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How They Beat Those Nasty, Paralyzing Feelings

October 28, 2012

By Jacinta Hin

Most people don’t sail through a period of change ticking off the to-do boxes of a well-organized plan based on a clear set of goals. Especially when the desire for something new comes from deep inside and could mean making new, life-altering choices, the experience can be rather turbulent and one in which strong emotions can have the upper hand.

Emotions help us change. They tell us what is going on and can hold the key to essential information about ourselves.

But emotions can also keep us stuck, unable to step out of a situation that no longer works and move on to one that does. At such moments we need a little courage to face up to those powerful feelings and find a way to break their paralyzing grip.

Let’s have a look at some of the more nasty ones.

Shame that we got into the situation we are in or about our shortcomings and weaknesses. We could be ashamed that we are even entertaining the idea of something else.

Disappointment that we did not get more out of life, did not have what it takes, sold out or somehow ended up in a situation we are not proud of or happy about. We can be disappointed for having made a wrong choice and kick ourselves now that we are stuck with the consequences.

Guilt about what we did or did not do. We can also feel guilty towards the people we could hurt, disappoint or even lose in the process of changing.

Blame of others, circumstances or ourselves for getting us into a situation we don’t want to be in.

Unsure if what we feel or want is valid or worthy.

The list goes on: betrayed, defeated, embarrassed, grieved, heartbroken, hopeless, humiliated, made to feel inadequate, feeling resentment, rejected, used, and so on.

The easy way out would be to simply dismiss how we feel. Unfortunately this strategy hardly ever works, because these feelings are often rooted in our personality and history, and will not just disappear at will.

Here are some first-step strategies that might work better:

  1. Acknowledge how you feel, how scary it may be. At a minimum there might be a sense of relief and that you’re also back in the control saddle.
  1. Try to pinpoint the exact nature of what and how you feel. Blaming someone is different from being ashamed. You might even recognize a pattern.
  1. Ask yourself if giving in to your feelings is worth the price. What would you do if you did not feel like this?
  1. Take distance and de-identify. You are not your feelings. Become the observer, to speak in Eckhart Tolle terms.
  1. Throw in a little bit of humor. Having a laugh at oneself can be very liberating.
  1. Embrace a piece of wisdom that resonates with you. A friend told me the other day how, as a young student abroad, she was overcome with sadness about her overseas experience coming to an end. The parting words of her teacher “all endings are new beginnings” had a profound effect on her. Not only could she let go of her grief, but to this day this little mantra has helped her focus on what is ahead of her rather than what she is leaving behind, giving her a sense of excitement about all that is still in store.

The goal here is not to punch all air out of a crippling feeling, but to simply take a first step or two to create some breathing space.


About the author: Jacinta Hin was born in the Netherlands and has been living in Tokyo, Japan, since 1989. Her professional background is in human resources, career management and coaching. She is passionate about helping people, herself included, discover new perspectives of possibility, move to embracing and working with their transitions, and designing and realizing changes aligned with who they truly are and what they truly want from their lives.
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