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.