As I am moving through the processes of letting people go and letting people in, I realize again: emotions don’t come in a linear fashion. Emotions come in waves, and those waves follow patterns.
Now I see it, the pattern isn’t very hard to recognize: when there is an increase in how much I let someone in or out, there is an increase in emotions.
You may recognize the patterns. For example, when I allow someone to diverge from my inner circle: this is the situation where for example a deep friendship ends or a relationship ends in a break-up. These are, often, times in a life where a lot of emotions come up. Anger, sadness, disbelief, and grief just to name a few. But, at least for me, there’s more. In those times my nervous system becomes less resilient. That shows up in me trying to find safety in a way. Sometimes those ways are rather unhelpful, like my mind creating all those stories about how I did things wrong, I’m a terrible person, and nobody will love me ever again. Other times I get it. When contact is disrupted unexpectedly, I often catch myself browsing through their social media, trying to find out how they are doing. And then, when my system is used to the situation, it all relaxes. There is more space in me, and anxiety reduces.
And so it happens too when I let people in close. It’s probably different for everybody, but I guess allowing people in closely always comes with a certain amount of vulnerability. There is more to lose coming up. Being loved might be the scariest thing in life!
Somehow letting someone in, especially in the first months of a new relationship, it’s like there are those moments of tangible deepening. As if you take an elevator to another floor (ever felt that in a consciousness-shifting trip?) And those moments come with a lot of emotions for me too. Memories of old relationships, or old painful moments in my past. The fear that will happen again. The fear that it actually wíll be different this time, and what will things be like in a different way? Am I safe? My brain is wired to be hyper-alert for cues of unsafety, cues my conscious mind might not even see, but feel all the more. Those are the moments when adrenaline hits my system, and I feel restless. I may want to run, or I may want to keep finding confirmation while at the same time, the endless frantic search for unsafety cues keeps going.
So then, you may wonder, how does one deal with these waves? I am an eternal student of my own nervous system, that’s unfortunately wired to opt for fear-based states way easier than I would prefer.
The thing that helps me most, is compassion. To kindly whisper to me that it is okay to feel these things. That it is absolutely understandable these feelings are here now, and that they do not have to be pushed away. That they are not silly, and I don’t have to be beyond this now.
There is another layer of compassion. And that is for my own judgment about the emotions. I can hate my fear passionately, or apologize endlessly for the feelings I have to the people involved in the process. I find myself silly, rambling, too much, and not enough. For all that, I try to have compassion too and approach all those voices with kindness.
The second biggest thing is to create enough safety for feeling unsafe. What information can I pass on to those around me so that they understand what is happening in me, and how they can support me through. This isn’t about building a codependent situation where I cannot manage without someone saving me. This is about co-regulation, about human beings sometimes needing external input to create enough safety to relax.
And then, of course, all the tools in the toolbox. Writing, moving, singing, talking to a friend, being in nature, hugging a horse, breathing exercises, distracting my judgmental brain with a silly series as a reset, or jumping into a cold lake. They have all helped me in the right moments.
Patience is the other keyword. The process takes as long as it takes, and my brain will work the way it does for as long as it will. The learning and unlearning aren’t done, as long as they are not done.