“I hope I don’t f#@^ it up”…
That was my prevailing thought the other morning when I checked my calendar and email. That thought did what thoughts always do – created an emotional reaction. I experienced a powerful wave of tension and nervousness.
So what’s a guy do when hit with a wave of emotion like that?
The old me would have repressed it, stuffed it down and bottled it up, and pressed on. I would have berated myself for being such a wuss, and got to work.
I wouldn’t have felt very inspired or energized, and probably would have been impatient with myself and my employees. And I would have seen all of this as evidence that Monday sucks.
One Of The Most Powerful Tools To Change Your Drinking Habit
But the current version of me saw this as an opportunity to use one of the most powerful tools in the ‘Change How You Drink’ arsenal.
It’s called ‘Allowing Emotion’, and it goes like this:
- Notice you’re experiencing an emotion.
- Resolve that you’re going to devote a few minutes to just experiencing this emotion without resistance or distraction, and without judging yourself for having it.
- Pay attention to what’s going on in your body. Where are you having sensations – arms, legs, shoulders, neck, or belly? What are you feeling – tension, weakness, tingling, butterflies, or shallow breathing? How would you label the emotion – tension, anxiety, fear, or anger?
- See if you can identify the thoughts that led to this emotion.
- Notice what happens to the sensations if you just sit with them like this.
When I caught myself in that wave of tension this morning, here’s what I experienced:
A weak empty feeling, like…
- I had just exercised intensely, in the inside back of my upper arms
- tension in my neck
- a sensation of a hand hovering above my neck
- shallow breathing
All of that emotion, that nervousness and anxiety, become just some sensations in my body.
No. Big. Deal.
What Happens When You Apply The “Allowing Emotion” Process
Within a few minutes of just sitting with these sensations, they melted away. I didn’t even have to actively change my thinking, the whole line of thoughts and subsequent tension just faded away.
That’s what almost always happens when you do this process of allowing emotion.
This tool has powerful applications in changing how we drink. One of the reasons why we drink more than we want is that we use alcohol to get away from negative emotions, such as; anxiety, stress, or boredom. Even the simple phrase “take the edge off” is an expression of emotional avoidance.
When you get good at using the ‘Allowing Emotion’ tool that I just described, you have much less need to get away from the emotion. It’s so much less of a big deal when you experience the emotion as just a set of sensations in your body, and can let them dissipate.
You can put this to use today. You don’t even have to wait until beer thirty. Just stay alert and notice when you experience an emotion. It could be irritation at traffic, frustration with a coworker, or regret at something you did.
Give this process a try and see what happens.