It can happen in a moment, triggered by an interaction with a partner, a family member, or a work colleague. It can build up overtime, triggered by saying “yes” too often and the day-to-day effort of managing family, career, and self. It can happen because of work stress, a relationship break up, or a misfortune. It may feel a lot like a panic attack (shortness of breath, a pounding heartbeat, sweat, a sense of doom) or it may feel like depression (low, hopeless, sad, tired). Usually, it comes with a big side-portion of self-criticism, a storyline reminding us that we somehow deserve this because we’re not good enough, or we’re unlovable, or we’re unlucky, or worse.
When I feel overwhelmed and start down the path of self-depreciation, I use the “Am I This?” exercise. I learned this exercise when I studied to be a clinical hypnotherapist. It is an excellent practice to disrupt the inner critic often triggered when life feels crushing. It is simple. In the moment, you ask yourself these questions:
- Am I this emotion?
- Am I this thought?
- Am I this physical sensation?
- Am I this circumstance?
- Am I this body?
- Am I this behavior?
Asking these simple questions turns us into witness selves. We get a little bit of distance from our feelings, our thinking, and the situation. We stand back and realize that these sensations, this story line, or even this behavior, is NOT ME! We see, that we are bigger, rounder, fuller, more complete, more whole, than any emotion, thought, sensation, circumstance, body, or behavior could ever be. This distance helps us step out of the circle of self-criticism and into a more solution-focused body-mind space.
Add an Aromatherapy Twist
When I’m in a funk, or when I find my mood is persistently low, I add a little aromatherapy twist to the “What Am I” exercise. I take out my boxes of essential oils and I randomly pull 6 bottles from the boxes without looking at the labels. I like to see which plants want to share their wisdom. I line up the bottles (still not looking at the labels) in a line. Then, I ask each question, look at a label, and answer with the plant’s spiritual key.
So, I might ask, “Am I this emotion?” and I look at the label of the first bottle and find it is eucalyptus. I answer, “No, I am notthis emotion, I am FREEDOM!” I ask, “Am I this thought?” and look at the label of the second bottle and find it is lavender. I answer, “No, I am notthis thought, I am a NOBLE HEART!” I ask, “Am I this physical sensation?” and look at the label of the third bottle and find it is cardamon. I answer, “No, I am notthis physical sensation, I am ABUNDANCE!” and so on until I complete the exercise.
Then I make a synergy of the plant essential oils that are offering to support me, blending them into a plain lotion, and I wear the synergy everyday until it is gone. I repeat the affirmations that the plant oils have offered. “I am Freedom!, I am a Noble Heart!, I am Abundance!, I am the Beauty of Small Moments!, I am Gratitude! And so on. My plant wisdom synergy anchors me in good feelings and pretty soon, my mood and coping ability come back online. By the time the synergy runs out, the funk is gone.