So many partners are, like everyone else, feeling overwhelmed by world events lately.
Have you found yourself curious about how you are dealing with the onslaught of distressing news about our chaotic world?
This is an important question for POSAs (partners of "sex addicts") because it's likely you are already functioning in the day to day with a much narrower-than-normal bandwidth available to you due to your betrayal trauma hijacking a lot of your available resources (emotional, psychological, sexual, financial, etc.)
Watching TV or seeing news snippets come streaming into our smartphones and other media devices, overhearing others in our proximity talking about the latest terrorist attack, mass shootings, growing nationalistic movements, refugee or immigration nightmare-- it can leave us absorbing huge collective anxieties and despair.
When those get added to the ongoing betrayal trauma feelings of helplessness, fear, and possibly even hopelessness about our own relationships ever not feeling like emotional terrorist attacks in our own homes, the various effects of trauma can start to stockpile. That's what we need to be mindful of because it can lead to overwhelm and that's not helpful to the psyche/soul that needs enough calm periods in which to accomplish any real healing. A mind constantly activated by intensity cannot allow existent trauma to heal.
So how have you noticed yourself responding to world events?
Here is a checklist to help you get some clarity. The goal here is nothing but gaining awareness. There is nothing to do or change, just notice. In this way, we make room for whatever is real for you, right now.
- I feel free to express my fear and sadness by crying, being quiet or whatever the moment calls for.
- I need to vent and rant with friends and/ or post my opinions frequently on Facebook.
- I tend to hide from feeling vulnerable by diving deeper into work, school, church, civic activities or my kids lives.
- I notice I am drinking more, I eat when I'm not really hungry, shop mindlessly or exercise compulsively to help me deal with my feelings.
- I tend to channel my feelings into activism, lending my energy to organizations that need help.
- I need to climb under the covers and shut the world out, it's all way too much for me right now.
Were you surprised to notice any of your own responses?
Can you give yourself permission to be wherever you are, processing or not processing everything swirling around you?
If the inner critic shows up and wants to harangue you for not dealing with a difficult set of situations"perfectly", can you remind yourself: No shoulds!
Remind yourself you are doing the best you can right now with the resources that are available to you.
If you notice you could use a little help with lessening the amount of overwhelm that might be creeping into your experience, either from your home situation or the global situation (or both) here are two quick techniques I recommend that have gotten me through more than one difficult period in my life:
Tara Brach, PhD's RAIN mindfulness practice is a beautifully gentle technique for when you feel gripped by reactivity to world news or anything upsetting. You can use this anytime you notice you are in "reactivity mode" which tends to launch us into heightened states of intensity, compounding the wounds our poor psyches are doing their best to manage.
This quick, simple, four-step process is condensed from the longer version she writes about in her latest book, True Refuge.
In her words:
"A brief and cleansing shower of RAIN might take a minute or so.
Recognize emotional reactivity.
Pause by taking three full breaths, and allow your inner experience to be as it is.
Investigate with kindness whatever feelings are most predominant. Resume activity and notice if there is more natural presence.
A light RAIN starts by recognizing that you are caught in reactivity- to bad news, to a perceived slight, etc.
When you recognize you are stuck, stop everything and take three long, full breaths.
These breaths help you disengage from the momentum of your thoughts and activity and make space for your inner experience.
Investigate by asking yourself, "What am I feeling?" and bring attention to your body- primarily your throat, chest, and belly.
Notice what sensations (tightness, pressure, heat) and emotions (afraid, angry, helpless) are predominant.
Let your intention be to befriend what you notice. Try to stay in touch with your breath as you contact your felt sense of what is happening.
Sometimes it's easy to locate your felt sense, but at other times it might be vague and hard to identify quickly. That's fine. What is important is pausing and deepening your attention.
See if it is possible to regard yourself with kindness.
You complete your moments of light RAIN by simply relaxing and reentering activity. As you move into what is next in your day, sense what might have shifted. Are you more aware? Open? Warmhearted? Are you taking things less personally? Is there more access to natural presence, the "N" of RAIN?"
(From the book True Refuge by Tara Brach. Copyright (c) 2013 by Tara Brach)
Another technique that I love for its ease and for how quickly it shifts me into a more positive feeling state is Gratitude. Here's how I used it today for upsetting global news:
In this internal dialogue I have with myself, I say some version of:
Ok, it looks like the proverbial doo-doo is hitting the fan out here in the world. Hmmm. That makes me feel really nervous and threatened. But since I'm sitting here in the relative quiet and peacefulness of my garden as I write this, the doo-doo has not yet hit.
Instead of fixating on my fears about future what-if's, is there something I can be grateful for in the present moment instead, something that is already true right now?
I'm grateful for this sunny day that I get to enjoy in my garden that is bursting with flowers
I'm grateful for the chocolate & hazelnut gelato my friend and I will go have after work today
I'm grateful that my city already has much experience dealing with terrorism so come what may, we have some practice with this
I'm grateful that my heart is intact enough to be able to feel the pain of so many who are displaced today, heartbroken today, suffering today
I'm grateful that summertime produces the yummiest cherries and peaches and watermelons
I'm grateful I have faith in my ability to heal, even when it takes longer than I'd like
And so on....
What you will often notice if you practice this short technique is that in addition to calming down an anxious nervous system, it also builds dual awareness beautifully. Since I start it off by acknowledging what I'm afraid of (the world situation, a negative) and then add in what is working well in my life (a positive), I expand my capacity to hold conflicting realities together inside me.
Practiced over time, this can stretch our ability to hold opposing views and not get too tightly locked down around any one thought or belief system. More spaciousness and fluidity are a common result.
Plus, it feels just lovely to acknowledge that even though so many things are wrong, there are also plenty that are going right. I remind myself I can choose where to redirect my focus if I find I've slipped back into fearful, contractive thinking.
So, those are two techniques from my tool box, what about you?
What have you noticed about how you are dealing with personal and/or global difficulties now?
What has worked for you?
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