I’ve revisited a recent judging experience as I remember it. I hear myself apologizing for my reactions to the crowd and the noise and I hear myself internally questioning my knowledge and ability. I remember feeling like a poseur – inadequate, unprepared, and incompetent. Now, rationally, I know that none of those are real and yet that’s where I’ve gone inside myself.
I remember feeling outside the group and thinking that there was no way into it. And I remember feeling that others were shutting me out because they were speaking to each other in French and I’m not bilingual. Like they were choosing to do that in order to keep me outside their group even though I know that they’ve known each other for a long time, they coach together and French is their first language. And, to me, it just felt like another way I was rejected and shut out.
Sheila Winter Wallace and I talked about this at my most recent BSI® session – how I’ve felt shut out, shunned, left behind, not missed and how I’ve responded to that feeling. This can be crystallized into Rage, Sadness, Fear, and Guilt. These four responses have formed the foundation upon which I’ve lived much of my life – believed what’s possible for me, who I am, and the choices I’ve made.
I’ve considered myself to be an angry woman – one who is impatient with most rules and regulations and petty martinets. And I’ve muttered and groused to myself and attempted to eat my anger. I’ve told myself that I was over-reacting, that my response does not fit the stimulus. I’ve told myself that I was just being a drama queen. I’ve told myself that I was being childish since the ‘adult’ thing to do would be to be calm and measured and rational. And I’ve tried to manage my state and swallow my anger. Yet, inside, it’s felt like a volcano about to erupt. Each time I’ve eaten my anger, I’ve become angrier until something would happen and I couldn’t control my response any longer and it would all spew forth like a toxic flow.
The extent of the anger I’ve felt in my life has scared me. And yet I know that it has also helped me feel safe. Being angry has provided me with a buffer zone between me and others. It’s kept others at bay. And my rage has also created a double bind. I’ve wanted to feel like I belong somewhere and was accepted just for being myself and, at the same time, I’ve set things up so that I’ve kept others at a distance through the energetic aura of rage with which I’ve cloaked myself.
The fall out of this is that I’ve also believed myself to be an innately sad person. Oh, I know that everyone gets down every now and then. I’ve just lived in that state for much of my life. I’ve wished that I could at least be content – I’d settle for that even as I wanted to feel happy. It was easy to tell myself and everyone that I’m just very emotional – that I cry at and about everything: watching three-hankie movies, seeing things of great beauty, hearing soul-stirring music, and after losing my temper. It has always seemed to me that it hasn’t mattered what the impetus has been, the end result for me has been tears. And it’s been heavy to wear that emotion all the time – either overtly or covertly. There have been times when it’s just seemed like too much effort to get up and go out into the world.
Anger has led to sadness and that has led to fear.
It seems to me that I’ve been a worry-wart for much of my life. I’ve second guessed myself and worried about just about every major choice I’ve made in my life. I’ve worried that I haven’t done enough or that I’ve done too much. I’ve worried that I’ve forgotten something. I’ve worried about what I’ve chosen to do and about what I haven’t chosen to do. I’ve worried and I’ve worried and I’ve worried.
While I don’t like spiders much and I really don’t like snakes and while I’m not enamoured of heights, these are fears which live outside of my internal thoughts. Avoid the spiders and snakes, avoid heights – rational choices to minimize these fears. It’s the internal things which I fear which can trip me up. While I know that they’re not rational and have no basis in fact, they can still clutter up my thoughts. And they all are fears based on performance – did I do it right? what did I miss? what have I done wrong? will I measure up? will people like me? Amazing how these fears are all about how I think others will perceive me. And even as these fears have subtly driven me forward to do more and try more and try harder, there has always been a part of me that knows how irrational they are. And, guess what, that realization has lead to me feeling guilty.
So what have I been guilty of? Tying myself up in knots, beating myself up for not being good enough [says who?], getting angry at myself for allowing myself to get caught in the trap laid by my fears. When I was a kid, I used to make fun of one of my sisters who seemed to always apologize for something. It was always, “I’m sorry.” Yet I know that, while I might not have said those words out loud as she did, I was always saying them inside when something didn’t work out the way I’d hoped it would. And when I’ve found myself feeling guilty for being myself and for the choices which I’ve made, I always end up getting angry. I’ve asked myself, “What do I have to apologize for?” And I’ve gotten angry at myself for feeling guilty and cross-questioning myself.
So anger has led to sadness which has begotten fear which has given birth to guilt. It’s a really closed loop. Each has fed the next and guilt has fed my anger and the pattern has begun again. It’s been like being a hamster stuck forever in a wheel and running and never being able to get off. Or think of a dog which perpetually runs around in circles trying to catch its own tail.
On and on
She just keeps on trying
And she smiles
When she feels like crying
On and on, on and on, on and on.
I’ve always thought of my emotions as real and as something which are part of me and about which I have no choice. And I know that the intensity of my responses has led me to attempt to manage my state and to do anything to avoid these responses. And so my life has felt like I’m on an emotional roller coaster – stimulated by rage and then falling down into sadness, then stimulated by fear and then falling into guilt and shame. And it’s been very tiring and so extremely limiting.
I do still experience these four emotions. I’ve wondered why they’ve shown up again when they do. I’ve asked myself why, if I know what’s going on inside me, have these responses not fallen away? I know that conscious awareness is the key to my continuing evolution. And so, I am learning to take the time to breathe through my responses and to choose to respond differently. And I know that the pattern of rage, sadness, fear, and guilt is transforming.
It’s amazing what can happen when we remember to breathe and allow whatever waves of emotion arise to move through us and then make conscious choices.