Holding Emotions Gently

Sent from Maryam, thank you.

I’ve been thinking about something I saw on a walk a couple of weeks ago. It was my birthday so I went for a walk near a place people picnic, ride bikes and gather. There were a couple of families who reacted to an accident that made me think for weeks now. I saw a child on their bicycle, smiling and kind of in their own enjoyment. I thought of how fun it is to feel the wind on my skin as I just learned how to ride a bike fully.

Just a split moment later I saw the child fall and cry. A family who was walking on the path went to the child and asked if the little one was okay. The child replied “yes” through the tears and saw the bike was alright too. They noticed the child was okay and still tearful and told the child to notice the trail of ants that were hurt from the accident. They told the child to imagine how the ants were more hurt than the child. Tears persisted and the family looked up. The first family noticed someone walking up with another child riding a bike. This adult went to the child’s side and told the child they must learn a lesson from what happened. I observed, while gripping my heart, the ways we handle people feeling their feelings. Often times when we cry or feel feelings we’re told to manage this, learn from this, think of others or other things.

I’m still on my own path to figure out what this all looks like for me. I just know the child didn’t seem very soothed or held in their feeling expression by the adults’ comments. There was advice on thinking of others and advice on learning lessons, but once the adults found out that the child was physically alright they kind of implied their own meanings of the accident. That’s kind of what we do. We tell others how they’re feeling. We project and take care of our own hurt. We want you to be okay. Yes, I think we generally want people to pretty much feel okay. It can be super hard to let someone cry or feel their feelings.

There are some helpful suggestions on sitting with other’s feelings, but for now I’ll just share this story with the bicycle accident and some brief psychoeducation. Emotions last for about 90 seconds if we can spot them and feel them. So for a minute and a half (EASIER SAID THAN DONE) if we touch what’s there by labeling the emotion (notice I said label it not blame or shame about it) then we can pause the emotion loop and complete it. Of course then there could be another emotion loop, but if I have the space I do like to spot and notice what’s coming up because for one, it doesn’t pop out in other ways.

There are several ways people can address the little one who fell from their bike. There are a few ways that may be more helpful than others, but for now I just hope we can take in the bigness of sitting with a tearful child or even adult. It’s hard and can even be triggering for some of us. So I feel for the adults witnessing that tearful sweet little one and for the child and inner children in all of us.

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