Wasn’t it just yesterday?
We brought you home from the hospital in the car seat, wearing a blue and white winter baby jacket. We put you on the kitchen table, looked at you, looked at one another and said, “Ok, now what?” We had no idea what to do with a baby. Do we let you sleep, wait for you to cry, change a diaper or just sit and stare at you? We had more questions than answers. Even the simple questions like,”is it ok to leave you unsupervised to go take a shower or unpack my hospital bag?” became complicated. We seriously did not know. I read all the baby books, took the prenatal classes and thought I was prepared. But no one and nothing was able to prepare me for that moment. That moment, which was a snapshot in time, but a snapshot that is etched forever in my mind. There were other moments that have happened in our lives which I will never forget, but none quite as powerful, until today.
Today you grew up. Today you are truly adulting. Today you moved out. You packed up your bedroom of all of your childhood, teenage and young adult memories and began your life. As you backed out of the driveway, with your car packed full, we were crying. This is how it is supposed to be, right?
As a mom, I know this, and also as a mom I am left under prepared. I thought I would be ready. I thought I would feel differently than I do. I thought I would feel similarly to how I felt when you left for college, it was hard but I was also ok. I thought that I would just have to adjust to your room being empty and you not being home every day. However, this is different. It is a new life milestone for you, for me and our entire family.
I am back looking around at the space you left behind and once again, I am faced with the questions:
“Ok, now what?”
“What do I do first?”
“What feeling do I feel first?”
How do I begin to process the fact that we did our job? And in doing our job it means we have to let you go. It also means you did your job. You grew up. You were responsible. You finished the job of childhood and have been promoted into adulthood. You are stepping through the threshold boldly, bravely, nervously, excitedly and ready.
What is my job now? Who is a mother when the one you were called upon to mother does not require your mothering in quite the same way?
I am beginning to understand that I am being called to do a new job now and I am not
entirely sure about the job description.
It is not spelled out in black and white. No one has ever written it down for me. I am called upon to look back on my life and draw reference from the other women in my life who have already gone through this stage. Women like my mother, mother-in-law, my sister-in-law, my grandmothers, and my great-grandmothers. I find myself wondering, how did they feel, how did they do it? How did they make the transition from hands-on, being in the day-to-day life of your child to being a mother at a distance? They survived it. I moved out, my sisters moved out, my niece and nephew moved out, all of my in-laws moved out, my grandmother left Germany. My grandmother got on a boat to the United States right before the Nazi’s took over Germany. I cannot even imagine what my great-grandmother experienced as she watched her daughter, my grandma Alice, board a ship, knowing what was happening in Germany at the time. So, I know it can be and must be done. Because this is a pattern worth repeating.
It is a learning curve. Once again, I am called forward into unknown territory. The thing is, I do know what to do when I am called forward into a new stage of my life. I have to draw upon all the healing work I have already done. It is up to me to employ the tools I have learned. The very same tools I teach my clients to get to know and use. Here are some of those tools:
1. Look inside and feel your feelings.
2. What are the patterns that need to be recognized and uncovered?
3. Feel your emotional pain.
4. Allow the pain to pass through you.
5. Have conscious awareness, be present.
6. Do not get attached to a story or an outcome.
When we are aware of the fact that we are in a place of transition in our lives, as I am now, we are called forward to be. To be in the experience of this moment. The truth is, moments like this are hard and, right now, this moment hurts. I am not going to lie. This moment is present, it is here, it is now. There is no way to avoid feeling it. I know I must feel it until I am ready to move onto the next experience of the next feeling.
I also know the feelings will come in waves. I am ready and I am not ready. But, ready or not, I have no choice. When you allow yourself to ride those waves you can move through, not fall down, not get stuck and come out standing on the other side knowing you have all the tools inside of you to cope and survive. No matter what life throws your way, you can move through it successfully.
My daughter and I will move forward together. I will be there. I will be watching from just a few steps behind, just in case she wants to turn around, she will easily find me.
I will not intrude.
I will wait until I am asked.
What I do know is that I trust her.
What I do know is that I taught her as much as I could.
What I do know is that it is her turn to learn the rest on her own.
No one was able to teach me how to be her mother. I am so glad I was given the gift to learn, as my child is my teacher.
How is it that twenty-two years have passed? I find myself asking once again, this time as I look at an empty bedroom, “Ok, now what?”
Are you struggling with parenting or do your old patterns keep interfering in your day to day life? Here is a link for Janet’s book https://amzn.to/3hoIvWp, Show Up For Yourself- A Guide to Inner Awareness and Growth. This book can help you gain the tools you need to manage your emotions more successfully as life challenges show up each day. If you would like to book a complimentary 30 min consultation with Janet click here:https://janetphilbin.com/contact/
How many times have you heard the phrase, waiting for the other shoe to drop?
I know I have said it many times.
That phrase has its origins in the tenements of New York City. The story goes that at the turn of the century, apartments were built with bedrooms on top of one another. It was common to hear your upstairs neighbor take off a shoe, drop it, and then repeat the action. In other words, waiting for the sound of the other shoe to hit the floor. It became known as an anticipation for something you knew was coming.
This has now become synonymous with anxiety, specifically anticipatory anxiety. According to psychology today, about 85 percent of things that people worry about never happen. Think about that 85 percent of us are lost in thought, which creates an emotional experience of worry, anxiety or fear about something that will never happen. That uses a lot of emotional and physical energy. It can leave you feeling exhausted, sad, confused, unable to take action steps to move forward in your life and feeling disconnected from the things that can bring you joy. It may even create the need to turn away from feelings because they are so painful, which can lead to all types of addiction and distractions.
What I have come to understand through working with my clients, is that this type of anticipatory fear is actually held in our cellular memory. That means that the painful memory from a past event is so strong that the energy and the physical feeling you experienced from that event, actually gets lodged in your body. When a memory is lodged in the body the result may be that every time you feel, experience, go through, or anticipate an event that is similar to the original painful memory your body reacts with the same response. The fear you hold onto rises to the top and you get stuck in the cycle of fear and anxiety.
You respond from a place of fear, a fear that was trapped in your body.
As a clinician and as a hypnotherapist I understand this with a unique perspective. First, through the lens of Polyvagal Theory and second through the lens of the subconscious mind. Polyvagal theory takes us through the experience of the autonomic nervous system and its three predictable pathways of response. These are: Ventral Vagal, Sympathetic and Dorsal Vagal.
Each pathway has unique adaptive responses to help us survive. We interpret these responses through neuroception. Neuroception is our ability to detect what is going on in our environment, this happens without conscious awareness, just like we are not consciously aware of how often we blink, it just happens. When we are detecting what is happening in our environment we are always assessing for cues of safety and cues of danger. Based on our interpretation of the cue, either safety or danger, we respond from one of the three pathways of the autonomic nervous system. When we are in Ventral Vagal, we are experiencing safety and connection. When we are in Sympathetic, we are in a mobilized fight-flight state. When we are in Dorsal Vagal, we are in a state of immobilization, conserving our energy and resources.
Keeping Polyvagal theory in mind lets move onto understanding why we are waiting for the other shoe to drop from the perspective of the subconscious mind. The subconscious mind has no sense of time, it does not know the difference between real and imagination, and it reacts from old “programming” until those old programmed messages are healed. When it comes to the emotional experience of anxiety, this is something that is experienced when our Sympathetic system is activated.
Anxiety is an emotion.
We interpret a physical sensation we feel in the body and label it anxiety or maybe fear. We are activated in some way. If the sensation feels like a tightness in the chest we immediately interpret that as a cue of danger. This happens because we learned a long time ago, maybe as a child, that every time my parents fight, I get scared, my chest gets tight and I am anticipating something really bad may happen next. Now, it does not matter if something really bad happened or not, the body now has a cellular memory of a tight chest and this is connected to strong emotions. The Sympathetic system is activated, and you are in fight or flight. You learned to experience anticipatory anxiety every time you get this feeling of a tightness in the chest. Since the subconscious mind has no sense of time you respond to the event in front of you with the same or very similar coping skills you developed when you were young.
Now, as an adult, every time the Sympathetic system is active you experience this anticipatory anxiety. It is interpreted as a cue of danger. The shoe is about to drop. What if you were able to change this perception? What if you still felt that feeling in your chest but did not have to automatically jump into your imagination and go into all of the stories of a bad outcome. What if the feeling in your chest was just a message to you to pay attention to yourself for a moment or two? It is an invitation to tune into what you are internally experiencing, slow down, to carefully assess the situation. Imagine that the tight feeling did not mean something bad was going to happen but instead means you can have a positive outcome in this situation.
You can be in charge of how you respond.
It is possible what you are anticipating is a good thing and when you get that feeling in your chest it means to be excited about the next event and not scared. You have the power to change your response, you have the power to change your thoughts.
Here are a some steps to take on how to do this.
- When you feel that physical feeling in your body stop and pause.
- Take a breath in, let the exhale be longer than the inhale.
- Take a few of these breaths, being sure when you inhale you are taking deep abdominal breaths so you can feel your belly rise up each time you inhale.
- Notice how the physical feeling in the body begins to shift or become alleviated as you breathe this way.
- Become aware of your physical body. Feel your feet on the floor, your body in your chair, take note of the time, day, what clothes you are wearing. Reorient yourself to the present moment.
- Talk to yourself by asking questions like; what is the truth of the situation right now? What are the real possible outcomes? What is the best outcome? What is the worst?
- You are empowered to choose how you will approach the situation. Will you approach in from the perspective of the worst outcome or the best?
- You get to choose the way you respond. What emotional and physical energy do you want to bring to the situation?
- Take another breath and notice the shift within you.
- Now you can move forward and choose to interpret that feeling in your chest differently. Now it gets to mean to stop, pause, pay attention and choose you.
When you step into the empowered self by choosing you, you are letting yourself know you are safe. You are in charge of how you respond. You are here in this present moment, not five, ten or thirty years ago in the past. You no longer need to imagine bad outcomes with anticipatory anxiety of a shoe dropping. In fact, you get to move into a new space where you do not have to hear the shoe drop at all.