Anxiety soup: a personal story

Throughout the day yesterday I felt a gnawing anxiety in my body. Mostly it sat in my chest as agitated tight heaviness. Like the too-much-caffeine feeling, but with stuckness and panic thrown in. I was aware of the Ick through the day, like an annoying green gremlin.

green gremlin

At the first opportunity I went for a run and then a walk up the “mountain” steps. I felt slightly better, but the Ick was still lurking. Later I made a snappy comment to my husband and then felt distant and sad. I knew it was time to look inside.

We sat on the couch and talked. It was a fairly connected chat and helped us both check-in a bit. He was also feeling distant and stressed. We joked about putting our anxieties in a pot to make soup. I felt closer. But the tightness in my chest didn’t budge. 

So here’s what I did. It’s the 1st of 6 steps of Eugene Gendlin’s Focusing work.  It’s called ‘Clearing Space’. This version is is influenced by Laury Rapport’ Focusing-Oriented Art Therapy. It’s one of my favourites. It’s like a new language you can speak with your inner world. n.b. It takes practice to get the hang of this – take your time, practice, and you’ll find you’re own style and be able to do it within a minute or two. 

Clearing Space exercise

1) Sit down. Take a few deep breaths. Let yourself settle.

2) Ask yourself, “What’s between me and feeling really good, really present right now?”  As you identify each concern, don’t go inside it, just stand back and say “yes, that’s there. I can feel that, there”.

3) Let there be a bit of space between you and the thing you identified: move it outside yourself to an appropriate distance. (e.g. imagine it across the room, down the hall, or on another planet, whatever you need to have enough space from it)

Repeat #2 and #3 until you feel clear and present.

4) Check in and see if there’s a Background Feeling, an always kind of tense, and set that at a comfortable distance too.

Check again: “Except for all of that, am I totally clear and present?”

5) Take some moments to sense that place

6) Find an image (or word, phrase, gesture or sound) that matches it, or acts like a handle for the inner felt sense.  

Option: Write down or draw words and/or an image that expresses your experience.  You could create an expression of the “clear and present” place, or also include the things set aside. 

Deepening the resource:

How are you going to pour water on the seed? How do we help the “clear and present” place grow amidst the stresses of daily life and the tendencies of our habit-loving minds?

Suggestion:  Think of something that might work for you so you can reconnect with your clear space tomorrow and the next day. Examples include:

  • putting whatever word/image you drew on your fridge or stick it on the wall above your pillow
  • connect a daily activity like showering or brushing your teeth with remembering that clear space and seeing if you can access even a glimmer of it, or just notice what it’s like right now inside.

If you’re interested in Focusing, watch this quirky introduction from Eugene Gendlin.  

Personal Ick Factors

I wouldn’t want to hide my gory inside experience from you after all that. So in full self-disclosure here, for me that day:

Ick #1 – concern about my son’s daycare experience
Ick #2 – concern about my husband’s job situationblack horseman
Ick #3 – concern about my career and with it an all too familiar “am I good enough” question. 

Ah, with that last one I got a hit of “that’s it”, and with that, I felt soft and relaxed. Ah, that old “am I good enough” friend. It was no longer a dark shadow in the night causing internal stress: I’d shone my light on it and somehow it was manageable and my body could relax.

 

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