The Art of Turning Towards Our Sh*t
I’ve been thinking a lot about how challenging it can be to take that first step in turning towards our stuff (aka. our shadow, sh*t, unmetabolized pain & unsavory emotions). This quote pretty much sums it up,
“Sit with it.
Instead of drinking it away, smoking it away,
sleeping it away, eating it away, running from it.
Sit with it.
You gotta feel it to heal it.”
- Amanda Ratkowski
But let’s be honest, sitting with our uncomfortable sh*t is hard to do and it’s far easier to shove it down with substances and distractions.
On top of that, our biology is hardwired to avoid discomfort.
If we are experiencing an uncomfortable feeling, there is a tenacious current inside of us that compels us to turn away from the source of discomfort, and mask it with food, sex, shopping, alcohol, overworking, sleep, denial, spoonful’s of chocolate sauce, or some other self-numbing technique.
But to truly heal, the first step is to gently begin to turn towards the uncomfortable thing. Turn towards your anger. Turn towards your grief. Turn towards your pain.
But how do we do this?
Last week, I employed one of my most simple and favorite go-to “turning-towards-my-sh*t-strategies.”
Lately, I have been eating to the point of pain. I’ve been stuffing myself with bread, cookies, cereal, and chocolate. It has been going on for a few months, and I finally realized what was happening.
Instead of focusing on the symptom, by shaming myself and throwing away all the cookies, I decided to get at the root of the issue. I took a deep breath and asked myself, “Hey Juna, what’s going on? Why you doing the overeating thingy?”
As I asked this, I put my hand on my heart and imagined I was asking this question to the little girl inside of me-- the tender, vulnerable underbelly of me.
At first, I heard and felt nothing.
So, I got in bed and got cozy under the covers. I took some deep breaths, closing my eyes and slowed everything down so I could really connect with her.
From this more attuned place, when I sensed my inner little girl, I could feel she was afraid. Her eyes were wide, and she was curled up in ball in a dark corner of my heart. Again, I patiently and compassionately asked her, “How are you doing sweetheart? What are you feeling right now?”
I sensed her crying and heard this little voice say, “I am afraid. There’s been too much change. I want to be more stable. I want home.”
Yes, that’s it.
I had been traveling for 3 months straight, bouncing from location to location every few days as I visited friends and family in the United States.
With my hand on my heart, I took deep breaths with her, allowing myself to feel the painful ripples and waves of her fear— my fear.
“I so get it sweetheart,” I gently said to her. “Thank you, thank you for letting me know how you feel. I have been traveling too much and I’m going to do my best to slow things down and give you more stability.”
I felt a deep softening inside of me and noticed my body exhaling fully. My little girl felt attended to and heard, and I felt her nervous system settling.
If I had chosen to continue to ignore this part of me, I have no doubt my overeating would have continued and would escalate so that she could get my attention (our younger parts are experts at creatively getting our attention).
This is an example of facing our sh*t—turning towards our undigested emotions and pain with compassion, curiosity, and a willingness to make some attuned changes.
There are many ways to face your stuff… and for me, connecting with my young inner parts always seems to get at the root of what most needs my attention. At times, when my sh*t feels too big and overwhelming to face, I bring in my therapist or a friend to hold space for me.
Try these 10 steps when Turning Towards Your Sh*t:
1) Notice Something is Up: Notice when you are using a substance or strategy to avoid something uncomfortable
2) Compassion vs. Shame: Instead of shaming yourself and focusing on the symptom (the substance or strategy), try turning towards the root of the issue with compassion and curiosity
3) Meeting Your Inner Child: Get in a comfortable seated or prone position, place a hand on your heart, close your eyes, take some deep breaths, and imagine you are connecting with your inner child
4) Connecting: Say hello to your inner child and imagine you can talk to each other. Gently ask them, “How are you doing sweetheart?”
5) Welcoming: Stay open to anything they share with you. The key to inner child work is to welcome (aka. not judge) anything they share or feel
6) Empathize: Empathize with your inner child, “I so get how you feel this way…” and ask them again, “Is there anything else you want to share?”
7) Getting to the Needs: When you feel ready, ask your inner child, “What do you need or want right now?”
8) Take Action: Even if you are unable to fully meet their requests right now, see if you can partially meet their requests. Get creative. And don’t wait to take action
9) Integrate: Take some deep, slow integrating breaths and notice how you feel now. How does your inner child feel? If you feel a little more grounded and settled, take some time to marinate in these feelings
10) Regularly Check-in: Check-in with your inner child throughout the day/week. Whether you like it or not, your subconscious (inner child) is here to stay and needs more of your attunement and care to feel safe and supported in this wild world