The proverbial gut-punch takes our breath away and can stop us dead in our tracks. And boy, can it hurt!
As startling and painful as a social gut-punch can be, the experience offers a powerful opportunity to increase inner resources and self-esteem, rather than how one might commonly handle these punches, which is by avoidance.
Let's take a look ==>
When I was in college, someone left a folded note on the windshield of my car. Cool, right? "Let's grab a beer after class?" or "I got the notes you wanted!"
I opened the folded paper and the note screamed BITCH! in black marker.
I was shocked!!! What? Why? Then I got angry. From that moment on, I could not look anyone in the eye without wondering if they left the note! Some may have wondered about my squinting behavior.
These unpleasant feelings stayed with me for weeks. I obsessed with figuring who thought I was a bitch and what I did to deserve such a name. Maybe they misunderstood something, or maybe I did hurt someone. I’ll never know.
The main point here is that I had no idea how to handle my feelings. (And I was a psychology major! ???? ) And it’s easy to suppress gut-punch emotions, ?nding ways to avoid feeling them. As painful as the unexpected punch is, being tossed into a new personal reality awakens us enough to recognize another world or perception.
However, there is power in these small moments if you apply what I am about to share with you.
First, think of the gut-punches you've experienced by parents, friends, partners, teachers, and strangers. Imagine how many are left smoldering in the subconscious or still are echoing in your mind -- you remain affected years later.
Disappointments, betrayals, demeaning thoughts, lies, harsh negativity, crude remarks, hard realities…
When gut-punches occur, the shock is pretty strong. In my case, I recall feeling a surge that heated my body, which is where emotions express themselves. I avoided and denied emotions by focusing my thoughts on who the author was and why they felt that way?
No one wants to feel hurt. You might believe if you acknowledge the pain, it will never end, or hurt too much. At our disposal are unlimited ways to suppress feeling our hurts. Frustration, shame, helplessness, or anger aren't bad feelings; they feel bad. But avoiding them hurts us too!
Is there a better choice? YES!
A kind and gentle awareness allow passage of the feelings that occur. Although it might be challenging at the moment, allowing them to move through you does just that.
As I said earlier, in the body is where you will feel the rush of hormones. Do you know that the cascade of the emotional, hormonal surge lasts for up to 90-seconds when we allow them to process and move with them?
If you know this documented information in advance, you allow yourself to feel the gut-punch emotions and let it pass through you to build inner strength and connect with yourself.
Here is an analogy I created that can help you understand the value of allowing emotions to pass:
Imagine a thriving oak tree, securely rooted in the earth, that reaches tall and wide into the sky. Every season the tree experiences (and expects) all kinds of weather, from gentle breezes to gale force winds that blow through its limbs and foliage. The tree allows itself to bend and sway, moving with the force of the wind. The rain drips to the ground and nourishes its growth.
Imagine a huge plastic bag that wraps around the tree with holes where winds and rain continually ?ll and stretch the bag beyond its capacity. Inside the bag, the winds and water continue to whirl and ?ood the tree. You can imagine the destruction!
The same occurs in the body when we stockpile tension.
When you bear witness to your emotions by allowing them, they pass too. Notice how your emotions change in everyday moments. You might transition from sadness to laughter to contemplation in seconds without any awareness at all! You can increase awareness of dif?cult emotions too.
When you connect with the ?ow of emotion due to an unpleasant, unexpected experience, you open yourself to insights, directives, or information you need for the next steps. If the shock value is overwhelming, you can process it when it feels right to you.
The bitch note memory drifted into my consciousness many years later, and I still felt a twinge of anger and shame. This time I allowed it... and the images faded away. I comforted and forgave my younger self, reminding her that maybe she did wrong, perhaps she didn’t. Today, I trust that I can breathe into my experience and move with it, rather than suppress it.
The next time you are gut-punched, be like the tree but ditch the plastic bag.