“I can’t believe I did that!” I thought. “Why can’t I get it together?”
“I bet (so-and-so) would never act like this,” my thoughts continued.
“I shouldn’t feel so angry!”
I’ve had moments where these very thoughts ran through my head, particularly when my daughter was a new baby and I was learning how to nurse, function without much sleep, and selflessly care for someone else. I was trying so hard to do “everything right” but I felt so frustrated that she wouldn’t nap, or wouldn’t stop crying, so I couldn’t get some rest.
I’d practiced mindfulness and accepting the “is-ness” of the situation, trying to accept that she was crying, and trying to accept that I didn’t know how to help her.
Soon I would say to myself, “why can’t I just accept the fact that she’s crying?! What is wrong with me that I can’t accept this?!” The inner beat up would intensify, only causing me to feel more upset.
I resisted my frustration with thoughts like, “I shouldn’t be feeling this way” or “OMG, there is no reason to feel so angry.”
What I missed in these moments, as we all often do, is the self-compassionate acceptance of my own inner struggle.
I solely focused on my outer struggle, hoping that by accepting her crying that my feelings toward the situation would change. However, I was resisting my own inner struggle and forgetting to accept and fully feel my unpleasant emotions.
Accepting “what is” in the moment is a beautiful and powerful practice. I often forget that the foremost “what is” in the moment could be my own inner struggle rather than an outer situation.
As I struggled, I forgot that when I signed up for this journey of being human (and being a mother) that challenges and unpleasant emotions came with the deal and that there is nothing wrong with their presence. In fact, I believe unpleasant emotions are asking us to go within and discover where we're disconnected, feel what wants to be felt and nurture the part of ourselves that’s suffering.
These days I have a near two-year-old and while the requests from motherhood have dramatically changed, frustrations (what a shock) still arise.
Sometimes it’s really easy to accept a situation as it is and not feel a whole lot of emotion about it, or to instead feel love or compassion for the other. Other times I get triggered.
I practice noticing what’s going on inside me when I feel triggered. For example, I might even say to myself, “There it is. I feel triggered by this.”
Then I’ll ask myself:
What feelings am I experiencing (physically and emotionally)?
What emotions want to be felt?
Can I accept what’s going on inside right now?
Can I allow myself to feel these unpleasant emotions?
Often times it’s only a few breaths later that I notice a “yes” answer inside me along with an acceptance of the situation as well.
If you’re feeling deeply painful emotions right now, I invite you to explore whether or not you are resisting anything in your outer or inner world.
Are you resisting your emotions on any level?
Can you accept what’s going on inside you right now?
Can you allow yourself to feel the emotion?
Can you accept the situation before you?
Even if your answer is “no”, can you accept your answer?
With this practice I’ve discovered a space of non-judgment and compassion toward myself that is so sweet, open and kind. With acceptance and self-compassion you’ll find the vast open space inside you too.