It has been awhile since I’ve written a blog post. Several have been started, edited and trashed. Today I made a new decision. I’m writing whatever is on my mind, share it and leave it up to you to decide what is interesting or useful. I’d love to hear from you if something makes your burden lighter, helps you smile brighter or your lets you breathe deeper.
As we move into year 3 of Covid19 (the virus was first documented in 2019), I notice a new level of exhaustion for us as humans suffering with this restrained lifestyle due to our efforts at disease management. When it comes to the virus, we have tried to understand it, contain it, deal with it, blame it, ignore it, mitigate it and live with it. We are tired of it. Yet, as many of the great wise teachers tell us, life is how we manage suffering. How are you managing your suffering today?
Manage your emotions by “holding your horses”
When I meet with an individual or a couple in counseling sessions, I check in on what coping skill are working. One goal is to catch problematic coping strategies before they cause more damage. We could be doing damage to our bodies by not exercising, not eating right, drinking too much alcohol or using drugs to mitigate pain. We could be doing damage to a relationship by stonewalling, showing contempt, criticizing and being defensive. I’ve started to spend more time teaching about the damage done by the “4 Horsemen” as John Gottman labeled them.
When contempt shows up in our language with our partner, it eliminates the opportunity to move forward with problem solving. Contempt signals a feeling that a person is beneath consideration, worthless or deserving scorn. When John Gottman witnesses contempt in dialog with a couple he is working with, he knows to immediately deal with the problematic attitude. Nothing we try to remedy in couples therapy will move forward if contempt is present. You can imagine that the other problematic behaviors of stonewalling, criticizing and defensiveness will not allow insight or alignment to happen.
Why am I focusing on these elements today?
When our mental energy is not getting refreshed by new experience, delight and connection, we start to harbor toxic brain chemistry that pollutes our thinking. We need to be on guard for toxic ideas that show up in our thinking and in our relationships. If we can focus on what is working, perhaps we can reserve enough mental energy to deal with our suffering from a less unhealthy place.
Bring the Zen with you
I have a beautiful art print in my office with a quote from Robert Pirsig “The only Zen you can find on the tops of mountains is the Zen you bring up there.” We are on a long climb to get over the tall mountain journey that Covid19 has invited us to trek. Having been on 3 mountain climbing trips, I know there comes a point in the trek when you think you can’t go on. A mountain climbing adventure is a thrilling prospect when you are preparing, but a grueling experience while you are carrying your supplies on your back, dealing with blisters on your feet, managing the heat and cold and missing the luxuries of home. On all three trips I’ve been proud that I pushed myself to do this hard thing. There was a point on each trek that I thought I won’t make it. Today, as we suffer on this long trek with Covid19, let’s keep trudging the long climb knowing that there is beauty on the way, there are moments to celebrate tiny comforts and people on the trip with you who can help you on your journey. We have come a long way; yet, there is more path before us before we arrive at a new place without the threat of Covid19 impacting our every move. If you are exhausted from your trek, be sure to reach out. We are all traveling this path, we all have unique gifts for making the journey less burdensome.
Journey Counseling is here if you need a place to land, to rest and to recalibrate your energy for the way forward. Call 701-356-5544