My experience of looking inward: Trusting the process

“The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them.” –Ernest Hemingway

As I mentioned in a previous blog post, I was inspired to set up Creative Touch from my guest experiences at the Cape Grace Hotel.

What I didn’t realise was that there is an added amount of anxiety that comes with setting up a new business, particularly around hidden costs. My anxiety heightened. In addition, going into the corporate sphere was very different to the quiet spa environment that I was accustomed to.  This meant that I would have had to adjust and adapt my behaviour in order to achieve the same healing levels for my clients that I could so easily achieve within the spa setting.  My intial step into it, saw me entering into a creative environment  within an advertising agency. The energy was really fast-paced, upbeat and social – which was awesome – but it was initially a challenge for me to facilitate a happy, soothing medium.

Back then the treatments were only 20 minutes and there wasn’t really time for too much of a consultation. Some of this consultation inevitably happened during the treatment. People often wanted to talk during their massage, and sometimes the experience became conversational. In addition, because we massaged the same people monthly, we got to know them. Over time, this built up rapport, increasing trust, providing a space for people to share some of their personal challenges.  I found that the depth and intensity of their sharing increased over time – to the point where I felt a little anxious about having to reply to the person sometimes. Moreover, I felt like I needed to provide my clients with the answers to the challenges that they were experiencing.

I was always interested in psychology, but the anxiety that I was experiencing to be able to “have the answers” started to gain momentum. To be proactive about the situation, I took the step to register for a coaching course at the South African College of Applied Psychology (SACAP). I felt confident that through my studies I would have the answersInstead, my training taught me to start listening to others and that they have the answers to their own questions within themselves.

Because my studies took up a lot of my time, I had to delegate some of the work to the contracted therapists that I employ. This was difficult as I am naturally a very responsible person, and feel safe when all my ducks are in a row. People depended on me to provide their team with therapists to complete all the treatments. Giving someone else the reigns – even in small amounts was a challenge for me. What I started noticing, is that others were as capable as I was in running my business – if not better in their own areas of expertise.  It was time for me to look inward and to work out why I needed to be the person having all the answers for others.

Spiritual Bypassing and our emotional jar – Part 2: Making use of this tool

When we resist learning the lessons that life presents to us, the same theme will emerge over and over again until we are prepared – or forced – to learn the lesson and cultivate the strength and inner peace.

When faced with emotional turmoil, this is how to work with the Emotional Jar:

1. An event happens, triggering an adverse response within.

2. We need to deal with what’s arisen.  
As we are inherently hopeful and positive, we search for the good – or we do not fully recognise the harm. If we do not deal with the issue at hand because it is too painful or we simply do not have the capacity, our defence mechanisms kick in which help us to cope. The key here is to acknowledge the response we are having.

3. We look for solutions, from our internal/external resources, and past learnings.
Due to the complexity of human nature and the events that occur, Spiritual Bypassing happens and it is only sometimes years later before our defences reduce enough to be able to be vulnerable and to pluck up the courage to immerse ourselves in the task of processing a situation fully.

To avoid this taking place, I acknowledge that there is a problem that I need to deal with, and I set aside a time to process it but it is not always that cut and dry.  There are points at which I had to and was able to do it immediately. This helps to avoid having a “gremlin stealing from my emotional jar.” In this period of processing time, I use a technique referred to as Bibliotherapy – I write out the issue at hand, followed by the deepest discomfort that arises which helps me to externalise the problem, rather than having the problem like that “unwelcome guest” draining me.

This process also helps me to bring unconscious thoughts to the fore in my consciousness. I start writing whatever comes to my mind without judgement or having to think about constructing proper sentences.  Sometimes, I simply start by writing an easy sentence, like “What a day…” and then go into describing my day and the events as they happened for me, and so the process unfolds. You can keep writing the words “What a day…” over and over until you find yourself being able to continue with more thoughts. Don’t stop writing until you have delved to the gist of the problem!

I always end off with what I have learnt from the experience, what I am grateful for, as well as any wisdom / additional insights that came from within.  The gems of wisdom are grounding and serve as the foundation in my emotional jar to rebuild a healthy emotional state so that I can approach similar situations from a more centred space within.  

There will be times within this process when we feel discouraged, and this is the time to trust the learning.  Dealing with information and situations is part of our journey through life. Don’t kid yourself, this is not a stand-alone event!  Make sure you keep a check on your own emotional jar and manage it at a level that is comfortable. Individuation is a constant journey of discovery and there will always be another event to develop you further.  

My gem of wisdom: We don’t need to plan many steps ahead, we can just focus on taking the next step. All we need is to be willing to start the journey, and put pen to paper.

Spiritual Bypassing and our emotional jar – Part 1: A response to Heather Plett

I’m fortunate enough to be a participant in a Holding Space Facilitation Course through the Lighthouse Fund, under the supervision of the organization’s co-founder, Valerie Shayne.  The group meets on a weekly basis, providing a support system of sorts. We have a list of recommended readings which we work through and discuss, enriching the overall experience. Recently we had a session on Spiritual Bypassing, which inspired me to talk about the metaphorical “Emotional Jar” – a helpful tool that I use in my day-to-day life.

The Emotional Jar can be visualized as a physical container that is filled with one’s emotional and psychological strengths. When a trigger happens in life, you are always faced with a choice. You can either work through the experience systematically, facing the turmoil experienced, and reaching a space of inner peace. Or, alternatively, you can bypass it – essentially “sidestepping” any unresolved emotional/psychological wounds, protecting yourself from any emotional discomfort that the pain evokes, without finding inner peace or closure. This is called “Spiritual Bypassing.” With each bypass, over time, we pour some of the content out of our emotional jar and eventually risk depleting it entirely. Our depleted emotional jars are exhibited in our daily lives as coping mechanisms: burn-out, illness, despair, addictions, or even poor eating habits. This unidentified response will present elsewhere! There are many reasons that we choose the “spiritual bypassing” option and that’s okay in that moment. There are times in our lives when being able to cope with emotional challenges simply falls outside of our capacity. What does tend to happen is that we are continually faced with similar challenges until we face the lesson that we need to learn.

Sometimes a good starting point is to deal with the smaller issues, or with issues that have a common thread which can work quite well. It allows us to understand the experience from a broader perspective, and uncover viable solutions within our own internal/external resources. Once solutions bear fruit, this fills our emotional jar to be able to cope with other tasks on a deeper level.  

We can literally choose to deal with an issue on a certain day and time if that is beneficial – tailoring it so that the challenge does not remove any more nourishment from our emotional jar lessening the toll it takes on our day to day lives.