Monday, March 3, 2014

From Inquisition to Inquiry: what to do when your feelings are hurt.

'Frills?  You bought a blouse with frills? But frills don't even suit you!"  

You know that feeling like someone just punched you in the stomach?  That was how Emma felt.  She had just shyly displayed to her lunch companion a rather gorgeous blouse she'd bought and had not been expecting that response.  She laughed it off, made a joke at her own expense, quickly put the blouse back in the bag and carried on having lunch as if nothing had happened.  However, inside feelings of discomfort sat in her body like emotional indigestion. 

How many of us have done that?  Felt cut down, hurt, insulted or humiliated and put on a brave face to avoid a scene?  Its true, sometimes its not an appropriate time or, like Emma, you can't say anything for fear of getting upset.  But it is important to find a way to process it because, believe it or not, hurt feelings are a gift in disguise!

As author and self-inquiry teacher, Byron Katie, says, an uncomfortable feeling is not an enemy, its a gift.  Learning to 'get honest and inquire' when you feel something uncomfortable takes a little practice, especially when we're soooo good at hiding feelings away for fear of embarrassment, conflict or upset.  So, here are some important tools to help you.  

Self-compassion is a practice, it starts by simply giving yourself permission to make mistakes, to have feelings of vulnerability and, with practice, develops into learning how to establish healthy boundaries and build thriving relationships.

Without compassion your 'inquiry' can be more like an Inquisition asking 'what were you thinking?' and judging yourself as weak and pathetic for feeling hurt. Compassionate Inquiry means asking yourself  'what was I learning?' and can lead you out of condemnation and judgement to wisdom and understanding.

Inquiry comes from the word to seek.  The point of personal inquiry is to seek new understanding.  It enables you to become curious, to begin a journey of growth and personal development.  Inquiry opens your eyes to the bigger picture so you can better understand yourself and others.

How many times have you felt like the victim, blaming others and feeling powerless to change events?  Honest inquiry acknowledges that its not outside circumstances but your attachment to your version of the story that keeps you stuck.  Even though you may feel powerless to change events, circumstances or people, empowerment starts the moment you choose how you're going to respond.

By giving herself space to explore her feelings, Emma recognised how she swallows her hurt and denies her vulnerability - and has done so much of her life.  She could see how this pattern has had a negative affect on her confidence, her relationships and her ability to speak up.

Appreciation & Gratitude
Uncomfortable feelings create stress and conflict within the body and if we don't address how we feel and bring new understanding and awareness, a vicious cycle begins.  The brain believes there is an threat of attack and shifts into 'fight or flight' response - we go into survival mode creating more tension and stress in preparation for a battle to the death.  Help!!!

Its hard to break when you're caught in a cycle, your brain is in lock-down, access to finer feelings of curiosity and appreciation severely limited, if not impossible. However, the more we practice appreciation and gratitude in our everyday life, the more resilient we become when under stress.

Keeping a journal, doing random acts of kindness, spending time in nature, being creative - all are ways to practice appreciation and gratitude.  Its doesn't have to be a big ceremony - tiny little moments quickly add up!

With daily practice gratitude strengthens our sense of well-being,  building an inner strength that supports us and helps us become emotionally resilient.  When faced with a challenging situation we can stay centred and slow down our response time to stress, give ourselves permission to feel, have some breathing space and the confidence and courage to know when to speak up or walk away.

Go deeper
The most important tool we need to handle hurt feelings is the ability to feel them!  If we shut down the bad feelings, our brain also shuts down access to the good feelings and life and relationships become hard work.  When we become scared to feel bad feelings we become fearful of good feelings too.   We convince ourselves that its easier to block everything out to avoid having to feel heartache.  But shutting down and numbing out doesn't make the bad feelings go away, it just means we can't get through them which blocks our access to happiness and well-being.

Emma recognised that she couldn't get beyond feeling hurt because she wasn't allowing herself to feel.  Her 'friend' no doubt had no memory of the event but Emma had been recycling her bad feelings rather than moving through and learning from them.  

Getting honest with herself about her feelings Emma recognised that some of her friendships were no longer helpful or healthy.  With self-compassion she can choose to spend time with people whose friendship she values and who she feels value her.  She's built a much healthier relationship to herself and her feelings and, as a result, feels stronger and more confident in all her relationships.

Hurt feelings are part of the human journey, it takes courage to feel them because they make us vulnerable and if we judge vulnerability as weakness we lock ourselves out of a richer experience of life.  Becoming comfortable with vulnerability and emotions and approaching them with compassion, honesty, curiosity and appreciation opens a gateway to healthy, authentic relationships, starting with the most important relationship of all - you!

By the way, Emma feels great in frills and wears them with pride.

If you'd like further information on coaching and courses in emotional resilience email Kim or phone 07789 408378.


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