Understanding Your Why and Let Your Emotions Flow

I remember when the fear hit.  I was  listening to somebody tell me about how the capital is being overtaken and how a bunch of police officers got maced. I don’t know if I was just in shock and couldn’t believe it actually happened, or poor cell service (truly a possibility in my area), but I remember thinking, A few hundred people stormed the capital in Georgia?  I’m not saying this would’ve been any better mind you, but it is quite a different thing than a few thousand people marching on our capital in Washington.

I remember the rest of the day feeling ‘off’.  Physical tightness in my chest.  Irritable.  Tired.  My voice seemed to lose a bit of its timber.  I know the rules.  I’m all about following the steps to create my own emotional state, and I know I don’t want to stay in fear that’s for sure.  I have identified the fear, I’m listening to it like I’m supposed to, and now I’m looking for the ‘why’.   That’s what’s supposed to help, isn’t it?  I’m talking to people on stage, hosting workshops, and doing one-on-one coaching all about how our ‘why’ separates us from our emotion, and it’s true. But never has it said anywhere that your ‘why’ is a flotation device, keeping you above the cold water of fear.  Nothing was going to save me from having to feel the fear, it’s just going to let me know why it’s there.  

I know you hear things like this and you always think to yourself, when everybody talks about this event, fear is just going to come on, but I know that so I’ll be ready for it.  It makes sense right?  If I’m at home watching the news, or Joe Schmoe brings it up when I’m standing in line at Shaws, then it is completely normal for me to have fear and anxiety.  My chest will probably tighten up then, I will remind myself that I KNOW exactly why, so then that feeling will go away.  Wouldn’t that be fantastic?

Unfortunately, that’s not how it works.  I wish it did.

Understanding your why – what it is that is causing you to have these feelings, helps you separate from those emotions, detach, so that you can then ask: are these feelings helping me or are they hindering me.  Only then can you determine what it is that you want.  Until you detach, you are being ruled by your emotions, rather than you being able to use the information that they provide to then make the decision on what you want.

Trying to consider all of the emotions that we could possibly feel on any given day would be unfathomable.  It is the difference between trying to count the grains of sand on a beach, or trying to stop and separate water molecules as you go down a barrel in Niagara Falls.  You may be seperate from the water, because of the barrel, but you are in the experience nonetheless.  Every time a catalyst, whether outside of us or inside of us, pulls or pushes on us energetically, ‘why’ tells us what we’re reacting to.  But, understanding ‘how’ we stay in our barrel (our mental-emotional center) seems to be all important.

It’s almost impossible to ask ‘why’ for every emotion that we have every day.  But we do need to take the time to do this when we find we have emotions that are not serving us, or that are keeping us from doing what we want or need to do each day.  So, how do you understand ‘why’ something is causing you to experience this emotion?  When something huge happens it sets off a cascade of feelings in us.  Figuring out the ‘why’ can be darn near impossible when we are compromised by our emotions.  This could leave us trying to go through hundreds if not thousands of “reasons” as to why we are feeling a certain way, waiting to come up on that magical answer that, once acknowledged, allows us to feel better spontaneously.  Again this would be fantastic. 

First you have to stop the story that is perpetuating the emotion.  Continuing to run the story (“The capital is being overrun and the whole world is going to crap!”) only prolongs the suffering.  So, you have to stop.  You may have to literally change the environment for yourself: go for a walk, play a game on your phone, watch the clouds… You have to step out of the situation either physically or internally for a moment to get some space.  In my case, I connected with my daughter and we went for a walk.

Then, once you’ve had some space, ask yourself: “What is going on? Why is this hitting me so hard?”  And know that there will never be just one answer.  There are usually an accumulation of issues that you can identify that are causing this particular thing to have the weight to pull on your emotions so hard.  In my case, with the capital, it was realizing that this was happening along with a pandemic that has been going on for almost a year, the political climate has been in upheaval for several years, we haven’t been able to connect with our friends in many months,…  All of these things in and of themselves have caused fear within me.  The capital hit so hard because it piled on one more layer of fear that literally felt insurmountable to me.  Once I was able to acknowledge this, I could then consider this emotion of fear within that perspective and I understood that this feeling was not me, nor was it new to me.  It was a piece of a greater whole.  And staying in the fear, at the moment, did not serve me.  

Training ourselves to use what’s outside of us and what’s inside of us to create our reality in our emotional state takes tremendous training and dedication.  You can expect setbacks.  But it will allow you to have a much fuller, less reactionary life.  So, I had to decide what would serve me in the moment?  I decided that it was playing Exploding Kittens with my children.  Game on!

Consistent Deep Practice Beats Fear Every Time

I’m scared. I feel indecisive and my palms are sweaty. I feel like someone gave me a frontal lobotomy and my fear and self doubt have their hand on the wheel. I am not at the starting line of a race. I’m not getting ready for surgery. I’m not dealing with a life threatening event. I’m staring at my computer screen reviewing a few proposals from web developers.  I have never done this before.  Honestly, it’s that simple. 

I used to have this great neighbor named Cliff. Cliff went to Cornell and was also a Marine. This incredible combination made him smart, good natured, and willing to help another out. I was grateful that he allowed me to treat his wife with Acupuncture for some things, so at least I could give back in my way.  But, honestly, I knocked on his door for help much more frequently. If I had a problem with my toilet, I’d ask Cliff. If I wanted to learn how to paint my house, Cliff again. He was a plumber by trade, so a great deal of the time it was, “Can you help me with the back up pipes again?”

I didn’t grow up with a handy father, which is no excuse, I just honestly never really took the time to learn it myself. I never felt quite comfortable with building or fixing things, because, well…I never did it. I’m an artist, acupuncturist, and athlete…handy was not in my repertoire. Cliff would try to explain to me how to do things when I asked for help. I’d listen and watch him, hoping some of the lessons would stick. But it always ended the same: my anxiety and embarrassment would get the best of me, and, within a short while, it went from Cliff helping me to Cliff doing it. I would just get so uncomfortable and embarrassed because I couldn’t figure it out, that I would end up giving over the entire project for him to do.

Cliff never refused and was always good about it.  But I remember always feeling ‘a little less’ for it. A little less capable. A little less confident. Again, it was never anything that Cliff said or did. It was the fact that I let my fear, anxiety and self-doubt determine how much of the process I could stay in with him when he was teaching me. 

I think this happens to many of us when we’re at the beginning of learning something new.  Fear, anxiety, and self consciousness get so big and unwieldy that we give over our power and forget how capable we actually are. If we’re honest with ourselves, it’s not like anything we’ve ever mastered in our lives didn’t have fear at the front and center of our minds for a hell of a long while. We may have locked ourselves away from self judgement by ‘just trying to figure it out for ourselves,’ even though we may have known that it might’ve taken a lot less time if we could just allow our fear and anxiety be with us while we asked for help. 

Cliff was a smart, capable guy for sure, but magical superpowers he didn’t have. What he did have was the ability to trust himself enough that he could take failure. Because he didn’t always get it right. I know this because I would see him mess stuff up. When he did, he would just chuckle, think about what else he could try, and move forward.  And the more he did it, meaning the more he tried to fix things, mess with things, build things, the more confidence he had  in his abilities. Meanwhile, when he would screw up, his fear and anxiety lessened in intensity and duration. I’m sure his fear and self-doubt was just like anybody else’s when he first started. But, through his continued effort, that soon developed a belief within him where he told himself, “I’m sure I can figure this out.”  

There are only two things that enable you to get to the point where you truly believe you are capable, regardless of the discipline you are pursuing:

Courage and consistent deep practice.

That’s it. No magic. No one is an anomaly. Some have talent, but, most of the time, it’s dealing with the uncomfortability of making mistakes, then moving forward with what they teach you, rather than just doing the things that are comfortable to us. A concert violinist doesn’t get better at playing the violin by only playing the pieces they already know by heart. Wouldn’t that be spectacular! It’s by stretching ourselves, growing, and consistently doing what is required to gain mastery over the craft. That kind of mastery comes with a plethora of failure. 

In fact, most people who have gained mastery in some area were incredible failures first before they became incredible masters. They learned to fail like pros! Honing their ability to identify their feelings of fear and learn from them, so they could get back in their challenges more quickly with greater success. 

I know I lean heavily on being a creative person. But it doesn’t mean I can’t learn. I didn’t always do marathons, I didn’t always do Ironman races, or ultras. I certainly didn’t always do workshops on emotional resilience, speak in high schools and colleges, and give keynote speeches. The first time I ever made a video it took five hours. That same process now takes all of about 45 minutes (or two hours if you wanna’ include posting on social media 🙂 ) This proficiency came with a cost of allowing for fear, anxiety, and self-doubt to tell it’s tale to me, and then continual consistent, relentless, deep practice.  

So, it looks like I’m gonna’ have to sit down, read these proposals, and see what works for me and see what doesn’t. I’m going to have to make a list of questions for them. Think about the budget that I have to spend on a website, and start to learn social media marketing. I can learn a great deal on my own, but asking for help and not getting hijacked by my uncomfortability will get me where I want to go more quickly. I don’t need to give over my power to get help. I’d say that this is a tall order and that I’m uncertain that I can even do it, but, if I just look over my  life experiences, I have a pattern of digging my heels in and developing the consistent deep practice I need to succeed.

Walk the Talk

“I have this new mask for you to put on.” The assistant who met me at the door said. 

“What?” I exclaimed. 

She could tell by my tone that I wasn’t too happy. She had a little bit of a tone of her own.  “You need to have a new mask if you’re going to come in here.”  Now, I really don’t know if that’s exactly what she said, but that’s what I heard in my mind.  Because my ears were filled with a roaring of my rage.

How dare she ask me to put on a mask.  I’m wearing a mask. What the hell is wrong with my mask?  Of course, I didn’t say any of this, but it was filling my head and pushing at the inside of my skull so hard that it colored over what she actually said. There was a quick moment where I wanted to walk right out of the opthamologists and tell her to hell with these glasses… Do I really need to get glasses anyway?  I stifled all of my anger and irritation and I stood there answering the questions she asked me like a disgruntled teenager.  One word answers only.  That’s all she was going to get from me.  I reluctantly swapped out my cloth mask for the disposable mask and the assistant who had checked me in went about her business.  

I took a seat, brooding.  I finally noticed a couple of people moving around looking at glasses.  This made me feel safe that I could do the same.  I’m not kidding.  My irritation and anger was sitting inside me for so long while I sat there that I had actually become immobilized, unable to get up like a kid in the “time out” corner.  As I began to browse the glasses, I realized that I was avoiding looking at the ones that were next to the counter where the assistant was showing other people their glasses.  Finally, I went back and sat down in the chair where I first started.  

“Mr. Bevacqui?” A young woman came out to take me in the back for my eye exam.  She was very sweet and I used the time during my exam to kind of decompress, ask questions, and make a connection with another human being.  This helped to move some of that uncomfortable emotional energy through me. I  was feeling less stuck by the time I got back to the lobby.  I decided to go to the bathroom and check myself out for a minute.  I didn’t have to go, but I wanted a moment with myself to try to figure out what the hell was going on with me.  I needed to know why I was so upset that the assistant had asked me to put on a mask.  She was giving me a brand new mask to walk into the office.  Yet, I was having a tantrum and acting as if she was insulting me and the mask that I was already wearing.  

Here comes the honest questions I didn’t want to ask myself: Does it make any sense, in any possible way, that this woman was intentionally insulting me?  No.  Did I get triggered?  Yes.  Why do I think that was?  This was a tough one.  It called for me to be emotionally honest with myself and I knew the chances of me being in the wrong were high, that’s probably why it took at least 15 minutes with another person doing my eye exam to even get to the place where  I could think this through. 

Somehow or other, in my mind I was thinking: Oh my God!  It’s not enough that I have to wear a mask everywhere, now I have to wear their mask?  Why is it that some stores I can go directly in, and other stores I have to wear special masks!  I think everybody’s just taken all of this a little bit too far.  I sat there for a second.  I smirked at myself.  I felt ashamed.  The shame was because I thought of the many times I’ve expressed disbelief that ‘these people’ aren’t wearing masks, and I can’t believe ‘these people’ aren’t washing their hands, and I can’t believe… I can’t believe… I can’t believe… What I was really expressing disbelief in was that ‘they’ weren’t all thinking like me. 

Yes, there are some scientific protocols that are, without a doubt, important to follow.  But the rest of them are coming up for other people‘s comfort.  For their sense of security.  What did it hurt if I took another mask and made the people working in an eye doctor’s office feel more comfortable?  I knew there was an apology coming, and I knew it was going to be from me. 

I finally left the bathroom and went out to take a look at glasses and lo’ and behold… I got the assistant who hit me with a mask when I first walked in the door.  “What’s your name?” I asked. She told me.  I said, “My name is Lou and I’m really sorry I gave you a hard time about that mask when I walked in.  I think I was just confused and irritated at this whole thing.” 

She looked at me, surprised I even mentioned it.  You could tell she thought we were going to play that it never happened, but I couldn’t do that.  She laughed and told me not to worry about it.  In fact, she was incredibly helpful as I picked out my glasses, and I am grateful to this day that I made the choice to open up, be vulnerable, apologize and admit my wrong.  We ended up talking about some of the speaking that I did. We talked about her travels, Covid, the difficulties the kids are having these days (adults too!).  By the time I left we had a great deal of mutual respect for one another. 
I had promised the woman who did my eye exam that I would bring in a copy of my book, Changing Your Weather, for her five-year-old son.  I brought it in, signed it, drew a little cat on it with a personal note that read: “Your mom gives great eye exams!” then handed it to the assistant who had given me the mask at the beginning of this entire hour to give to the ophthalmologist.  As I left, she said, “You are a beautiful human being.”  I felt the same for her.  Honestly, there are a lot of really ugly emotions that were going on for at least a half an hour.  But taking the time to process those emotions, grow from them, and go back out and ‘walk the talk’, was what allowed for the beauty of the honest interaction between us.