This is a tricky time of the year for many of us as we navigate family, workplace and cultural expectations around the festive season. Old traditions of connection and celebration might not feel authentic to us. We might not resonate with what we’re expected to feel at this time. This might not feel like a time of “goodwill to all” because we are struggling to navigate our own internal conflicts, cognitive dissonances and paradoxes.
One of the tools we can use is to take care of our inner landscape even when the outer landscape feels difficult to navigate. When we tune in to our body, find where our stress is showing up, validate our stress as it relates to our values, and then soothe ourselves, we have the chance to ride the wave of discomfort in social gatherings. Even when we feel unseen and unheard by those around us, we can see and hear ourselves.
Emotions and values
We might feel challenging emotions while in family or social situations. Our emotions point to our values. Following the thread of an emotion leads us back to something that we hold dear, to our sense of purpose and meaning in the world:
- Resentment might tell us about lingering unmet needs related to values like connection, respect, trust and safety;
- Anger might tell us that our boundaries have been crossed and our sense of safety threatened (eg we are not aligned with our values of sovereignty, freedom, creativity, etc.);
- Sadness might point to something lost that previously fulfilled us (eg we lost love, connection, community, etc.).
When those around us don’t share our values, or are actively (knowingly or unknowingly) disrespecting what we hold dear, they are challenging our very identity. This is partly why it can hurt so much being in contact with folks during the festive season who we might usually not choose to hang out with – they don’t support our identity and they don’t respect or understand our values.
Emotions in the body
Within a self-compassion practice, we can follow the thread of an emotion in the body back to its source to connect the stress to our values. What’s going on here? What values are being threatened by this situation? The practice, Feeling Emotions in the Body, Connecting with Core Values, Self-Soothing is a 15-minute practice to help you tap into the emotions and the related core values, and then to soothe yourself when you know what values are being challenged. It can be an informative and nourishing practice to use when you’re having trouble calming your threat response in social gatherings. For a description of one of my experiences with this practice, you might like to check out the article, Feeling Emotions in the Body, Connecting Values, and Self-Soothing.
We don’t always have time to stop and do a 15-minute formal practice during the festive season, so self-soothing is a great way to calm those stress chemicals. You can find some suggestions for self-soothing on the Self-Compassion Practices page and suggestions for addressing increasing stress on the Somatic Self-Compassion First Aid page.
If you’re interested in exploring Somatic Self-Compassion practices more deeply, to give yourself the gift of greater emotional resilience and authenticity, then you might like to come to a free information-sharing gathering or a free HeartWorks meditation Practice Circle. The next Somatic Self-Compassion Online (SSCON) course begins in January and we’d love to see you there. And please feel free to email firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions or need extra support.
We might not be able to bring harmony to our family dynamics, but we do have the possibility of tending to our own stress. May you feel tooled up for this holiday season!
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