There are very few things in life that scare me: bungee jumping, clowns, sharks.
Emotions. Getting hurt again.
I’ll be frank and admit right now, I’d prefer to jump from a cliff with a bungee cord wrapped around my ankle into shark-infested waters with that freaky clown from Stephen King’s It riding shotgun on my back, than feel emotions that may lead me to getting my heart broken again.
But I’m no coward. I’m committed to overcoming all my fears because they are just that…fears. And running from them and from myself is no longer an option.
When life gets profoundly uncomfortable or our emotions surrounding a particular situation get to be too much, many of us run. We run from the discomfort, we shut ourselves off and don’t communicate what we’re feeling; we become passive aggressive in our actions and don’t face our own stuff head on.
So we can run as long as we need to from the same thing that keeps popping up in our lives, but ultimately once we do a few laps around the “Avoidance Track,” we end up in the very same place we started—with nothing to show for all that heart pounding and running except utter exhaustion and the realization that we exerted all that effort and still haven’t even begun the race.
And by the way, those same people and situations that were the catalyst for us taking off into a sprint to begin with? They are all still waiting for our return.
We can’t hide any longer.
So here’s how we can start healing so we no longer have to run. Go back to the very first time you felt that totally uncomfortable feeling in your body, the one that makes you want to run. Whether it be distrust of a person, lack of confidence, feeling abandoned, being rejected, fear of failing, fear that we’re not good enough—it all started somewhere.
And until we run back to that place, in that time and talk through the experience with someone—every detail and emotion, and what we made it mean about ourselves—we can’t heal it.
A good friend made me do an exercise this week. I fought her and screamed that none of what I was feeling had anything to do with some childhood bullsh*t and to please just give me permission to run from my current uncomfortable situation because, “I just can’t do this. I’m not ready!” She screamed back that I better try it or I was going to stay stuck in this vicious cycle of running.
So I gave it a whirl.
Your story will obviously have a different location, a different cast of characters and different meanings you’ve attached to it, but here’s what I discovered:
I was an athlete most of my life and a pretty great softball pitcher. But like every athlete, I had some tough games.
Those games where I wasn’t having my best day and was walking player after player on the mound were rough. And if you’re a sports fan, you know that you have two choices at this point.
You pull your sh*t together, tell yourself you’ve got this and turn things around or you give up on yourself and mentally check out, because it would be too hard to pull it all together.
And the story continues. You’ve lost your confidence, and besides, you’re not that great anyway. Everyone knows it. There is another pitcher out there who is better than you and the coach is going to realize that soon enough and replace you. So in my 12-year-old mind, I decided it was best to ask the coach to take me out before:
1. I let him down.
2. He takes me out first, which would be completely humiliating.
Welcome to the way I operate in relationships.
I run before they have a chance to reject me. I psyche myself out and convince myself I’m not as great as everyone says I am.
I want to take myself out of the game, because I very quickly go to the place of, “I’m going to lose anyway,” and my partner has probably figured out by now that there’s someone else out there who is far better than me.
And if I’m not being told every day that I’m amazing and loved, that this person feels so lucky to have me on their team, I feel silently dejected—because how am I supposed to know I’m valuable if he doesn’t tell me for Christ’s sake?
I need validation. It’s part of who I am and I suck at asking for it.
That’s when I realized I was being triggered—and that stupid exercise actually works.
Try it. Relate it to whatever you’re going through at this moment. Apply it to whatever consistently triggers you.
Just stop running from it.
Because it will be there tomorrow. And the next day. And the next year. Until you just own it. But facing it head on may actually be the very thing that produces a completely different outcome.
Today, I’m willing to do it differently. Because staying in the game this time around, and dealing with the tough emotions, might actually be the best thing for me.
And just being able to admit this today means I’m a damn good pitcher—even when there’s nobody there to validate me, except me.
Author: Dina Strada
Editor: Nicole Cameron
Image: Drew Hays at Unsplash