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Sitting Through the Storm: Navigating the Toughest of Experiences

I write this with the hope of planting a seed. Reading this is not going to instantly change your life. However, if you find yourself reading this, you're probably in the right place. You may be struggling with something in your life and looking for answers. I can't guarantee I'll provide you with any answers, but hopefully, this may lead you in your own journey and help you find your own path.

Maybe you’re experiencing the intense anguish of grief or loss. Maybe it’s crippling anxiety that is reaching the point of panic or possibly your frustration is growing into anger and hopelessness. We come from a society that is consumed with innovation, technology, simple solutions, and quick fixes. And while the innovation and inventiveness present in our world today has solved a lot of our problems and inconveniences, this reflection is going to focus on the experiences that seemingly have no external solution. The old adage of “this too shall pass” might come to mind. Hearing this cliche saying may feel comforting or quite the contrary; it may feel invalidating and frustrating to hear at the moment of crisis and breakdown. This may be a hard pill to swallow— sometimes the only thing you can do is endure the storm of emotions by sitting through them and meeting them differently. I want to pause there and emphasize the words "meeting them differently."

I am writing this from the place that difficult experiences and emotions are part of the human experience and can't always be solved, fixed, or outrun. However, they can be met with a different posture or approached from a different paradigm. Let's start by looking at the relationship between our emotions and resistance.

Noticing Resistance

Uncomfortable emotions tend to be met with resistance. Resistance is the conscious or unconscious process of doing everything we can to NOT have to feel a certain emotion. This may be trying to actively push it away, block it out, stuff it down. It may also involve distracting ourselves from the feeling by using some external mechanism such as drugs, alcohol, food, work, television, social media, and even other people. Heck staying busy and constantly being preoccupied is a way to not have to feel our feelings. We have created industries that enable us to turn away from our uncomfortable feelings. We have learned to numb our pain in a myriad of ways, some of which are socially acceptable and even praised. What if we tried something different? What if we turned inward toward the discomfort and the difficult feelings?

Looking Within

Turning your attention from the external circumstances (e.g. the loss of a job, the loss of a person, etc.) to the internal feelings and sensations is a vital first step. External circumstances are often outside of our control and exist in what has happened in the past or what is to come in the future. Internal feelings and sensations are occurring right now in our bodies. Focusing on external circumstances tends to only create more anguish and hopelessness (because after all, if we could have changed them, we would have). What if in the moment of feeling these intense emotions so deeply, there was a new response? What if you presenced yourself to these simple questions as you notice an uncomfortable feeling arises or as you sit through the storm of uncomfortable emotions:

What are the actual physical feelings and sensations? (Sometimes it helps to close your eyes and turn your head down toward your solar plexus and merely connect with the sensations you notice in your body)

Can you handle this feeling? Can you endure it just for this moment and merely be with it?

Can you allow this feeling to be there without needing to change it? Can you sit with the pain or discomfort?

Can you welcome this feeling? Can you invite it to be there? (Knowing that the more you try and fight it and resist, it will persist)

Can you let go of trying to resist it or control it?

Disassembling the Greatest Lie of All

This simple line of questioning is aimed at shifting our focus to our present subjective experience. Its intention is to move our attention from out of our heads and into our bodies. Turning our attention from external circumstances and conditions to our internal feelings is also a powerful practice because it completely disassembles what is perhaps the biggest lie of them all:

In order to feel at peace or feel content we need something outside of ourselves to change.

Other variations of this might be that in order to feel differently, I need this to happen or I need to get something (e.g. more money, a better job, a different partner, etc.). By practicing the simple exercise above, you are implicitly taking your power back. You are no longer looking for the savior or rescuer in something or someone outside of yourself. You are learning to be with yourself—in good times and in bad. What a powerful stance, especially considering that for every minute of every day for the rest of your life, the one person you are going to be spending time with is YOU.

What a powerful experience to have the realization that nothing in the environment, circumstances, or other people needed to change in order to feel complete, whole, at peace and satisfied. It is like coming home to one's self, awakening to a feeling that had long been forgotten.

Xavier Heditsian, MA, LPCC

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About Sam Nabil

Sam Nabil is the founder of Naya Clinics and is a Boston therapist and a Boston Marriage Counselor.

Sam offers therapy in Boston and Boston Marriage Counseling for adults suffering from relationship challenges, life transitions and anxiety. Sam Nabil was featured in many prestigious publications. Check out his interview with Aljazeera English, The Washington post, The Boston Globe, Fatherly magazine, Women's health magazine, Cornell university, Yahoo News, USA Today,

Naya Clinics is a top-rated Marriage Counseling, therapy and Life coaching practice.

Naya Clinics offers Marriage Counselors near me, individual therapy near me, and life coaching near me in various locations across the USA and the world. Naya Clinics also offers Online marriage counseling, online therapy, and online life coaching.

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