If someone smashes into your car, do you have a choice in how you feel about that? I certainly experienced a range of emotions recently when a motorist drove through a red light, straight into my drivers side, pushing my car into a pole and rendering it not drive-able. My perceptions slowed down when I saw him driving towards me, finding no way to avoid him, I was almost without emotion – it seemed surreal. By the time I realised I had been hit, I felt the rush of adrenaline pulsate through my body. I sat there for several seconds allowing myself to feel the feelings. I realised after many years of trauma work with clients, that it was important to allow the emotions to pass through my system. I went through shock, numbness, tremblings, anxiety, disorientation and uncontrollable crying. All while trying to assess the damage, exchange details, get myself into a safe place and organising tow trucks. I meet every feeling as it came through. I could have chosen to avoid these feelings and pretend that I was not affected by the accident. This would not of meant that the feelings weren’t there. It would have simply meant that the feelings were suppressed and one step removed from my conscious awareness. By driving the feelings underground, we are more vulnerable to these denied feelings having more power in our lives. They may be there ready to rise to the surface in future situations that key it off by association…a sound, a smell, a statement, thought.
When I leant into all the emotions, it certainly didn’t feel that emotions where a choice. Within 30 minutes much of the emotional experience of the accident had passed through my system. On reflection, I became aware that what is a choice is how I think about what happened now, feelings I practice now in relation to what happened and the story I tell myself. I am certainly very grateful that I wasn’t seriously injured and I could walk out of the accident with only my car compromised. I can choose not think about what happened or ruminate on it. I can not go into the story of fair or unfair. I can simply be in this moment, grateful for my health and well being, trusting that all things work out for the best.
By ruminating on any experience from the past, we are wiring that experience and the emotions into the body. Like creating a river from a creek, the more we think the same thoughts, and feel the same feelings – we are a forming an emotional habit or addiction. These thoughts and feelings weave themselves into the structure of our personality and identity and project themselves on other situations. They become the lens we look through out into the world. By letting go and looking for the silver lining , we a guaranteeing a ticket to happiness and well being.