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Hope Forward: Surviving and Thriving through Emotional Pain: February 2014

Monday, February 24, 2014

Emotional Concussions

"A concussion is a minor traumatic brain injury that may occur when the head hits an object, or a moving object strikes the head. It can affect how the brain works for a while. A concussion can lead to a bad headache, changes in alertness, or loss of consciousness." ~ Google

I've been thinking lately about how emotional pain can be like a concussion.  And there are so many moving parts in the world that bump into our heart, our ego, our sense of self.  Some of us are more easily injured than others, depending on our makeup, our history, the circumstances of our lives.  But when we get hurt emotionally it does effect our brain. It effects our functioning.  It can lead to physical pain, changes in our ability to act calmly or rationally.  We can even lose consciousness emotionally.  Sometimes that looks like depression, anger, overwhelm or feeling "out of it." 

There is wide range to what we call trauma.  There is of course, the big stuff, violence, abuse, natural disaster, tragedy.   And then there are all kinds of relational hurts that are not so obvious, but that still effect us and can effect our ability to function and certainly effect our moods and feelings.

So how do we take care of an emotional concussion?  Assess the injury - how severe is it?  (Does it need immediate professional help?)  And then: take a break, rest, know that your brain and your heart need time to heal.  Unpack what happened. Take a look at the events around the injury.  Study them a bit, over time, so that if possible the danger does not repeat itself.  Look for symptoms - see how you might have been effected.  Talk, of course, when you can, about the injury, the events that lead up to it, the aftermath.  Do soothing things that calm and relax the brain and rest the mind. 

Yes, with an emotional concussion we most likely do have to sit with the pain and feel it as part of treating it, but we don't have to do it quickly or harshly.  We can know that it's a process and that sometimes we are knocked off our normal functioning and we have to respect that and treat ourselves accordingly.  Otherwise just like with a physical concussion, if you don't heal well enough you may be more susceptible to further injury.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Oh Honey Baby (Empathy First....)

Sometimes in here in my office (and out there too) folks will say to me "I know I'm just venting" or "I know I'm going on and on."  And I am given to wondering why that seems not okay.  Because there is something so vital to it.  To the venting, to saying everything and anything and letting the words come out so that they don't stay in and travel around our heart, mind, psyche, body like little pebbles bumping around inside of us causing us hurt and harm and unnamable bad feelings. 

It's not that venting and talking and saying everything is all there has to be.  It's so good to put things into words - to help us slow down, to tame possibly damaging impulsivity, to give us relief.  Venting is often an end unto itself.  But it's also a means.  It often leads to new ideas, better feelings, clearing the way toward them like clearing overgrown vines from a path so that we can  see our way forward.

But one of the best parts of venting, I think, is being - feeling - understood by the listener.  A good friend of mine, who is a great empathic listener often says to me, when I call her and talk to her good ears, "oh honey baby!"  I don't hear it as condescending, or patronizing, or pathetic, rather I hear it as so very loving.  In fact, sometimes, I call her and say, "Hey, could I let go of something for a few minutes and could you do your 'oh honey baby' thing?"   And she does.  I no longer mind asking her to do it (it's nice when someone anticipates your needs, but sometimes we have to ask). 

And after she is done with her good loving empathy, she often will ask me if I'd like some feedback.  And usually I would.  And after a good dose of  'oh honey baby' I've either come to some new level of understanding myself of what I need to do, what my part is, and what the next small right step is, or I am  pretty open to hearing what her opinion is. 

It's not a new idea, but somehow it gets lost when we are hurt, hurting, angry, full of resentment, or feeling deprived.  Venting and empathic listening go such a long way.... with our selves, our partners, children, friends.  And by doing it, we teach it.  It usually comes back around for us too.  And we are dissolving the pebbles inside of us and clearing the overgrown vines out of the path to a better place for all of us.