Lessons from Therese Borchard about Working with Difficult Emotions
Therese Borchard, author of multiple books and the popular blog Beyond Blue, describes just the costs of depression and anxiety when avoiding feelings and shows us how unplugging from technology from time to time can give us the experience of allowing feelings to arise instead of keeping them walled up inside.
Find out how much time you gain when you stop checking your emails every half-second. And wait for the uncomfortable feelings … of loneliness, fear, insecurity … to surface once you stop running from event A to event B. You’ll be surprised to find so many emotions that have been tucked inside, waiting for an opportunity to emerge when you slow down (which, of course, you don’t).
She goes on to explain the cost of not doing this:
However, I’m finding that if I don’t quiet down every now and then to hear what my feelings have to say, that my inner life will eventually erupt in an ugly mess of depression and anxiety. So this little hiatus from the world isn’t just a nice thing to do if you can afford it. It’s essential to staying well.
I would say that Therese was practicing being kind to herself in this process and this elicited these feelings of well-being.
We might be able to think of our feelings as little parts of ourselves. When we avoid, neglect, or repress them then we are only avoiding, neglecting, or repressing ourselves. As human beings, we don’t do well when we’re treated this way. However, we’re so conditioned to avoid discomfort at all costs that we’ve lost the ability to embrace our feelings (sometimes even the joyful ones). It is a practice to re-integrate all these parts of ourselves. When we do integrate them, we can reap great benefits.
I was sitting across from a couple in therapy recently and as the wife was explaining to her husband the various insights she was having about how his behavior could improve you could see his body stiffening up, his arms crossing and his mouth moving saying the words, “uh-huh, yup, you’re right…” There was something not fitting in this picture between his body language and his verbal language. His body was telling me that he was avoiding some feeling there and this was keeping the two of them walled off.
I began to address them noting what I thought I was seeing. And then for about 20 seconds, my eyes caught the gaze of the husband and we just looked into one another’s eyes in silence. The wheels of defensiveness in his mind came to a halt and as he began to just “be with” the feelings that were present, tears began to well up in his eyes and a smile began to break across his face. Something softened in that moment, the walls began to melt away, and before we knew it he started talking about how this is how he felt when he and his wife first met:
A feeling of total acceptance and nonjudgment even in the midst of his emotional burdens.
I would argue that in that moment, he had a feeling of self-acceptance and self-love and this is what melted the wall. Allowing himself to be present to his difficult emotions was an act of kindness and I believe made space for feeling love. It’s beautiful to watch and be a part of when it happens.
One way of practicing this for yourself is to follow Therese Borchard’s advice. If you are a technology addict as so many of us have become, this is a way to practice a bit of mindfulness with your emotions. Unplug from email for a bit, and notice what arises. See if you can imagine that discomfort as a little child within you, and instead of trying to get rid of it, welcome and embrace it. You can give yourself a time limit of 5 minutes or if that is too much try 1 minute.
This is an act of kindness that will go on to pay large dividends in the future. To hear more about the benefits of kindness to your mental health, stay tuned for this Fridays upcoming interview with renowned author and mindfulness teacher Sharon Salzberg.
As always, please share your thoughts, stories, and questions below. Your interaction provides a living wisdom for us all to benefit from
Goldstein, E. (2009). Lessons from Therese Borchard about Working with Difficult Emotions. Psych Central. Retrieved on April 26, 2018, from https://blogs.psychcentral.com/mindfulness/2009/09/lessons-from-therese-borchard-about-working-with-difficult-emotions/