and never belong, she thanked it for its’ care and attempt to protect her from more pain and then turned towards those feelings of rejection with the warmth of an embrace. A big hug and a kind smile.
What she found was that although it didn’t make the fear go away, it reduced her sense of overwhelm, leaving her feeling calmer and more like she could cope with this uncomfortable feeling. It wasn’t too much to bear.
Instead of it taking over and sending her retreating back into her cave, she stayed where she was, keeping the feeling company on her couch.
She wrote to me that repeating this exercise every day for a week helped her see more clearly how her fear had been holding her back from the very thing she knew would make her life more meaningful. For the first time in as long as she could remember she felt hopeful that she could find freedom from this fear. That she might be able to heal the pain of hurts and rejections earlier in her life and feel strong enough to reach out for what she wants, knowing that there was a risk but that it would not knock her down anymore.