The Ice Cold Contraction

Truth Byte #30

"Stay and play, don’t run away."

I was a pretty even-tempered child.  That is, until my feelings got hurt.

Growing up in the 80’s in a large, close-knit extended family that loved to tease, that happened often.  When I felt that lump in my throat, I would quickly change the subject and try to blink back the tears.  I was never very good at putting on a false show, and my face would give it all away, so they always knew I was on the verge of tears at every family event.

But I loved to play with all my cousins and be around my aunts and uncles, so no matter how insistent the jesting, I would stay.  There were others in our group that would simply remove themselves, and over the years, have distanced themselves from the drama and potential hurt of our big fat immigrant family.

Over the past few weeks I have been reflecting upon how I choose to spend my time and with whom, and how layered and complex it can get in a family context.  I come from the type of family where we do complain about one another here and there, but as soon as the bad feelings are out of the mouth, they’re also out of the mind.  We do our best not to hold grudges, and hold each other accountable for the roles that each one of us play.

In a nutshell, we call each other out. 

In a nutshell, our love is strong and deep and unshakable, and yet we are not immune getting sucked in to family drama.

I think this makes us strong.  It also makes for some very tense and awkward moments.  So during these difficult conversations and scenarios I find myself facing as an adult, I remind myself of the ice cube technique that I learned during my birthing class.

The premise is simple: squeeze an ice cube in the palm of your hand for a full minute at three minute intervals.  The point of the exercise is for new moms-to-be (and their partners) to get a simulated version of the intensity of a contraction.

Now, those of us who have actually delivered a baby will laugh and shake our heads at this comparison, but when I was going through the exercise in the last trimester of my first baby, it really was quite difficult and uncomfortable.  Our teacher explained that there were two approaches to dealing with the pain of a contraction: you can either go in to the pain, or you can get away from it.  We all knew how to get away from pain, as this is something we are biologically wired to do and have been practicing all our lives.

But why would we ever choose to go IN to the pain?

And how would we even begin to do this?  It took a few tries for me to get it but when I did, it was like my world was flooded in sunshine after a dark, cold winter.

And so now, in my transpersonal counselling practice, I teach people to go in to their pain.

But’s it’s not physical pain, like the ice cube.  It’s emotional pain.

Which can be just as debilitating. 

Rather than distract themselves with their future goals or wish away their situations through good old-fashioned positive thinking, I challenge my clients to actually face the pain that is keeping them stuck.

I ask them to go in. 

And I promise to never leave them there. 

But if we aren’t willing to actually feel the pain, we can’t really move past it.  And this doesn’t mean you have to be re-traumatized.  There are certain memories that you really don’t need to re-visit.  But the feelings that we carry, deep in the most secret parts of our hearts, those deserve to be acknowledged and released.  What if we actually said to ourselves: “Yes, I feel bad about this thing that happened,” and then rather than explaining to away or spinning it in some way, we just felt that bad feeling for a moment or two?  And then (with the help of a trained professional, if needed) move on?

The really fascinating thing about feelings is that they are like little kids: when you pay attention to them from a caring place, they stop acting out, and if you ignore them, they either get more and more intense, or numb out and shut down.  So what if we all took some time this week to actually feel the cold sting of the ice cube from our own life? What if instead of distracting ourselves, we let ourselves have a good cry or a good vent or even just be willing to feel a bit uncomfortable for a while?

When you are willing to go all the way in, even the most overwhelming emotions can be distilled down to two primary impulses: moving towards (love) or moving away from (fear).

When we were infants, we only had the capacity to move towards or to move away from, to be attracted or to be repelled. So what if you just allowed that uncomfortable feeling to stay awhile and got to the bottom of it? Rather than push the pain away, you may be surprised at how it transforms you.  That’s what my family and I are learning: to stay and play instead of running away.

Even when it’s hard.

Join us in the Fall for an experiential  workshop that will show you how to effectively navigate your emotions and deal with emotional people without getting overwhelmed or numbed out.  Take advantage of our $99 Summer Slash Sale, and invite that person in your life that you know is ready for transformation to come along with you!  More at www.talktosaira.com or visit Dr. Saira’s Facebook page.