Trying To Be Effective … Even When You’re Really Don’t Want to Be.

“Should have.”

“Why can’t this be THIS way ?”

“I’m just going to avoid doing this.”

“If I just keep moving and doing I will feel better.”

Any of these sound familiar?

Since quarantine started, I have heard the above phrases (and many others) in my head that have made it hard to be effective. I started to notice willfulness showing up (“hey willfulness, WHAT UP?) and that it was increasing other feelings…anger and sadness to name a few.

I noticed that I felt angry that I couldn’t continue to do routine things that increased positives in my life, or things that feeling soothing when I needed self-care. I noticed that I felt sadness around limited contact with my family and friends, and I started to feel despair about when all of this would end and the world would feel safe again.

The events of the past weeks since George Floyd was killed added more emotional vulnerabilities to how I was already feeling. The increase in visibility to support Black Lives Matter, questions about how to change and show up for the movement were everywhere. I started to feel overwhelmed and question how I could support the movement, my clients, and those close to me who were affected. I observed so many different options, and noticed that I wanted to do “the right thing,” but, what was that? I observed an increased awareness of my own privilege. Social media blew up with suggestions and I noticed a lot of posts about “don’t do this, do that” coming up. What IS the “right” way to show up for the movement? What IS the “right” thing to do?

These questions added to my feelings of being unsure, and of sadness, anger, and fear. My urge when those feelings show up is step on the gas and head straight into Doing Mind. Doing Mind is task focused, factual, and focused on problem solving. Sounds good right? Less emotional, more problem solving. However, only functioning in Doing Mind can be ineffective, as it places less importance on being in the now, and feeling emotions without trying to push them away. I didn’t want to feel how I was feeling; I just wanted to fill my schedule with tasks and projects. Being task focused feels more controllable to me. And yet, I know that ignoring my Being Mind, and not feeling emotions was going to have consequences.

Effectively is one of the three “How” skills in core mindfulness. It is a skill that asks you to “do what works” and to act as skillfully in the situation you are in, not the one you wish you were in, or the one that is fairer. It is a skill that requires us to let go of willfulness, and act from Wise Mind in our current situation and with our current emotions.

With all of the questions that I was thinking about, and the feelings of being overwhelmed, angry, and sad that I was trying to avoid, I came to a realization, I was not acting effectively, I was in tunnel vision mode from Doing Mind. But, what would be more effective? I had to increase my awareness of what the goals in the current situation were- that I wanted to show up for the #BLM movement in a way that felt in line with my values and I wanted to feel less urges to avoid doing anything out of fear that I would do or say the wrong thing. I wanted to let go of self-judgment and do what worked in the current situation, wishing that the situation was different was not going to get me anywhere. My last goal was to allow myself permission to feel how I was feeling without judging it. All really easy goals right?

Acting effectively with these goals in mind is an ongoing process. Turning towards being effective when willfulness shows up is usually an over and over again practice, not a one-stop shop.

I decided that the first part of me acting/being more effective was to stop. To observe. To give myself permission to not have “to do” anything in that moment. This took time, and it was not comfortable. After that pause, I realized that I had some ideas about how to address my goals. Through some research, I was able to find organizations that supported the Black LGBTQ+ community and I decided that I would put my energy and resources there. I felt that while I couldn’t support each and every organization, but by supporting one I was doing what worked.

Now to the feelings goals. Giving yourself permission to feel unwanted emotions is hard. It is something that I have to do every day. Combining pauses and providing myself verbal permission to slow down and feel help me to feel more effective when I notice negative emotions coming up. Try it right now…say to yourself out loud, “It is okay to slow down right now and feel.” One of the goals of mindfulness is to increase our connection to the present moment. By using the effectively skill, I was able to feel more in the now, and let go (somewhat, lol) of my future focus and of wanting to do all the things.

There is a lot going on right now- my hope is that by reading this you can remind yourself to slow down today. Take a moment to take a breath and give yourself permission to feel what you’re feeling. Observe what “doing what works” looks like right now, not tomorrow, or next week… and just start there.

Trying To Be Effective

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