There are times when we’re completely caught up in reacting. It might be a volcano of anger, a fog of anxiety or a whirlwind of addictive thoughts that we keep re-thinking over and over. We’re totally hooked.
The moment that we notice we’re caught up, we have the chance to do something about it. There’s hope!
Here is a four-step practice for unhooking yourself. With repetition, you can become skilled at recognizing head-melting situations and defusing your gut reaction. With a little space to breathe and think, you’ll be able to choose your response with clarity and wisdom.
Plain and simple: acknowledge that you’re caught up in some storm of emotions or thoughts. Know that this is a normal thing to experience; every human being has felt this way. Accepting what you’re feeling actually takes a little of the heat out of the experience; the storm loses a little strength.
Don’t believe everything you think, especially when you’re in the middle of a storm. When we’re angry or sad or confused, we have a storyline about why we feel that way. The story might be that it’s our fault or someone else’s; that it’s unfair or totally deserved – but it’s a story. And right now, the narrative is getting out of control. So don’t entertain the story: unclip, and release it.
3) Focus In
This is about recognizing what your body is feeling. Bring your attention inside to find where your body feels this thing that’s hooked you. Where do you feel frustration? Or shame? Scan gently through your head, face, throat, chest, heart and stomach. You may experience this feeling as a colour, texture, temperature or sense of pressure. Move through your body to discover where the sensation feels strongest, and take a moment to really see it, without needing to fix anything. This is what’s true for you, right now…
4) Be Greater
…but it’s not the only thing that’s true for you. You are so much more than one emotion. You have over 30 trillion cells in your body, all working their magic. Feelings appear and disappear all the time. The one thing we can know for sure is that feelings won’t stay forever. So expand your awareness outwards, filling up the shape of your body. For example, you can fill your hands with your awareness: you might notice the position they’re in, the textures they can feel, and whether they’re warm or cold. Move through your body with curiosity and focus. Become aware of some of the other things that are true for you.
- It’s a practice. Like learning to write or play a sport, you get better at this with repeated effort.
- Be kind to yourself. Every human being feels the pain of being hooked. You are not alone.
- Start with the small hooks. Feeling a little frustrated or worried? That’s the perfect time to practice. By bringing your mind and body together, you strengthen your connection to a feeling of spaciousness and calm. Learn this with the smaller challenges and it’ll support you with the big ones.