Strong emotions come in many disguises. I’ve spoken in the past about feeling fear, and how taking my fears out for a cup of coffee is an effective way to step into this strong emotion, exploring it in an objective way. There are other strong emotions, and while I have tried to take them out for coffee too, that hasn’t proven as effective as it is with my fears. Take my “worst-self” as an example. Petty, resentful, judgmental and gripping a burning need to be right, my “worst-self” emerges by flinging emotions at me like a toddler emptying a toy box. Fast, furious and fueled by righteous indignation (or fault-finding glee) there is less opportunity here to shift the pace and sit down for a cuppa (the caffeine would probably make things worse anyway). So, what to do?
Acknowledging when my worst self is emerging (or right here) is key, so is doing it without judgement. You cannot jettison these emotions, they love a good “street fight” and are pre-packed with reserves of energy, which means judgment, self-recrimination, etc. just feeds them (and they are hungry). These emotions have the strength to beat your best self into a coma. It took me some time to realize that the energetic quality of these emotions meant I needed a different approach. When these emotions are present, I feel it; my body becomes larger, I take up more physical and emotional space, leaning in, tight neck muscles, arms and hands pulsing into the space around me. Finger pointing. That’s usually when I become aware; I see my own finger flashing about like a sword. What does your “worst-self” feel like to you? No judgment, we all have one.
Which is the key. “Worst-self” shows up for a reason. These emotions, while a reaction (rather than a response) are trying desperately to tell you something, they just don’t have the words. Use their energy, their fire, and invite them to dance. Name them one by one as you tango, look them right in the eye and discern what they are trying to tell you as you traverse the floor in a complicated mix of sensuous, intimate, steps. Listen to what they express without becoming attached, because underneath all that reactionary self-expression is something that needs your kind and loving attention. You were hurt, ignored or hindered for too long; you benefit from exploring what this is doing to your well-being with compassion, wisdom and energy. Your “worst-self” is about giving you agency, permission (albeit in a passionately unskilled way).
Sweaty but satisfied your “worst-self” cedes the floor with a bow, letting you take it from here. What did you care so deeply about that you had a physical response to its presence (or absence)? What is it now calling on you to attend to in a gentle and kind way? Thank your “worst-self” for taking you out of your comfort zone, and know you’ve got this (it no longer has you).
“To dance is to be out of yourself. Larger, more beautiful, more powerful… This is power, it is glory on earth and it is yours for the taking.”
~ Agnes De Mille