Last year, I sat with a dear friend while he shared about his struggles in his marriage. He and his wife had been together for years and just had a baby – they were committed to making it work. He felt lost, though, and despite their many efforts at finding peace in their partnership, they still felt like they were unraveling faster than they could weave themselves back together.
Being the self-aware dude that he is, he was taking a deep look at his own fears, limiting beliefs and resistances to loving, healing, and moving forward.
In our conversation, he shared his awareness that when she was upset, he disconnected emotionally, triggered by old childhood stuff (oh yes, we’ve all got it.) He wanted to move past his past, but his reaction was so powerful and automatic, he couldn’t find his way though.
As we sat together, I offered to take him on a guided journey to “meet” his fears head-on. He nodded, we closed our eyes, and I intuitively began to guide him in a visualization to the heart of his wife’s storm – the place where she got upset and he shut down. As we were traveling, there were moments that he felt himself contract and freeze, paralyzed by fear, shutting down. Intent on not letting him disconnect emotionally, I knew we had to find some comfort in the storm, so he could feel safe to move forward. Intuitively inspired, I asked, “How do you feel about Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwiches?”. “Ohhh”, he said with a sigh of relief, “I’ve always felt comforted by them, ever since I was a little boy.” Bingo. We’d found his blanky – PB&J.
So we paused our journey into the eye of the storm – the heart of his fears – to visualize him sitting down and taking a bite of his beloved sandwich. After a minute or so, I felt him calm down, and asked, “Are you ready to keep going?” “Yep!”, he answered, and on we went. Every time he felt overwhelmed, we paused for a bite, and were able to navigate the depths of his fear with grace and grit.
It’s been said that life begins at the edge of your comfort zone, and it’s true: Staying where it’s comfortable is one way to stay stuck. But that doesn’t mean we can’t find some comfort as we navigate the storms of life.
If you’re faced with a storm in your own life – a challenging relationship, pressure or uncertainty in your business, self-doubt, or the recognition that something’s gotta give – find the comfort that will carry you through, so you can find your way without shutting down, closing off, freaking out, or quitting half-way.
HOW TO FIND COMFORT IN THE STORM:
1. FIND YOUR PB&J
What is something healthy (no nail-biting or cigarettes) that gives you comfort? For me, it’s my hair. Touching my hair and taking a deep breath reminds me that no matter what, I’m never alone (I’m here with me, after all), and I’ve navigated many storms before. I can feel my nervous system calm down, and my mind relax. So what is something healthy that gives you that feeling of “Aaaahhh…”?
2. PRACTICE RELAXING
In order for this to actually work, you’ve got to practice. Once you’ve identified your personal PB&J – your childhood Care Bear, resting a hand on your heart, the memory of holding Grandma’s hand – practice closing your eyes and envisioning that thing, and see how you react. Does it soothe you and slow you down? Good. It works!
3. PUT IT IN YOUR POCKET
Now you know that your PB&J is effective at calming you down, keep it as a tool in your back pocket – your personal blanky for weathering any storm. Next time you feel yourself get anxious or worried, reach for it, take a deep breath, and allow the soothing effects to wash over you. Of course, my friend doesn’t actually eat a PB&J each time he’s upset, but he can visualize how it feels to have one in his hands and take a bite, which can be enough to chill out.
4. COMMIT TO CALM
This is perhaps the most important point, because all the tools in the world won’t help if they’re collecting dust in the toolbox. When we’re used to spinning-out into dramas, living in emotional turmoil or collecting chaos in our lives, the biggest challenge can be simply committing to living in the peaceful present. For all of us, there will be times when upset finds its home in our hearts, and we just need to let the sadness be there. But if we’re piling negative narratives on top of our emotions, we create a firestorm of drama. Instead, allow the emotion be there and commit to being grounded and present instead of shut-down or freaked-out. How? Find your comfort in the storm.
—> In the comments below, join the sisterhood and share what your personal PB&J is, and any tools you have for moving through challenging times with an open heart.
Oh, and my friend and his wife? They’re better than ever.