When I found out the news about the Russian invasion, un unexplainable state of anxiety took over me. I suddenly felt the need to hide and take shelter, although I live in a safe place. I felt a lot of fear, mixed with some sadness and anger.
As I was watching the news, hearing the sound of the sirens and seeing the footage of the people taking refuge in the subway stations, I felt the fear rising even further.
However I had nothing to fear.
I was in a safe place. But the fear that I was feeling did not make any sense. I tried to understand why.
Why this intense emotional reaction?
Why this irrational and ongoing anguish that followed me pretty much the entire day, although I really did not have anything to fear in my proximity? Of course, we all fear the unknown and the things that we cannot control.
Then I realised.
I was dealing with a trans-generational fear. My grandparents lived a Russian invasion. Barely a teenager, my grandmother had to hide many times, in order to avoid getting raped by the soldiers. And somehow, that fear of invasion and war travelled through generations all the way to me.
I couldn’t deny my fear. I knew it was not healthy. And I must confess that although I knew that blocking my emotions or denying them is not a sustainable coping way, my rational side wanted to do it anyway. This is what my parents taught me, as they have been taught as well – “Deny your unpleasant emotions and move on. Take a grip on yourself.”
Hence, my rational side wanted me to get over the fear I was feeling as soon as possible, preferably to erase it with a sponge as if it had never existed. My rational side wanted me to go on with my scheduled activities and tick off as many things on my to do list, as if nothing had happened, as if I felt nothing.
Deny your emotions and then … pay the consequences
The thing is that when you deny your emotions, in the long term they will either implode, either explode. It’s the effect of the emotional accumulation and emotional denial.
When your emotions implode, they become somatic, transforming into physical pain, tension and even illness. When your emotions explode, then things get out of control and the emotional reaction gets out of hand, leading to unwanted behaviours.
So instead of denying my emotion, I just accepted that I was feeling fear and that this fear was affecting me. I noticed my urges to take shelter. And I hugged myself, as my inner-child was probably needing reassurance. And speaking of reassurance, today I read the post of a Romanian psychologist & psychotherapist who also felt this irrational fear and who also realised about the effects of this trans-generational trauma. (Thank you, Arina)
If you feel fear or other unpleasant emotion, don’t deny it. You are not a robot, you’re a human being and humans are moved by emotions, which always send a message.
How to deal with the unpleasant emotions?
Instead of denying your emotions, how about you acknowledge them and be present to them?
Acknowledge your emotion, observe it and notice how it manifests in your body. What physical sensations arrise when feeling this emotion?
Let your emotion express itself. Allow yourself to express it, verbally, in writing or drawing. Or in any other form that works for you.
And ask yourself what you would need in that moment. Perhaps you need to be hugged, the presence of somebody else, to go out and take some air, watching the sky or inhaling deeply the fresh air. Or anything else.
By acknowledging your emotion and your need, then it is more likely that the unpleasant emotion move through your body and decrease. After all, e-motion is a certain “energy” in “motion”. It needs to move through, otherwise it gets stuck, it accumulates and then damage occurs.
What about the unpleasant thoughts?
Our emotions, although felt at body level, are linked to what we think. Our emotions feed our thoughts and our thoughts will also feed our emotions.
What to do about these thoughts that can roll through your mind like an avalanche? These thoughts that can magnify the unpleasant emotions.
The approach according to the mindfulness practice is to notice the thoughts that show up and acknowledge how these thoughts affect you, at body level (physical symtomps) or emotional level.
Try as much as possible to let go of these unpleasant thoughts, as they are only some mental events and not necessarily facts. You can imagine them as part of a balloon that you you let go. And when you let go the balloon, then imagine the thought(s) go away together with balloon.
I know, it’s easier said than done. And sometimes it simply does not work.