Self-soothing, sharing, and other uncomfortable things I’m going through
I feel alone often in my new city.
Not because I’m physically alone.
In fact, I’m surrounded by people. My house is usually full.
But I’m surrounded by people I don’t have existing intimate relationships with.
This has been difficult to observe and be with.
Because of the limited deep relationships I share in this new city, my relationship with myself has come to stare me straight in the face.
In a direct and painful way.
In a way that I feel I needed.
And maybe invited?
Who knows. It’s fun to create stories about why things are happening.
That’s the beauty and struggle of being human. Isn’t it? We’re advanced enough to create reasons for why we do things. When really — why do we do things? Sometimes they have no rhyme or reason. We just do them.
Not having access to my close friends means I’m facing myself.
And guess what?
That shit isn’t always cool.
I don’t always like what I see. Or what I am going through.
Because guess what feels the most uncomfortable?
Sitting with what I am feeling.
HA! What a concept.
How does one *sit*, *be with*, or *simply observe* what they are feeling?
Especially if what they are feeling is painful, sad, confusing, guilt-filled, remorseful, regretful, uncertain (ooh my fave), or anything else that doesn’t fall into the category of being present, joy, happiness, laughter, etc.
When I feel any of the uncomfortable feelings, I jump into some version of the following:
- externalizing my feelings to others
- looking for external support or validation
- distraction (friends, TV, my business, other people’s life and/or struggles)
Good fun? Indeed.
Simply sitting with myself is a brand new idea for me.
I’ve never understood what this means. I don’t know if I do now, but I’m learning.
Luckily, my good friend who is becoming a therapist who has been checking me lately. She reflects back to me all my internal stories. When I externalize to her, I learn.
She helps me notice what stories I’m telling myself. Asks me the hard questions. Gently pushes me.
I’m so thankful for her.
I’m Learning To Self-Soothe
Or I’m at least thinking about it
She’s helping me learn, along with my actual therapist, that self-soothing is my new education.
If I’m going to live any type of good life, and get through uncertain times within myself, I am going to need to learn this skill.
“Self-soothing techniques help you calm and relax when you are feeling overwhelmed physically and emotionally.”
I grew up in a household that, looking back, was very stressful for me. My Dad struggles with anger issues and drinking. He can go from 0 to 60 real quick. In reflecting on my home environment in therapy, it’s likely that I grew up with a low level of anxiety constantly humming under the surface. I don’t remember feeling that way — but it makes sense. There was a time when some kind of fight, discussion or argument was a daily occurrence.
Not surprisingly then, anxiety is something I struggle with as an adult.
It’s especially triggered when I get romantically close to someone. This couldn’t be more frustrating. Not only do I want a healthy, loving relationship, but I always feel strong, powerful, and ready for one when I first meet someone awesome. Until one day when the intimacy grows deep. The place I really want it to be! All my stuff comes back and says hello.
Instead of feeling compassionate for myself, I go, “Fuck! I thought we were past this shit. Go away.” This creates resistance within me. This makes the anxiety bigger, and makes my desire to externalize and seek validation stronger.
Funny enough, doing a quick internet search reveals that self-soothing is a common topic for how to help babies sleep at night. What isn’t as common, are articles about how adults can self-sooth to get through flooding times.
Not surprisingly then that I have no idea how to do this. No one taught me. No one explained it.
I’m teaching myself. Luckily, with the help of my friends.
I’m learning to recognize what is happening within me before acting.
Instead of immediately reacting to every uncomfortable state or feeling — I’m learning to recognize what I feel. I’m practicing the art of noticing.
In theory, when I notice, I can choose what to do from a place of awareness.
What I’m choosing to do now, is sit with what I notice.
Does that sound simple?
It’s especially hard for me when I’m next to someone. Namely, a partner.
At some point, I developed the idea that sharing is the key to intimacy.
In many ways, self-expression and connection are built together. Sharing increases closeness.
So with that idea, I constantly feel compelled to share everything I’m feeling with whomever I am dating.
If I’m not sharing, I’m probably thinking about whether I should be sharing. Or I’m feeling uncomfortable with the silence of not sharing.
Recently, I’ve noticed the strain and stress that the need to constantly be sharing places on me. And I’m noticing the impact it has on the person I’m dating.
This ‘share everything’ strategy never served me or my intimate partners before. In fact, I’ve heard this feedback from past lovers. It was a lot to manage. A lot to handle. A lot to receive.
It’s also a lot for me to handle. If they are overwhelmed, imagine me?
Questions roll around in my head. “How much should I say about this?”. “If I don’t share that I’m feeling this way, is that withholding? Is that lying? Will I be not speaking my truth?”.
I don’t know where the line is. And in my opinion, I keep crossing an arbitrary line that doesn’t exist and then retreating back. No amount feels “right”. Who will help me figure out what the boundaries around sharing are? Send help.
I want to change.
I really want to change.
That realization is huge. I congratulate myself for making what seems like the simplest of steps.
If I’ve learned anything in self-reflection, it’s that change happens in 4 steps.
The Four Steps To Change
- Forgiveness & Compassion (for self and others)
- New Behaviour
Real Talk: I don’t know what I’m doing. I don’t know how to move through all the steps. I need support. I need to support myself.
I hope writing counts as a form of self-soothing, because I feel better right now. Much better than sitting with all the thoughts in my head.
The thoughts are out. You can let me know if they make sense.
For now I’m here in a cafe in downtown Edmonton.
The sun is shining, the sky is blue. I hear the faints sounds of music and conversation around me. I’ve been to this cafe once before, in 2017.
In that way, it’s one of the few familiar things I have in this city.
Others are laughing and socializing. Some sit quietly alone. Typing. Reading.
I am feeling a lot of things right now. I could sit and intellectualize them, or I could be with the internal feelings and do nothing.
“Self-regulation involves taking a pause between a feeling and an action — taking the time to think things through, make a plan, wait patiently.” — Very Well Mind
This goes against my natural response.
It will take time.
I’ll try to be patient.