Episode 3: Emotional First Aid
I actually had a different podcast scheduled for today but decided that this one was needed to come first. We’re all very familiar with the concept of first aid. The second we have any physical ailments we’re on it. We’re swift to take action, calling the doctor, taking over the counter medicine if needed, if it’s a cut we run to slap a band-aid on it to prevent further infection. Most of us carry some kind of first aid with us.
In my purse I usually have a “welly kit” – it’s a tiny tin first aid kit with the basics in case they’re needed when I’m out and on the go. I have one in my car, a supplied stash at home. Our physical pain is an indicator that something is amiss. Most of us seek help and attention because we don’t like to physical discomfort. We want relief. We want it fixed. But then there’s also the fear that something else, something more sinister could be at play so we take action.
Pain is the body’s way of communicating to you that it needs extra attention and care. While uncomfortable to say the least, it is a gift in a sense to keep us aware and alert to areas in the body that aren’t functioning optimally anymore so we can get help and care. Without that pain; that communication with your body we’d have no idea that something was amiss.
So as much as it hurts and is terribly uncomfortable I’m grateful for pain, for that communication from my physical body to my mind so that I can seek help and offer kindness and love to my body.
But what about emotional pain? It’s far more common than physical pain and can become all-encompassing if not addressed or treated.
C.S. Lewis wrote, “Pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”
Some of our greatest trials and times of refinement will be in our emotional pain and distress than it ever will in our outward trials or physical pain. Your mind is what creates your entire world, your perception of the world, your state of belonging, your ability to love and be loved, your capacity to connect with others, and how resilient you are at moving forward.
Yet, we have little to no training or help when it comes to your mental health. Continuing from Lewis he says, “Mental pain is less dramatic than physical pain, but it is more common and also more hard to bear. The frequent attempt to conceal mental pain increases the burden: it is easier to say “My tooth is aching” than to say “My heart is broken.”
It’s not that mental pain is less dramatic – it just means it’s less recognizable, understandable by others, and thus harder to treat. We don’t even have to communicate or use words at times when we’re in physical pain. You have a cut on your arm and when someone sees it they know exactly what to do but it’s much more difficult to see or recognize when someone is heartbroken or discouraged because oftentimes they’re smiling, they might look normal, or even if they’re a crying mess you don’t know what to say so you might not say anything at all.
This is why learning to tend to your emotional needs is so critical and necessary. When we’re emotional distress and that means anything amiss, any physiological suffering – which happens way more often than we realize, when we experience failure, rejection, disappointment, discouragement, loneliness, hurt, frustration, overwhelm, guilt, shame, embarrassment, etc. When we feel emotional distress we need to know how to treat it but we can’t treat it without knowing what it even is in the first place.
We need to get familiar with our emotions and to do that we need to be aware of what we’re thinking.
Our feelings are created by our thoughts. They are not created by other people despite what you’ve grown up being taught or what you might believe. It’s such an easy misconception and one I fell for a large portion of my life. It seems obvious to me, someone would say something offensive to me and I’d feel hurt, offended. I’d think, “THEY hurt me. THEY shouldn’t have said that. THEY’RE to blame. It’s THEIR fault.”
And when I thought that way I was a victim to my circumstances. There was nothing I could do to fix it. I needed them to apologize, to change their view of me, to come clean and fix this mess but as you probably have experienced as well, the doesn’t usually happen. They don’t apologize, come clean, or even pretend that they had any part in your emotional distress.
I operated for a long time from something I call, “the mix-up”. It was the main cause of most of my emotional distress and I didn’t even know it. I know many of you are also operating from this mix-up so let me give you your first training in emotional first aid. Know what the problem is.
In life, there are circumstances, which is anything outside of our control. People, other people are circumstances and despite our best efforts and to our extreme frustration, we can’t control them. Then what happens next is really important to pay attention to.
I want to share this experience I had that was incredibly painful for me and at this time in my life I didn’t know about emotional first aid and I was a mess.
I had this calling that I loved. I was called to be the ward choir director and creating and shaping music was something near Heaven for me. It was in that ward that I started to really sink into a portion of my spiritual gifts and I created somewhat of an identity from that. I was the choir director. I took pride in that and I genuinely loved the members that came early, that stayed late after 3 hours of church when it was still 3 hours – not to mention meetings beforehand too. I recognized their sacrifice and loved them even more for it.
I served for almost a decade in that capacity. I had callings too but that one I loved. I truly felt like I magnified it. I thought and prayed so carefully about the music that I chose, the people who might need to hear a particular piece. I became close friends with the members and we bore testimony to each other through our contribution and discussion of our why behind the pieces. I felt at home there and loved it, truly loved it.
So imagine my heartbreak when the day came that I was released. But it was so much more than that. We had recently changed bishopric members and it was a stark contrast to the previous ones. Where one was all about love and connection in the form of communication, listening, and service. The other was about love in a different way – more law, order, and obedience. They are all amazing people, it was just a change and stark contrast to what we had had previously.
And one afternoon right after church one of the brothers asked if he could talk to me and I didn’t think too much of it. I just thought it was speaking assignment or prayer but it’s clear that he doesn’t quite know how to say what he has to say so he’s saying lots of thoughts and I’m lost and confused but then it occurs to me that I’m being released.
And I knew that day would come. I truly did and it wasn’t a problem to be released although I had lots of feelings at that moment but what happened next was devastating to me. I can’t remember what I said or asked but his reply is etched in my mind. He said, “I know. I told the bishop, ‘who could we possibly get?’ And the bishop said, ‘don’t worry. She’ll be easy to replace.”
I believe he told me that out of kindness – like showing he was defending me and that he appreciated what I had done. But all I heard in that moment was that I was “easy to replace” and I hurt so much. The meeting ended quite quickly after that and to avoid falling apart in the hallway I held my breath until I was outside and then I lost it.
I cried for hours and days and then weeks. I couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me. I knew it was a “calling” and that I would be released at some point but those words just felt like a dagger to my chest. “You’ll be easy to replace” kept replaying in my mind again and again and each time the tears would start all over followed by me defending all that I’d sacrificed, all the time that I’d freely given, all the ways that I was all in. I didn’t know how I could have magnified that calling more than I had so to hear that none of it mattered, that I was replaceable and not just replaceable but easily replaced hurt to an extreme degree.
Okay, so here’s the problem with that and what I struggled with for years and probably what many of you are struggling with too.
He said, “You’ll be easy to replace” and I felt hurt – rejected – and offended – then I had lots of thoughts about it.
That’s the mix-up.
And when you’re operating from the mix up there’s not solution other than needing the circumstance to change so you can feel better. That stinks because the circumstance might never change. That bishopric member never apologized. I wasn’t immediately reinstated. The words weren’t redacted. So I could stay in that victim space waiting and waiting and in the meantime continuing to feel rejected, hurt, offended, and sad or I could change the way I operated.
See, the circumstances can’t actually hurt you emotionally. No matter what anyone says or does. I know that seems tricky. You’ve probably been hurt, deeply offended, and shocked at the things others have said or done but here’s the thing and this is really important, so stop what you’re doing and tune in closely…
Your feelings are protected from your circumstances by your thoughts.
Your Feelings are protected from your circumstances by your thoughts.
Other people cannot hurt you emotionally. They can’t.
This is how we operate and I’ll explain my personal example in a minute –
In life there are Circumstances. These circles trigger thoughts and it’s OUR thoughts that creates how we feel.
I felt miserable not because of what they said but because of what I made those words mean. I know without a doubt that member did not mean for it to hurt at all. He didn’t intend for it to be interpreted the way I had.
When I learned the way we actually operate – we call it the model – I was elated because it meant that I didn’t need to wait for other people to change for me to feel how I wanted. That’s liberating and powerful.
That means that we can be in the world, with other humans and not have to feel a certain way. This is the foundation for confidence because when we operate from the mix up we don’t know what’s going to happen, what if someone says or does something that hurts me? We don’t know at the end of the day how we’re going to feel. But this way, the right way – we can be certain that no matter what I will take care of my emotional needs.
I will find joy in all my interactions. I will create it, I will bring it. I don’t need them to bring the love because I’ve got it.
Pay attention to your thoughts – that’s where all your power is. That’s where your agency lies and where confidence stems from.
So the first step in your emotional first aid is to know that you are the healer. Healing doesn’t come from outside of you but from you. As a child of God of Infinite Capacity, you have within you the power and ability to heal your emotional distress with your thoughts, with what you choose to believe, with the story you tell yourself.
You don’t have to wait for another person to change, good thing too because oftentimes they might never change and that’s okay because you don’t need them to (want is a different story and saved for a different podcast but you honestly don’t need them to) because you are in charge. You are powerful. You create how you want to feel.
Pay attention to what you’re thinking. You can ask yourself, “what am I making that mean?”
When you own that you created how you feel you’re also in a position to uncreate it when you’re ready.
Sophocles said, “The greatest griefs are those we cause ourselves.”
It’s never the circumstance and always our own thoughts and story about it. When you’re hurting don’t numb it away by going to the kitchen, escaping to social media or other outlets. Pay attention. That pain is a gift. It’s telling you that something needs attention. Something needs more love. What is it? Why am feeling this way? What am I making that mean about me?
Humans are humans and we’re so good at being human. We say things to each other that are sometimes not the most thought out or kind. Sometimes people say horribly rude things to you. Some dates are just not winners. People that reach out at times are total creepers and none of that has to affect your emotional state.
Truly. Your feelings are protected from all the humans by your thoughts.
Anais Nin said, “The secret of joy is the mastery of pain.”
When you feel a negative emotion don’t shy away from it. Lean in and ask it questions. That’s the only way you can find out what’s really going on. Can you imagine going to a doctor in pain and the doctor telling you, “oh, I don’t do that” and walking away?
You’re like, what? You’re the one that’s supposed to help me! To offer me healing and relief! It’s absurd. They’d be fired. No one would want to go to them and yet, we do that to ourselves all the time.
We feel a negative feeling and we’re like, “nope. Ignore. Go shopping. Watch TV. Play on SM. Eat sugar.” And we do these things because we’re running away from or trying to numb out these uncomfortable feelings forgetting that you’re the healer. You’re the doctor here. Only you can offer relief by changing the story.
I promise that I will dive much deeper into how to do this because it’s so much more than just think happy thoughts or recite positive affirmations. You get to choose what you want to think and I tell you what there are times that I want to believe that it’s hard. I want to choose to believe that that conversation and the things the bishop said about me kinda stunk. I don’t want to think, “oh that’s nice” because it wasn’t.
It’s okay to feel disappointment. It’s okay to feel sad. It’s okay to feel negative emotions that’s all part of JOY. Joy is both the ups and downs, the lights and darks, it makes room for all of it. We can’t even experience happiness and comfort without knowing sadness or discomfort. You can’t feel proud without a struggle.
Master your pain – which in short means learning how to do basic emotional first aid. Pay attention to what’s creating the pain in the first place – aka your thoughts, your story, your biases and beliefs.
You have more control than you realize and that’s an amazing space.
We invest our time, money, and resources into so many things in our lives. We invest in clothes, in education, in travel. We invest in our physical health, what we eat, how we take care of our bodies. We invest in our jobs and education. We invest in our homes and living accommodations. But we often overlook or just flat out forget about our mental health.
The one thing that makes up your entire perception of your life, the thing that controls the quality of your life, the indicator of your overall happiness, joy, and connection we skimp on or starve entirely.
This isn’t helpful my friends. Among other times and things, I gave myself a disservice for not investing in my mental health sooner. I cried for weeks after that conversation with that bishopric member and I couldn’t really figure out why. I didn’t know and couldn’t articulate why it hurt so much and it did.
I kept telling myself I should be happy. I have the gospel. I have clean drinking water. What’s wrong with me? Totally unhelpful thoughts as they’re not even related or applicable.
You can be grateful for your faith, your blessings, and still hurt because you have a cut on your arm.
The same is true here. You can be grateful and hurt at the same time. But you have to know what’s really going on. You have to pay attention to your story. I’ve since done a lot of coaching on that experience and I can see now that I was so hurt and in pain not because of the calling – sad of course, I missed that calling and being in that position but callings come and go. I was hurt because I made it mean that all the time I sacrificed and willingly gave meant nothing. That I was easily replaceable. That I didn’t matter. I felt utterly rejected and cast aside. Was I? No. Not by them. In fact, I met with the bishopric a few weeks later and couldn’t even utter a word because I was just in tears and feeling ridiculous because I couldn’t turn them off.
He was confused because he was like, “did you have a strong background in this calling?” Like – why are you so upset? And I didn’t know then.
But I know now. I was rejected because of the thoughts I was telling myself.
I was hurt because I told myself that I didn’t matter.
I was offended because I believed they didn’t care about me.
I was sad because I thought they didn’t like me or what I had to offer.
I felt rejected because I thought I was replaceable.
And each time I heard those words in my head again I started the cycle all over again. You don’t matter. You’re replaceable. You don’t belong. They don’t like you. Wow…that hurts. No wonder I was a mess. Notice it really has nothing to do with them, with the calling, with the circumstances. I made myself miserable and in so much pain because of my story.
Emotional first aid is paying attention to you pain. Don’t ignore it.
Pema Chodron, love her, she teaches that, “nothing goes away until it has taught us what we need to know”
Ignoring it doesn’t make it go away. It just festers deep down and will pop up again and again in different relationships, in different settings, and pretty soon you’ll start thinking that that’s just who you are. It’ll become a part of your story and belief about yourself instead of addressing it and healing yourself from it.
Side note: The next sister that was called to that position hated it. She wanted to be replaced. She would have jumped for joy at those words. Like, THANK YOU! Replace me! And she would have felt relief because of what she made it mean and she did. She had the calling for like two months and then they called me back which did wonders for my thoughts – like, “yay! I’m not easily replaceable” which helped to heal that wound but I didn’t need to wait or have anything change for me to feel better.
Emotional first aid means that you don’t buy into the mix-up. It means that as the healer you take your job seriously and you pay attention to your emotions.
You already know this but the way you feel inside is connected to your physical body. When you believe – keyword, not just think, but believe and attach meaning to your thoughts it creates a physical-chemical release in your body.
When you’re overwhelmed and stressed your body releases cortisol and adrenaline that we know is linked to an increased heart rate and blood pressure. It also affects your immune system and suppressed your digestive system.
Taking care of your emotional first aid actually connects to the healing of your physical being as well. I was just reading in the book of Mormon about Zeerom and how he was made physically ill over his thoughts and the fears and guilt that he harbored in his mind.
The connection is real and the better practiced you are and become at knowing, paying attention, and being aware of your emotional state the better health you overall quality of life you’ll have.
It’s not fluff or woo-woo – it’s science, biology, and part of our mortal experience. A part of why we’re here is so that we can learn how to operate our human, mortal bodies. We can’t do that if we’re not investing in, paying attention to, or being aware of our thoughts, and emotional state.
Through the podcast episodes I’ll keep teaching your about emotional first aid but the first and biggest lesson today is that you are the healer and the hurter (which isn’t a word but I’m rolling with it).
I came across this quote by Haim G. Ginott just before I became trained and certified as a life coach and it’s largely why my program is called the Catalyst coaching and the catalyst membership.
He says, “I have come to the frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element. It is my personal approach that creates the climate. It is my daily mood that makes the weather. I possess tremendous power to make my life miserable or joyous. I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration, I can humiliate or humor, hurt or heal. In all situations, it is my response that decides whether a crisis is escalated or de-escalated, and (if I am) humanized or de-humanized.”
I realized so wholeheartedly that I was the decisive element. It’s what I make it mean that determines what happens next. That creates the weather and how I feel and what I create. Whether I feel loved or lower than dirt. I can humiliate myself, shame myself, beat myself up with guilt, or I I can heal myself by learning emotional first aid. By loving myself enough to stand up for me, to look out for me, to set boundaries, to not indulge in hateful internal conversations and fears.
You are the catalyst in your life too. You are the healer. It has to be you.
I’m so glad you’re on this journey with me.
Don’t forget to jump on my current offer, I honestly don’t know how long I’ll be able to continue with it so while it’s here, take advantage of it – I offer a free coaching session catered to your individual circumstances so hop on over to my website and book a slot with me. I’d love to chat with you and help you out.
You can find that on my website: www.thecatalystcoaching.com
And I’ll talk to you next week! Bye guys!