Change your expat life
Tuning In to What You’re Feeling
Packers arrived this morning. We thought they would just prepare the crates for the fragile items, but we were wrong. All day long, they have been packing things away. The house is now filled with boxes.
This is real. The countdown has started.
The people who have been with us all these years in Zimbabwe are quiet. They are telling me that it is such a sad week. I tear up often, thinking back to all we’ve experienced here. I see us move in—it’s still fresh. It was not so many years ago. I can recall the kids playing with large boxes while we unpacked. I remember our first breakfast. I can remember all the beautiful firsts, and the many, many amazing memories of living here.
But, if I’m honest, I’ve been fighting some of the more uncomfortable emotions that have come up. So, I thought I would write about this tendency to fight uncomfortable emotion — because I know I’m not alone in having it.
Accepting the full spectrum emotions
When the emotion we feel is uncomfortable, we tend to react, resist, or avoid it. This is common. But the problem with doing so is twofold:
- It does not get rid of the emotion
- It usually has a negative consequence
When I was fighting my emotions around moving, I did so because I did not want to feel the sadness. It felt overwhelming. So, instead, I turned to self-pity. I ruminated on the decision we had made months ago. I wanted to blame the organization my husband works for and, inevitably, I wanted to blame him for making us pack up a life we love.
Even now, as I am writing this, I hear the kids jumping on the trampoline. I hear their laughter. My heart breaks at the idea that they might miss this life as much as me, or that they might not even remember how amazing this all was. In order not to face these feelings, I can feel myself wanting to go to the pantry and have a piece of chocolate.
But I know what this impulse is — it’s numbing my uncomfortable emotions with something external. It feels good immediately, but after the short-term dopamine effect, it feels not so good. And I know that if I do too much of it, I might regret that piece of chocolate and eventually gain weight. Resistance also takes another form for me: packing my agenda to make it so full that I don’t even have time to think. But this can lead me to feel tired and/or stretched thin.
What I know, and what I want to share here is that strategies to avoid uncomfortable emotions will always backfire. But it does not have to feel this way. There are effective, powerful ways to build more emotional capacity—like anything, it is a skill that is simple and takes practice.
With Girafe Coaching, I take my clients through a six step-process to learn how to allow the full spectrum of their emotions. If you are interested, I invite you to get in touch.
In the meantime, just remember that modern emotional health starts by noticing that you are not allowing a certain feeling or feelings. So, ask yourself this: how to do you react, avoid, or resist feeling uncomfortable emotions?
If this topic is of interest, listen to Episode 3 of Love your Expat Life Podcast: The Rollercoaster of Emotions.
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