Pyro Pages: A Release Technique

In our neighborhood, garbage day is on Fridays. A scheduled day that the trash gets hauled away every week! Isn’t that great? And all I have to do is take the cans to the curb. What would happen without sanitation services? I don’t want to think about having to live with stinky trash as it piles up. Waste products are natural aspects of life, coming in cycles as frequent as every exhaled breath. So why do we so often neglect our *emotional* waste? Why do we allow negativity to remain camped in our minds and hearts? These burdens, at the very least, sap your energy, but can also cause pain, disease, and suffering.

Fortunately, there are ways to deal with this. Release techniques are vital because, as important as it is to bring positive thoughts and feelings into your mind and heart, you also need to remove negative thoughts and feelings if you are going to make progress. No matter how positive a person you may be, there is some negativity in everyone, because we’re all humans in a fallen world. It’s possible that you may be unaware of the negativity buried deep within you, which has the power to trap you, handicap you, stop you. Now, negative emotions do serve an important purpose, which you can read about in this post, but once that purpose is served, those things need to be moved through you and out. While there are many strategies for getting that yucky stuff out, I find a certain tool particularly effective, and also kind of fun. I call it “Pyro Pages.”

When you recognize a negative thought in your mind or feeling in your heart, get a loose sheet of paper and write: “I feel __________ because __________.” Aim to fill at least half the page. If possible, read aloud what you’ve written once finished. And then, the most important step: destroy the paper ASAP. If you keep it, that will tell your subconscious mind that what you wrote is true and something you want to hold on to. (Believe me on this one.) When you watch that paper being destroyed by your own hand, your brain gets the message that you are rejecting those ideas and that you want those feelings out of your life. It doesn’t matter how you destroy it, whether shredding it, ripping it up, or burning it, but be sure obliterate it more completely than merely crumpling it up. I like the visual impression of burning it: flames consuming the words on the paper, smoke drifting up and away, leaving only insubstantial ashes.

I wanted to share this with you because I did this a couple times this week, and it reminded me how powerful this tool can be. As I watched my pages consuming in the fire out on the backyard BBQ grill, I felt a huge weight lift right off me, leaving me light, buoyant and peaceful inside. This really works. I had allowed myself to feel all my hopelessness, frustration and loneliness while I wrote, then whispered what I wrote to myself right before I lit it up. As it burned I felt freed from those feelings, immediately. I asked my Higher Power to take the burden from me, and the visual of the smoke dissipating into the sky seemed like it literally carried my bad feelings away and up into the heavens.

Just as a side note: doing simply this will not magically “solve” all your problems. If you’re got issues in a relationship, you will probably still need to work it out with the other person. If there is some specific action you need to take in your life, this won’t take the place of that step. It’s just a way to let go of the negative *feelings* and bring you some relief and peace, whether permanently or temporarily. If these kinds of feelings keep you awake at night, do this right before bed and enjoy a better night’s sleep. But if the same feelings keep coming back, that’s a clue that there’s more you need to go and do to solve your problem.

Here’s what I would suggest to try. At first, write and burn every day for two weeks. Even if you don’t think you have anything negative in there, sit down to write anyway. Setting pen to paper shows your intention. Something will come to you. (Another note, it’s better to do this longhand rather than typing, because the act of writing it out connects better with your brain, but you can still type it, print it out and burn it if you want. Just make sure the file doesn’t get saved to your computer!)

The following prompts are difficult to write about, but will clean you out for sure. (Think juice cleanse.)
I feel worthless because __________.
I don’t feel valuable because ___________.
After the two weeks, you can continue to do it daily, or just use this technique as the need arises. When you’ve finished burning the paper, it helps to “backfill” with something positive:affirmations, prayer, writing down what you’re grateful for or what you love about yourself, etc.

If you are a parent, or not, this tool will make you more approachable to children. They are very sensitive, and they know when you’ve got negativity stuck inside, which sometimes they “take on” to try to help us adults (but it only ends up hurting them). If you are married, this tool will help you be more fun and lighthearted with your spouse, and who doesn’t want that? Generally, it opens you up to others and allows more people to come into your life. Because you can’t hide behind your emotions anymore, it gets you unstuck and lets more of your true self shine through.

Try it. What do you have to lose? You might even discover a little pyromaniac streak inside that you never knew you had!

A Tale of Two Sorrows

Okay, I finally feel like I’m in a good place emotionally to be able to post about this. I experienced pregnancy loss recently (mid-January). My first miscarriage had occurred over eight years ago, and the two experiences were totally different for me. While that first experience came as a complete and utter shock, this time around, I knew, without really knowing, what had happened. Or maybe I should say, my subconscious mind knew exactly what had happened, probably for several weeks, although my conscious mind could not have known until the doctor gave me the facts. Of all the things I learned from this sad experience, I found this fact to be the most intriguing. Our subconscious minds are plugged into a huge database of information. If we can learn how to access it, we can know everything we need to know in order to live healthy, full lives: physically, emotionally, spiritually, and intellectually. More on that later. Back to the story.

Over Christmas and New Years, being 8-9 weeks pregnant, I had fully expected to feel completely nauseated at the sight, smell, or even mention of food. I was looking forward to that sickness, because for me, it’s the sign of a healthy pregnancy. There were times when I felt slight nausea, but I really think it was only because I had wanted to feel that way. But this wasn’t the only tell that something was wrong. I recall feeling apprehension, unease, and doubt even earlier than this, but it was so vague I didn’t think about it. I just never really got excited about this pregnancy, like I had with my others, and I didn’t get lost in thoughts of wondering and dreaming about new baby.

On January 1, I posted this on Facebook: “Learned two important lessons for the new year: 1. Always, always lock your car. The one time you forget, someone will exploit you. 2. Don’t be attached to things and stuff. You just might wake up one morning to find it gone. (But don’t tell me this while I’m mourning the loss of my Garmin, my entire stash of gift cards and store credit, my classic rock CD collection, and my Vera Bradley tote full of my kids’ toys and books. Let me have my cry.)”

After we found out that the van had been broken into, I had cried for almost an hour, and my eyes were sore the entire day. Since I’m somewhat allergic to my own tears, it’s just not worth it to cry to such an extent! Thanks to an insightful comment from my daughter, I soon came to realize that all that was just stuff, most of which could be replaced, and some of which didn’t matter anyway. So why the huge outburst of sorrow? My husband and I both blamed it on the pregnancy, and we were right, although not in the way we had thought at the time.

Then, on January 13, I posted this to Facebook: “I’m completely sick over having thrown away a large bag of my kids’ winter gear last week. I had thought it was Christmas trash. All the snow-pants, hats, gloves, scarves, boots…gone. Even my own never-worn gloves I got for Christmas. And we’re going tubing on Monday.” I had stuffed the gear into a trash bag for our trip to Colorado, and hadn’t unpacked it when we returned, just left it in the garage. That morning, I had been trying to find Lil Miss’s snow boots for her to wear to school, and I couldn’t find the bag of snow gear anywhere. I searched the house, asking everyone if they’d seen it, and Lil Miss chimed in: “If it was in a garbage bag, maybe someone accidentally threw it away.” As soon as she said it, I knew that that was exactly what had happened, and I had been the one who had thrown it away. I half-heartedly looked in the outside trash can to see if it was maybe still at the bottom, but I knew it wouldn’t be. I had taken a lot of Christmas trash straight out to the curb for pickup the week before. I distinctly remember that I had had one bag of trash in one hand and just thoughtlessly picked up the bag of winter gear with my other hand as I passed by.

As I realized what I’d done, I cried, and cried, and cried. I thought I was crying over my stupidity and thoughtlessness. I thought I was crying over the new Christmas gifts of hats and gloves, which we never got to use. I thought I was crying over how expensive it would be to replace all those snow pants and gloves. I thought I was crying over the material waste of it all. But it wasn’t until two days later that I realized the actual force behind all those tears. It was loss, grief and sorrow, deep inside me, that found an escape hatch and just came pouring out. Loss that I didn’t understand consciously, but a part of me already knew, even before I had been seen by a doctor.

My intuition (or spirit, plugged into the subconscious mind) had known exactly what had happened, long before the proof came. On the 15th, at my first doctor’s appointment and 11 weeks along, things weren’t looking good. Then, after another test on the 19th, it was certain that there’d be no baby. My procedure was done on the 21st, and it was all over with, and no pain to boot! The strange thing was, I didn’t shed one single tear on any of those days. Though I was sad, I felt at peace with it. There was no hard edge. Part of me felt guilty for not “acting sadder, ” like I was “supposed to,” but why put on an unnecessary act? I had already dealt with it when I had thought I had been grieving over that trivial stuff. Once the sorrow was out of me, it was out. That’s when I felt really grateful for having lost those things: those little losses caused me to process out my grief quickly so I could to move forward with life and be strong enough to support my husband and six-year-old daughter, who took the news of the lost pregnancy (or, I should say, loss of the potential son/daughter or sister/brother) very hard.

That hadn’t been the first time that as soon as I gave a little space for tears to flow, a dam broke open and an inexplicable flood gushed forth. With all the pressure that builds up behind emotions blocked up inside, if you try to vent just a little, it explodes out. And often, the tears that come out are manifestations of a much different emotion than that for which I first started crying. What is the point of tears anyway? Lubricating the eyeballs? Obviously, extreme weeping goes beyond this function, so there must be another physiological purpose. Tear ducts are actually release valves for the clearing of energetic waste products.

I’ve come to understand the way the body deals with an excess of emotion. This will make more sense if you understand how emotions are created in the first place. Although I’ve heard many knowledgeable people explain this, Dr. Joe Dispenza said it in the way that made the most sense to me. As your brain gathers sensory data from your environment, jungles of neurons organize themselves into networks and patterns. The moment these string into place, your brain creates a chemical that translates into an emotion, and that chemical gets stored in your body. These chemicals are the end-products of our past experiences; they have an emotional quotient. That’s how you remember significant experiences. So sensory information, combined with our thoughts, is translated into chemistry. These chemicals signal the gene that helps you react to your environmental condition. The chemicals can switch genes off and on. Feelings are a way of thinking. Emotions push the genetic buttons that turn genes up for health or down for disease. People look for familiar emotions, and it’s the redundancy of the same information that keeps signaling the same gene in the same way and wears down certain genes.

Along these lines, according to Dr. Bradley Nelson of The Emotion Code, each different emotion originates from a different organ of the body. Our intense or repetitive thoughts turn on the endocrine system, which then signals a specific organ to generate a certain chemical, the release of which becomes our experience of emotion. Since experiencing the same emotion over and over again means that one kind of chemical is being released in the same area of the body over and over again, it makes sense that that part of the body would become stressed or damaged.

Even though negative emotions have a necessary function at first (see this post), it is healthy for the body to unload the negative emotional energy after it’s served its purpose. Otherwise, that energy has to go somewhere, so it is absorbed into the tissues of our body. Science has confirmed that every kind living tissue gives off electrical vibrations. The chemicals of negative emotions vibrate at a lower frequency, which changes the way the surrounding tissues vibrate, and if the emotion remains there long enough, stress, pain and sickness are the result. Every time an experience triggers that emotion in us, our body feels it all over again, and we must expend energy to deal with that hurt. Because energy is the force that keeps us alive, to avoid unnecessary expenses of energy, the body wants to rid itself of negative emotions of sorrow, anger, fear, grief, anxiety, etc. This is why, at even the smallest provocation, a large amount of emotional energy may pour out. You give the body and inch, and it will run with it a mile.

This frequently occurs with the emotion of anger. Have you ever seen how a tiny annoyance can make a person lash out? Have you ever been mystified as to how you deserved to be attacked for a seemingly inconsequential action on your part? It’s because it wasn’t about you; it was that person’s anger over something else, the energy of which was poured out onto you. I understand now that the large majority of people don’t process their negative emotions and remove them, deliberately, in healthy and effective ways. People don’t have the skills and knowledge of how to do this, and because our culture has downplayed the huge significance of emotions, a lot of them won’t even try. Because they are unaware of their emotions, they are run by them and don’t even know it. (Read more about this phenomenon here.)

To be fully in control of your behavior, and thus your results in life, it is essential that you control your emotional state by not only being more fully aware of your thoughts, but releasing the negative emotional energy. There are many ways to do this, some of which I will go into in future posts, but I hope you will make use of crying as a release tool. Cry intentionally, with the purpose of catharsis. Children know to do this instinctually, and we adults can unlearn what we’ve learned and get back to that.

If you don’t know how to cry with intention, here are some suggestions:

  • watch a sad movie with a box of Kleenex
  • create a playlist of sad songs and play through it when you need to cry
  • write about your experiences, past and present, and really let yourself feel your feelings
  • find a way to relax before or during the cry, whether it’s a warm bath or going out in nature
  • set a time limit for your cry so it doesn’t extend beyond the point that it’s helpful
  • plan a regular time and place for your cry so that this release becomes a habit

Readers, do you have any suggestions to add to this list? And have you had any experiences similar to my own? I’d love to hear your stories!

Making Friends with Red Flags and Warning Lights

Negative emotions are a pain. Literally. We’ve all experienced them: sorrow, guilt, frustration, anger, discouragement, shame, grief, fear, despair, and the list could go on and on. Because of these bad boys, I used to tell myself I hated emotions. I didn’t see the point of them. I thought I’d be so much happier if I never had any emotions ever again. (Ha! The irony!) But it’s come as an epiphany to realize how important these negative emotions are in order for us to function properly. Knowing about and using tools to effectively release them can be very helpful, but first it is vital to see them as the red flags they are and then heed the messages they send. This is really the key to keep them from coming back, and more importantly, learn, grow, and be happier.

Negative emotions are to the mind and spirit what pain is to the physical body. Pain focuses our attention on a physical problem so we can end or minimize the damage and allow any wounds to adequately heal. Negative emotions are meant to bring our attention to spiritual incongruencies or thinking errors. It is usually more difficult to discern what the underlying problems are, but if we focus, we can learn and change. If we don’t, we will just have to keep experiencing the same negative emotions over and over again, in increasing severity, until we finally get the picture. Without negative emotions, we would never be motivated to change our perceptions or live truer to ourselves. (To read more about how emotions are created by thoughts and motivate us to action, go here.) Now, it is true that negative emotions, if held on to long enough, actually create physical pain and disease, but that is a topic for another day.

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Why do so many people thoughtlessly “live with” and endure the onslaught of negative emotions? Our culture has taught us lies which have led us to minimize the role of emotions. That if we’re strong, we just forget about them and try to rise above them. That they’re “fluffy” or “girl-stuff.” That there’s something fundamentally wrong with us if we experience them often. That all we really need to do is self-medicate in order to mask them or numb them. That our negative feelings define us. That we are doomed to always have these emotions with us. That experiencing some of these emotions damages us forever. Yep, I myself have fallen victim to a few of these lies.

Just for kicks, let’s take these common attitudes to painful emotions and apply them to someone experiencing physical pain, say, a recently-sprained ankle.

  • So your ankle hurts? So what? That’s nothing.
  • Get over it and stop worrying. It’s all in your head.
  • Wait it out; it’ll feel better soon.
  • Just pop a few pills and run that race anyway.
  • You’re not going to let a little pain stop you, are you? Just tough it out.
  • Wow, I admire you so much for all this pain you’re experiencing. You’re so strong.
  • This shows just how much God trusts you and loves you, that you have the opportunity to prove yourself by rising above this.
  • Are you serious? It still hurts? I can’t believe you’re still bothered by this.
  • There must be something really wrong with you. You’re pretty messed up.
  • Oh, you say your ankle is all better now? Well, just keep using these crutches anyway, just in case. In fact, you probably shouldn’t ever try to walk on it again.
  • Now you will always be remembered as The One Who Sprained His/Her Ankle. This experience will define you for life.

The obvious solution would be to put it in a splint and keep weight off it for awhile. You wouldn’t continue to keep the splint on longer than it’s needed, or continue to limp or hobble around on crutches once it’s healed. Of course the above attitudes will seem ridiculous when applied to pain caused by a sprained ankle. But isn’t it almost as ridiculous that we say things like this to one another, and especially to ourselves, when experiencing emotional pain?

The next time you feel an emotional disturbance start to rock your world, especially if it’s a recurring experience, try to step back and look at it objectively, as though you were your own spiritual doctor. Identify the thoughts that preceded that emotion. Go deeper than identifying simply what occurred or what someone else said to you, but pinpoint your attitudes, beliefs, and perceptions surrounding what happened. Also, look for any disconnect between the three aspects of your being (mind, body, spirit). Negative emotions are a common conequence when we’re not aligned. Our spirits constantly seek growth and expansion, our minds want to see the logic in everything and keep us alive, and our bodies seek pleasure and avoid pain, so it’s common for these aspects to be out of alignment!

If you still can’t see the problem, try free-writing about the situation, your thoughts and feelings. Often, the simple act of writing helps the mind to make connections that it wouldn’t otherwise. If you’re still stuck, wait for a period of time and go back to what you’ve written when you’re in a different mood. The problem may jump out at you when you’re a bit removed from it. (Please don’t keep this paper or text after it has served its purpose, or it shows your brain that you want to hold on to that negative emotion.)

Talking to other people could help, but I must add a big WARNING here. Please don’t discuss your negative feelings with the person or people most closely connected with the situation. This has a huge potential to hurt them. Even if you have the best of intentions, they may assume that you’re blaming them or dumping on them. Or the conversation may quickly turn to be all about them, which could detract you from your goal. Instead, talk about it with an impartial third party, such as a counselor or a trusted friend who is not a part of this particular situation. Or even go sit in your car and talk to the steering wheel. No one can hear you, and saying things out loud sorts them out faster than just letting your ruminating thoughts go round and round in your head. More on this tool later.

It’s time to stop hiding from negative emotions or letting them run our lives. Instead, let’s see them as the valuable friendly warning lights that they are and appreciate them for the self-knowledge that they precipitate. While I will never be able to say that I “love” my negative emotions, I’m starting to become grateful for them.