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TO ALLOW OR TO WALLOW – WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE?

To allow or to wallow… what’s the difference?

Just one letter. One tiny letter with huge significance.

How do we make the distinction between wallowing and allowing our feelings? Should I allow my feelings when they’re based on cognitive distortions/ faulty beliefs? 

Thoughts create feelings. So should I allow my distorted thoughts to create distorted feelings? By allowing these distortions am I then wallowing?

There is this trend at the moment encouraging us to allow all of our feelings, but I think there is an extremely fine line between allowing and wallowing. I invite you (and remind myself) to tread very cautiously with this paradigm.

Absolutely acknowledge your feelings with gentleness and self-compassion. Meet them with love and hold space for yourself. Place your hand on your heart and tell yourself that you are listening. Denial after all is no one’s friend.

But then gently investigate your thoughts that preceded the feelings.

I can experience feelings of sadness, anger, overwhelm etc that all feel hugely justifiable and valid, but if I skate on the thin ice of allowing too long, I invariably fall through the cracks into the icy waters of wallowing.

So allow but investigate. Challenge the thoughts that led to the painful feelings.

Have I been outsourcing my strength and power?
Have I been fearful of not getting what I want?
Have I been fearful of losing something I have?
Has a situation or person not turned out the way I thought it/they ‘should’?
Are things not going ‘my way’?
Am I indulging in black and white thinking?
Am I being single minded, obsessive and unable to see the wood for the trees?
Am I believing my own inner critic?
Am I trying to manage someone else’s life, thinking I know what’s best for someone who isn’t me?
If everyone is pissing me off, am I considering who the common denominator is?
 
Meet your fear and disappointment and anger and frustration with an open heart. Let go of self-condemnation and self-expectations and be sure to drop all those ‘shoulds’! Nurture yourself and practise self-empathy.
 
But then investigate. Release your tears and explore with curiosity. Journal, meditate, sing, dance, create, bake. Whatever works for you.
 
Thoughts are thoughts. They don’t represent truth but they do create feelings and those feelings can feel very true.
two yellow doors
Red flags for when we’re wallowing rather than allowing:  
 
  • Self-pity and resentment 
  • Self-righteousness & justifying anger
  • Endless thought loops – stagnating in the same thoughts
  • Feelings of resistance to flow and growth
When we’re allowing:
 
  • Curiosity about our thoughts, rather than self-criticism
  • Self-compassion & gentleness
  • Self-responsibility over blaming others
  • Openness to lessons and growth
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Feeling the Fear & Doing it Anyway | A decade into Sobriety

I’m not usually one to sit and ponder a whole year or a whole decade – possibly because it feels too overwhelming, possibly because I often have a sense that I haven’t achieved ‘enough’, possibly because I practise self-reflection Every. Single. Day as part of my daily routine so I don’t feel the necessity.

It’s also very easy for me to focus on where I think I ‘should’ be, instead of looking at how far I’ve come, so with the intention of redirecting my focus, here’s a little reflection on what I’ve learned, and relearned, this year.

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🌈I can handle it 

Despite my experience of achieving what I thought was impossible (a decade of sobriety and abstinence from self-harm, one day at a time) my old thought patterns can still persist. My default whispers of ‘I can’t handle this/ It’s too hard/ I want to give up’ have limited me immeasurably over the years and I am again relearning that I can handle it/ I can do it/ and that perseverance yields results.

The messages we tell ourselves have an unfathomably enormous effect on our lives and so by transforming our inner dialogue, we transform our outer lives. Telling myself ‘I can handle it’ (when I’ve often convinced myself I can’t) has truly been life-changing.

🌈 My feelings, my choices, my actions are MY responsibility

I was introduced to this truth when I first entered recovery and it was probably the most difficult lesson for me to accept. I’d spent my life blaming others for the way I was and the way I reacted; it was always somebody else’s fault, never my own. If I was miserable and suffering, it was your fault. To therefore be asked to digest the unpalatable truth that I was in fact responsible for all these things… I was horrified.

It has taken me years of oscillating between acceptance and resistance of this notion, consistently feeling the pull back into blaming, but this year, having read some incredible books (eg. Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway) and working with an incredible breathwork practitioner (Olga Circles) I have felt a truly pivotal shift in my understanding of self-responsibility.

🌈 To reconnect to the spiritual path after heart ache and disappointment

Throughout the last decade my morning practise has proved to be an integral piece in my healing. (By morning practise I mean my *almost* daily routine of reading spiritual literature, journaling, affirmations, gratitude lists, yoga and meditation – *almost* every day I utilise a combination of these tools.) Despite knowing the profound impact this has had on my life, I have frequently experienced resistance to it and over time had become complacent and even negligent – possibly because it can feel counter-intuitive (my ego doesn’t want to be silenced), possibly because it’s hard, possibly because growth can be slow and I allowed my impatience to win.

This year however, after quite an extended period of ‘slackness’, my life circumstances shifted and I was left feeling bereft and desperate. Instead of reacting emotionally and destructively, I miraculously felt the pull to reconnect to my spiritual path and began a gentle but regimented daily practise (incorporating all of the above tools). Within weeks I felt transformed and was reminded that ‘doing the work’ really really does work!

🌈 Resistance (for me) is inevitable, and that’s ok!

Some people seem to heal effortlessly – they seem to grasp new concepts and new ideas with fervour and embrace growth & change whole-heartedly. I on the other hand seem to need my claws prizing away from old ideas and old beliefs. I judge myself for being this way, often wishing I could just let go of my resistance, but have recently been reminded (through exploring Buddhism) that this is NORMAL.

Growing can be uncomfortable. Facing yourself can be uncomfortable. Sitting through pain and discomfort is definitely uncomfortable. It’s not surprising I experience resistance. Knowing this and introducing self-compassion to my daily practise has been hugely helpful.

🌈 Humour is everything

When faced with what we label as ‘awful’, laughter can be transformative. It lessens the pain, it takes away the shame, it connects us. In the midst of my old life I don’t remember having a sense of humour. Now, the ability to laugh at myself and inject humour into a situation full of pathos is one of the greatest gifts I have.

🌈 I can walk through fear

Despite consistent evidence in my life that walking through fear is possible, my thinking can still default to old patterns. I have been reminded again this year that pushing through fear is far less frightening and far less painful than sitting in inaction (thank you Susan Jeffers!) Walking through the discomfort and asking for support has led me to achieving things I never imagined I could.

🌈 To live with uncertainty

To lean into it with an open heart and ride the wave in the direction it’s going, wide eyed to possibility. It is only through practise and willingness that I have been able to do this, as for me, uncertainty gives me itchy blood. To sit in ambiguity, to let go of expectations and mental scripting, to dissolve all the ‘shoulds’ – this is where the work lies. It’s hard. It can be disorienting. But it’s oh so freeing and I have deep wells of gratitude for the gift of this practice.

🌈 My ‘tribe’ is everything

Without connection I would simply wither away. I am fortunate enough to be deeply nourished by two tribes: my recovery group and my ‘home alone’ group. The women in recovery who walk this path with me are my life line. To share our lives together, our experiences, our struggles and our successes keeps me afloat. No one gets me like they do. We have a wordless connection, our hearts are interwoven and our stories save each other. My heart surges with gratitude when I think about them. I owe them my life. And the women who comprise our ‘home alone’ group – our incredible network of sole business owners/ warriors – support and inspire me everyday. They are awe-inspiring, resilient and brilliant women and I am privileged to call them my closest friends. I learn and re-learn all the time how important these GODDESSES are to me.💖🙏🏻