Archive for April 2020

Gratitude – Yeah nah: witnessing and holding space for our emotions

Photo courtesy of Kristopher Roller, Unsplash

The practise of gratitude while in our isolation bubbles can feel a bit like trying to keep something alight while being submerged.

 With no play book for how to be or operate in these unknown times, fear, uncertainty, grief, sadness and feeling pissed off too, are a range of normal emotions for us to feel at this time.

Here’s what I have noticed with emotion and feelings, no matter how hard I try or with the best intentions, finding and feeling gratitude can be like the picture above or with the sparkler damp and unlit.

Recently, Wellington had one of those stunners, a warm and windless autumn day. A great day to practice gratitude while out walking with a view over the harbour.

Though, that was not what I was feeling. Sadness and grief that this Easter I was unable to be with my wider family enjoying their company, food, card sessions and banter, I stopped at the top of the hill and paused to look at the view. I ought to be grateful, I should be grateful for this.

Yeah nah, came the internal response

So, I carried on walking and allowed space for the emotions, naming them and offering acceptance and compassion for feeling them. I have to admit, it was a few kms in the walk before I was done feeling them that they passed. Truth be told, it was the combination of exertion (uphill) and rhythm of the walk before I entered that calm space and began to feel some gratitude. 

If brains act like velcro and stick to negative emotions like fear and worry and act like teflon with positive emotions sliding off, it is easy to see why trying to be grateful and being stuck with sadness was challenging!1

 When the emotions were done, I was fully present with all my senses to the view, sunshine, birdsong and fellow walkers with a new feeling emerging. This was like a calming tonic on my brain and comforting cloak around my body. Now I could really be present to my strengths and lean into them to fill my tank.

Before we can lean into our strengths, or have gratitude, we benefit from being kind to ourselves to witness and hold space for emotions and allow them to pass.

The following model from Nicabm and Paul Gilbert (2009) is a framework of emotional regulation that can be used as a tool to helps us as we adapt in our isolation bubbles.

You may want to look at the model and consider how to lean into your strengths and what they need, so you can adapt.

Three Circles of Emotional Regualtion NICABM