Emergency measures

 

When something – an emotion, physical or emotional pain, cravings and addictions – feels overwhelming and unbearable, what do we do?

As psychologists (and others) identified a while ago, there is a range of coping strategies. From the more unhealthy ones such as drinking, using drugs, and aggression and violence, to the moderately unhealthy ones such as eating, shopping, and entertainment, to the more helpful ones such as friendships, nature, movement, to the ones that may resolve it all such as inquiry and seeing through the beliefs of overwhelm and unbearable.

Among the latter, some may be helpful short term and some in the longer term. And we each have to find what works for us.

Here are some emergency measures that works for me:

Move. Go for a walk. Do self-Breema. Shake (TRE). Jump up and down in place.

Talk with a friend.

Conscious breathing. Place hands on belly and chest and notice the breath. Make outbreath longer than inbreath. Breathe into the sensation, allow the sensation and breath to merge.

Feel the sensations. Feel them as sensations. (Set the stories aside for a while, if I can.)

Use ho’oponopono. Say to myself (the scared part of me), I am sorry, please forgive me, I love you. Say this also to whatever triggered it. (A person, symptom, situation.)

Alternately amplify and drop the stressful stories. (10 sec. each, described by Joey Lott in some of his books).

Tapping. (EFT type tapping.)

Say to myself: I love you. I love you. I love you. / It’s OK to feel this.

Ask myself: Is it true this is overwhelming? Is it true it’s too much? It’s unbearable, is it true?

And some longer term strategies:

Inquire into how I relate to what’s been triggered.

Can I find the threat? The overwhelm? Intensity? Pain? (Living Inquiries.)

Is it true it’s unbearable? Too much? (The Work.)

Inquire into the triggers. (Perceived threats.)

Inquire into being triggered. (My stories about it, deficient identities, fears.)

I posted a question about this on a Facebook page for inquiry, and here are two answers I found especially helpful:

Venting to a best friend. Talking it out, focusing on how I feel versus the triggering event or person. Giving it that voice helps it wash through through a big honest cry.

Also, lately I’ve been using the words “I am willing to feel this” with whatever arises. Physical or emotional pain, lately it works for me most of the time. Another one: Put my hand on my heart and say “I love you” over and over again. or Put my hand on the area of my body that hurts/triggered and do the same thing. “I love you” “I’m sorry you’re feeling this” “I love you”. caress my face, caress my arms, like a pet… for a few minutes. tapping also. These are mine.

– Marina B.

An interesting question. As time has gone on, I’ve discovered that it’s possible to rest with even the most intense states/feelings. That’s been incredibly valuable, as I spent many years feeling that I couldn’t be with what I was feeling, and so using all the tools that we’ve described above, and more. They certainly have their place, and yet what has helped me the most is being with or resting or inquiring even in the direst of times. There’s something so profound about discovering we do have the capacity to bear it all, even when it feels unbearable

– Fiona R.

And the original question with replies:

I am curious about what you have found helpful as “emergency measures” when you (or your clients) are triggered too strongly to immediately be able to use the Living Inquiries or Natural Rest.

These are activities or tools that may help reduce the intensity relatively quickly, so you have more choice in how to relate to what’s coming up, and also eventually rest with and inquire into it.

Here are some I have found helpful: Movement (walking, shaking/TRE, yoga/self-Breema), tapping, alternately amplify/drop the stressful stories (10 sec. each), bring attention to/feel the sensations.

Another one would be to inquire into strongly triggered states when you are more relaxed (where is the threat? etc.). And, obviously, inquiry into situations that regularly trigger you.

……..

These are great and some remind me of the tool bag of Dialectical Behavioral Therapy and the Distress Tolerance and even Emotion Regulation Skills esp TIP skills. Some are a bit more involved. – IP

……..

Breathing, practicing diaphragmatic smooth deep breathing regularly and then remembering when triggered. – LF

……..

Venting to a best friend. Talking it out, focusing on how I feel versus the triggering event or person. Giving it that voice helps it wash through through a big honest cry.

Also, lately I’ve been using the words “I am willing to feel this” with whatever arises. Physical or emotional pain, lately it works for me most of the time. Another one: Put my hand on my heart and say “I love you” over and over again. or Put my hand on the area of my body that hurts/triggered and do the same thing. “I love you” “I’m sorry you’re feeling this” “I love you”. caress my face, caress my arms, like a pet… for a few minutes. tapping also. These are mine.

– Marina B

……..

An interesting question. As time has gone on, I’ve discovered that it’s possible to rest with even the most intense states/feelings. That’s been incredibly valuable, as I spent many years feeling that I couldn’t be with what I was feeling, and so using all the tools that we’ve described above, and more. They certainly have their place, and yet what has helped me the most is being with or resting or inquiring even in the direst of times. There’s something so profound about discovering we do have the capacity to bear it all, even when it feels unbearable

– Fiona R

…….

Thank you, everyone! I have also found what you wrote, Fiona. Maybe the underlying question of my initial post is really about the relationship between discovering that capacity, and using emergency measures before that capacity is discovered more clearly. It seems that the emergency measures can be helpful, especially if the priority is on finding that capacity.

…….

Conscious breathing definitely. I’ve seen it help many, especially when they watch the breath merge with the feelings and vice versa. It often becomes easier to rest with then. – SK

…….

Yes, definitely. Another emergency measure I’ve found useful in times of intense anxiety is to notice and name the physical things that are around me. There’s a blue car, I’m drinking tea out of a patterned mug, that sort of thing. Saying it out loud helps and there’s something very grounding and immediate about it. – FR

……..

Tapping. Reversing the breathing pattern -out breath longer than in-breath, aka “7/11 breathing” 7 beats in, 11 out, makes brain switch from sympathetic to parasympathetic nervous system, so tranqillizing the state. And, similar to Fiona’s above, name the Five Things, five sounds, five seen objects or colours, 5 sensations of touch on the skin such as hair, clothes, etc. helps bring attention to present moment and out of triggering story. Drinking water, and especially washing face or immersing face in water – this latter surprisingly soothing – studies show it immediately reduces tension. Also hold neurovascular points on forehead for three minutes, ( these are the “horns” on the forehead) which alter blood flow sending it from the emotional centres to the forebrain instead, cooling emotions. Can be activated by just holding forehead with palm of hand for three minutes.

– HW

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