Drop Your Anchor: Let Go of the Struggle

By Terri Klein

August 7, 2020

A persistent issue that many of us seem to be struggling with during COVID-19 is how to respond to all of the difficult thoughts and uncomfortable emotions that so often arise. It is essential for us to understand, especially at this time, that we can respond in healthy ways. 

The human condition is such that we are masterful storytellers. But what if we didn’t have to respond to our difficult thoughts and uncomfortable emotions by weaving them together into unhealthy stories that spin viciously and relentlessly, oftentimes driving very ugly and undignified behavior? What if we chose instead to show up with an honest, mindful and loving presence—to let go of the story, to feel whatever is arising, and to hold ourselves and others with kindness?

Two Potential COVID-19 Related Scenarios:

Scenario 1

Circumstance: You are at the supermarket and notice others not wearing a mask, encroaching on your personal space and not social distancing.  

Thought: “I can’t believe this! The nerve of these people—how disrespectful! What if I was just exposed to the virus?” 

Feeling: Scared, angry, and resentful.

Story: How selfish! People need to honor the COVID-19 protocol at all times and not violate the rules! Some people think they are entitled and above the law, putting everyone else at risk. What if I really did contract the virus? 

Behavior: You become reactive—rude and aggressive, calling people out on their violations, yelling at them and being nasty. You may even have to stop shopping because you need to leave the store. 

Outcome: An overall negative experience that makes you lose faith in people.

Scenario 2

Circumstance: You are at the supermarket and notice others not wearing a mask, encroaching on your personal space and not social distancing.  

Thought: “I can’t believe this! The nerve of these people—how disrespectful! What if I was just exposed to the virus?” 

Feeling: Initial feelings of fear and anger, which gradually soften.

Story: NONE. 

Behavior: You become more receptive and less reactive. You are able to remain in the store and continue to focus on your shopping, simply steering clear of those not wearing masks.

Outcome: An experience that allows you to leave with your dignity intact, feeling better about yourself and the people around you.

These two scenarios share the same circumstance, thoughts, and feelings, but in the second you consciously choose NOT to weave the difficult thoughts and uncomfortable feelings together into unhealthy stories and toxic narratives. For this reason, your behavior and the outcome are entirely different. 

When you subconsciously hook into your stories, you get caught. Like quicksand, which sucks you in, the only way to survive is to lie back, spread out your arms and legs and float. To drop the struggle in real life and not get sucked into your stories, you can press pause, take deep, expansive breaths and give those anxious thoughts and overwhelming feelings some space. You notice and lean into whatever is arising and stop fighting it. 

In scenario two, you replaced your “unhealthy stories” with “applying a new skillset” so you could respond more flexibly and mindfully to those same thoughts and feelings. 

Here are the specific acceptance techniques that you applied between Feeling and Behavior:

  • Naming the Story: Reminding yourself that your mind is the world’s greatest storyteller. Naming your unhealthy “Safety Story” and noticing how you’re getting hooked and losing control.
  • Reframing to create some distance from them: “I’m having the thought that everyone is violating the rules. My mind is telling me that so many people are entitled, selfish and irresponsible.” 
  • Dropping anchor: Acknowledging the feeling, connecting with your body and then continuing to engage with the world: “Here is my fear and anger. This is my emotional storm. Time to drop my anchor and let go of my struggle. I can breathe. I can move my fingers and wiggle my toes. I am grounded. I can see and hear. I’m ok. I don’t want these feelings of fear and anger, but I’m still going to let them be.”  

Adding the words, “I’m having the thought” and “my mind is telling me” allows you to observe and notice them rather than identify with them. Anchoring allows you to take control of the present moment, first with your body. 

Without the emotional struggle you can feel a natural level of discomfort. Once you attach your difficult thoughts and uncomfortable emotions to the longstanding narratives and beliefs, your level of discomfort rises, and your emotions get bigger and messier. 

But they don’t have to! You can simply feel anxious. You don’t have to feel anxious about feeling anxious or angry about feeling sad. When you drop the struggle, feelings can reside within you for you to notice, soften around, and keep in perspective. 

There a many other unwanted thoughts and emotions arising during this time of COVID-19. People are stressed beyond measure due to financial issues, job insecurity, and future uncertainty. Many are grieving the loss of loved ones or simply the loss of life as they knew it. There are ongoing marital and parenting struggles. People are also feeling anxious, sad, alone, disconnected, and dissatisfied. This list goes on and on and the emotional pain runs very deep. 

The next time you’re out and about and feeling stressed and overwhelmed, remember, you’ve got this technique in your back pocket so be sure to use it!

Although this blog speaks to just one very specific acceptance technique, there are an abundance of other healthy ways to respond to intensely negative thoughts and feelings that I plan to share with you.

Over the next few weeks, I will provide you with some essential resources on this and similar acceptance techniques to help you build your skillset. At the end of the month, I will then invite you to a zoom call to discuss these techniques as well as teach you how to apply them.

Sincerely,

Coach Terri

2 Comments

  1. I love the example you gave- it’s very real in our lives. Noticing the feeling of anger but then stopping and letting go of it is a skill. How can we practice it?

    Reply
    • Thanks so much for your comment, Keren. This is exactly what we will be addressing in our zoom call at the end of the month, how to take these concepts and skills and bring them to life using real examples and daily practices.

      Reply

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