Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Focusing on the emotions that are

I am afraid of snakes. Very afraid. I’m so afraid of them, I have a hard time looking at pictures of them. I feel anxious just hearing other peoples’ stories about encountering them.
Larry has found about five snake skins in the yard this summer. For a few days after he finds them, I move carefully when I go outside. I examine every stick from afar before I venture into the yard.
When he saw a live snake in the side yard near his truck, I could barely listen to his story. I thought about it later, feeling anxious and worried. I wished for winter.

So why am I including with this post a photo of a snake skin?
I made myself take the picture. Though I felt fear, I made myself walk up to the skin. I held up my phone and took several photos. I made myself look at the photos.
I’m not sure if this “exposure” did much good. When I was flipping through the photos on my phone earlier this week, I shuddered—I did that “jump out of my skin” move—when I unexpectedly saw one of the snake skin photos.
But still, I keep looking at the photo. And I’m sharing it with you.

I’ve been dealing with anxiety over life issues in a similar way. Life has been hard lately, as you know. Bedtime is probably the hardest time because I have less to distract me.
I decided that I would try an experiment. Instead of trying to immediately change my thoughts or cover up the bad emotions with visualizations or calming recitations, I would focus on experiencing the anxiety.
I feel the anxiety the most in my chest. It’s like a weight in the center of my chest. When panic comes, my chest physically hurts.
I have focused on the hate I’ve felt, too. I’m not proud to say that, but that’s what I’ve felt at times. It, too, is a heavy weight.
Anxiety, hate, anger, hopelessness—they all settle in my chest. I feel like it’s going to burst.
I want to get up and move or talk or read or listen to music.
But I try to lie there and be mindful of how I’m feeling, even for just a short while.
My hope is that the more I face my emotions, the less afraid I’ll be of them and the less I will do to avoid facing the issues that are causing the emotions in the first place.

My focus on emotions is not a new idea. There is a lot of good information out there about living mindfully and accepting our emotions. I did an online search and found some good, science-based information HERE and HERE.

One good thing that has come out of my experimentation with this is that I’ve become less afraid of being still and alone with my thoughts and emotions. I hope this leads to more calmness and peace.

And the snake skin photo? I hope from now on the only snake skin I see will be in a picture. That’s about as far as I want to go with that exposure.

How do you deal with uncomfortable emotions?


  1. Wow this is really impressive progress, Tina. I still struggle with just sitting with my emotions. And I hate snakes too. Eeeeeeew

  2. I love how you confronted a fear like that. It's impressive and not something that a lot of people can do. Maybe I should try this with spiders :)

  3. face your fears and feel them. hmmm... hopefully you'll get desensitized to them a bit.

  4. You are doing so well!! Face those fears and fight them to the ground. I have every finger and toe crossed for you.

  5. good for you!! my grandma was so afraid of snakes, we couldn't even use the word hardly. if one came on tv we'd have to warn her to turn her head.

  6. This is a brave and courageous post. Too often we are encouraged, either overtly or covertly, to shove those so-called negative emotions under the rug and plaster a smile on our faces. For me, when I allow all my feelings to emerge without judgment, I work through them much faster. Sometimes that's easier said than done, but I'm a work in progress! :)

  7. I am sorry you are struggling with uncomfortable emotions.

    I usually jump when I see a snake close by, but then rationale takes over, and I can say "Oh, it's just a black snake, and not poisonous".

  8. awwww tina, i wish i could really help you.....say something so profound that it would change everything for you. when i am uncomfortable, i generally say nothing, i walk away. i am good at being a piece of card board and that actually works for me. i don't have a lot of exposure to "people". i don't work and spend most of my time with my husband and we just get along......99% of the time. our life is easy in many ways and extremely difficult in others. he is my only rock, i tell him everything....he gets me through i assume we are not just talking about snakes here!!

    only you know the answers tina, only you!!!

  9. My daughter has a snake phobia. When she was growing up, it kept her indoors and I feel it really kept her from having a full childhood. These days at the age of 30, she is somewhat better but not completely. Today is World Snake Day and here's what she posted about it on Facebook: "I don't like world snake day, that is true. However, if you happen to encounter one of those little effers out there on your journey, a tip of the hat and a wink of the eye. I hate 'em, but gosh darnit are they important... And kinda interesting objectively." I think that shows a bit of maturity on her part. But it's an understandable and wide-spread phobia so you and she are certainly not alone.

    Your approach to dealing with your negative emotions seems like a good idea to me. After all, those emotions are certainly legitimate. Me...I tend to eat. That's not a good thing. I need to come up with a better way of coping.

  10. I really think you have the right idea, Tina - to feel the real emotions. And I have a hunch if you happened upon a real snake, you'd make it through just fine!

  11. I love this method, Tina! And you are quite courageous.

    I've been dealing with all my emotions, especially the uncomfortable or negative ones, head on. I discovered as I got older that it's the only way to get rid of the toxicity and negativity inside me. Hiding from it, avoiding it or pretending it doesn't exist doesn't work. It never has. Now I just face whatever is going on, deal with it as best as I can, find a solution that works, and move on.


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