Aron and his family spent a week at the beach with their extended family. Unfortunately, the timing was not ideal for Aron and he had to work a large portion of the week. When the weekend was planned, his company was having a slow period and it looked as if he would be able to spend time with his family and have fun. The week of his vacation, an unexpected project came up and he had to attend to the last minute details in order for the deal to close.
As the week progressed, Aron became more disappointed that he was missing all the fun. He would watch the others go to the beach, relax and play in the ocean, while he was at his computer working and on the phone solving problems. At the end of the week, he was packing the car, a job he preferred to do alone, while his wife and daughter were playing in the ocean. His wife wanted to take pictures before driving home and kept asking him when he would be available. The third time she asked, he snapped at her. Aron instantly felt badly about it, as he was working hard to be more patient. He felt that he had failed himself and his wife.
On the car trip home, his wife told him that when he was impatient and short with her, she did not want to be close to him. Aron was instantly devastated, feeling hopeless and terrified that his marriage was not going to work. After all the work he had done to support his family and the time he had spent in therapy, what he heard his wife say was that all his work was fruitless.
He felt hurt and afraid, yet acted angry. It took him a week to begin to regain his sense of equilibrium. He came to his therapy session disappointed and feeling somewhat desperate. How was he going to stop getting so reactive?
Old Feelings Activated
Aron experienced something that we all have experienced in our lives. The interaction with his wife activated old feelings related to the difficulties from his past. As a child, he worked hard to help his mother both financially and emotionally. He tried as hard as he could, but could not save his mother from hardship or make her happy. He was a child. Now as an adult, he felt he was facing the same situation with his wife.
What Aron needed to do was to find his way out of the past feelings and become grounded in the here and now. To use parts language, he needed to get his adult in charge of himself and his emotions. He needed to separate from the feelings, beliefs, and body responses of his young self and realize that he had other resources inside.
Here are some steps to be able to begin that process:
Recognize that the emotions he was feeling were far bigger than the situation warranted.
Asking the question, “Why am I feeling this way?” can help activate the left brain, which is the thinking part of the brain. This will interrupt the emotional response long enough to obtain some perspective and help the thinking part of the brain to activate.
2. Accurately identify his feelings in the moment.
Aron was feeling hurt and scared but labeled his feelings as anger and was acting angry. This made himself feel worse and confused himself. Until he realized what he was feeling, he could not take action to help himself.
3. Identify what part of him was in charge at that time.
Going back to the fight, flight, freeze, submit, attach parts, each has its way of dealing with the situation. Their way of dealing with life, worked to help him survive the situations in which they were formed, but have become automatic responses that are no longer helpful. Decisions, plans and actions have to be made that are tailored to the here and now, not to the past. The part that was activated in the moment, was tied to the past.
4. Get connected to the here and now.
Curiosity and mindfulness are your greatest allies. This is the time to use Sgt. Friday’s method: “Just the facts, ma'am.” Use the facts to create a plan of action. Balance the emotions with the facts. Develop compassion and care for that child part that was wounded in the past.
A Record of the Past
This situation had a story to tell Aron about himself, his young life and the areas of himself that need compassion and care. Those areas are a record of old memories rather than current dangers. The way to bring about change inside of us is to listen, be compassionate and take care of the child parts inside.
Duel awareness is the ability to step outside of the internal action and observe our thoughts, feelings and reactions. It leads to transformation.When we develop duel awareness, memory becomes an act of creation. Acknowledging what happened, putting it in the proper prospective, realizing what happened is in the past, makes it possible to live in the here and now.
Are you having getting caught in the past and having trouble living in the here and now? Call me, I can help. (919)881-2001.