the insights in my last post are all very well. but how to put them into practice when the getting there is so painful?

I can see the green pastures and still waters beyond the pain. but yesterday morning the barriers were too formidable to think of approaching. I am quite capable of working myself into an enormous whirlwind of anxiety before 9am… by the time I had done the school run yesterday my working day ahead stretched before me not so much like a barbed wire barricade, than as a barbed rope that I would have to ascend, hand by excruciating hand, and I felt I did not have it in me to climb that rope.

so, took the dog for a walk. me, the dog, and the feelings of inadequacy, shame and blind terror. and it helps, as so often, knowing that I have walked with those unwelcome companions before, and outlasted them. kept taking one more step, until they tired and fell by the wayside.

on the walk I was trying to listen to the feelings, not just tire them out. walk with them, listen to them and learn from them how to break through the anxiety.

one thought that came to mind was the terrifically helpful mantra that ‘feelings are not facts’. so, yes, I may be feeling overwhelmed and helpless – but that does not mean I am overwhelmed and helpless. I read somewhere that we are given minds to think and hearts to feel – it is when we try to use our hearts to think that we get ourselves into trouble. perhaps life would be easier if I could re-create that ancient distinction between the seats of thinking and feeling?

the ways in which our thinking can be distorted is called cognitive distortion. specifically, believing that our feelings are facts is called emotional thinking. it’s no. 7 in this interesting article on common cognitive distortionsΒ  – in which I scored 10/10, btw. result πŸ˜‰Β Β that link also led me to an article with an interesting technique by Byron Katie for understanding and overcoming the hold that emotional thinking has upon us – here

but to return to me, sad and terrified, on my walk….this is fragile ground now so I will start with the proviso that this is not an option I am currently considering at all, but I have been greatly affected and shaken by the recent tragic death by suicide of a friend’s husband. and as I was walking, yesterday, the thought walked across my mind, “I cannot keep feeling this way. Because the logical extension of this feeling is to opt to leave this world, as he did, because it is too painful a place to live, and I am not going to do that.”

and literally, just as that thought crossed my mind, I glanced at the ground at my feet, and this is what I saw: the first primrose of spring.

IMG_7651

and yes, I burst into floods of tears. Lori commented on a previous post that sometimes she would like a giant sign to show the road ahead – in NEON! and this was that sign, for me. because I walk and run a lot, and have been looking out for my first primrose, which means so much to me as a symbol of hope and new life, and not seen one previously. and there it was, right at my feet, like a gift laid there gently by whatever force to which you care to ascribe it. even, perhaps, merely the force of my own ability now to distinguish signs of hope and renewal where previously they would have passed me by unaware?

all the things I have been saying to myself:

keep going.

it will get easier.Β 

one day at a time.

I will do this.

all wrapped up in one fragile, indomitable woodland plant…

I have that photo now as the screen saver on my phone. as a reminder always of those things, as well as a cheeky ‘you don’t know, but this is my secret bat-identity’ to those around me πŸ˜‰

and the other take-away from yesterday was that I was trying to think how to describe this procession of destructive behaviours which spring up anew as soon as one is conquered. and there must be something in classical myths and legends about this, surely? there always is… and I decided that it was like nothing so much as Hercules’ opponent, the many-headed Hydra, which re-grew two hissing heads whenever one was lopped off.

Hercules and the Hydra, c. 1475, Antonio del Pollaiolo

and I remembered that story, but couldn’t recall the trick by which Hercules defeated the Hydra. so headed off to Wikipedia to find out. I guess you know you’re in trouble when you’re looking for inspiration in how to improve your thinking from a mythological Greek in an entirely inadequate loincloth…

so, how did Hercules do it?

answer no. 1 – he asked someone else for help. are we starting to see a pattern, here, folks, by any chance?! even Hercules couldn’t do this on his own, so why should we?!

Hercules asked his nephew, whose name I can’t spell or pronounce but was Iolaus, to cauterise each bleeding stump as Hercules hacked it off. (sorry if you are reading this over breakfast.)

answer no. 2 – but the weakness of the Hydra was that it was only immortal as long as it retained at least one head. and Hercules cut off that head with a golden sword and placed it, still alive and writhing, under a mighty rock.

so, what is my last immortal snake’s head? and how can I remove it? because the golden sword/mighty rock combo is one that very much falls under the category of only-language-they-understand, and is not particularly psychologically healthy.

I have a strong suspicion that the snake of shame can only be summarily dealt with by relentless and unconditional self-acceptance. still working on that one…

wishing you all a happy and peaceful day, with more flowers than snakes! Prim xx

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