Monday, November 7, 2022

Living Large

     This month, my awesome ADHD coach is teaching all about emotional regulation. Actually, most of what I've learned about my own emotions, I've learned from her before this present course began, and I think this is really the work I most need to do now. What I know about myself and emotions going in: I don't like them, I don't want them, I resist them, I stuff them, I ignore them, or sometimes I ruminate on them. And the result of all that is that I am ineffectual, I have no energy, I spin in circles, I putter and buffer and mutter and live a small, futile life. I don't want all that emotion, I dread opening up to it. And yet, it seems clear to me that this is what I have to learn to do in order to live fully, and in order to become a resource for others to learn to live fully.

    Why am I so uncomfortable with emotions? For one thing, trouble with emotional regulation is a common characteristic of ADHD, autism, giftedness, and highly sensitive neurotypes generally. On top of that (or maybe because of it), I have complex trauma about emotional disregulation itself, from the years I spent with untreated depression, growing up in the pre-Prozac era. And anyway, I'm a product of my culture, of my time and place, in which I think probably most people never really learn how to handle emotions in a healthy way.

    One thing I've learned in the last few years, that's universally true: emotion is the fuel for action (or inaction), always. One thing I've learned about neurodiversity: a lot of us (including me) are more sensitive and intense than what's typical for the general population. So learning to tolerate my sensitivity and handle that intensity is something I need to learn how to do in order to make real progress in my life. 

    I'm a hermit. What that means now, since I left my little forest hermitage and entered this long transitional discernment period, and what (if anything) that will mean in the future, I don't know. But for now, I still draw most of my deepest peace and comfort and strength from my solitary relationship with God in prayer and meditation. And yet, I am told, and I read, in all this study of psychology and personal growth, that our nervous systems normally learn to regulate emotion in relationship with other people. I don't have a lot of near relationships right now, but there are people I know and like and trust. I have a spiritual director and a therapist and teachers, and communities of people with whom I am learning all this stuff about our hearts and minds. I have some friends and loving family. None of these people live in the same country as me, but thanks be to God for the internet, Zoom, all the ways of connecting.

    I don't know where my path of healing will lead me relative to my solitary religious life. The hermitage has been absolutely essential for getting me this far. But I have never taken permanent vows, because it's always been so obvious to me that I have a process of healing and growth to go through first. I've come a long, long way. This part, this getting to know and open up to my whole range of emotions, is just something I've got to step into next. Whether I'll be a hermit still (or again) later on, I just can't tell.

    It does help, very much, to feel that my emotions, my nervous system, my whole crazy intense self, is perfectly safe in God's embrace. I want to try a new meditation practice: to pause over and over throughout the day -- say, hourly -- to invoke the loving presence of God, and then to simply tune into whatever I'm thinking, feeling, sensing. No judgment, no "fixing" necessary, just periodically, a few moments of mindfulness. Just to begin to reverse the long process of ignoring my feelings, to begin to welcome them, to make space for all of me. 

    So, here's to becoming more whole. Here's to living a bigger, truer, fuller life. Amen.

+++ PEACE +++

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