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Why didn’t I know it’s a compass for living?

It’s easy to blame others.

It’s easy for me to be defensive when someone I love questions my answer. My mind is often three to five steps ahead before the person even gets the entire sentence out of their mouth. I am time traveling and living in the future.

It is a competition to get to the correct answer first.

I have already mentioned many times that I am competitive. In a business setting, this can be an asset. What you focus on becomes what your staff focuses on. If we want to increase productivity, everyone needs to be on board. If we want to be #1 in the company in apple pie sales for a holiday, the more support we build across the building, the more likely our bakery will meet the challenge.

I have already mentioned me wanting to live to be 100. I am competing against myself, wanting to get as much mileage as possible out of my body. That combined with the fact that the thought of dying scares the mess out of me, keeps me driven. I am looking at how I maintain my body, how I can give it the support it needs, how I can keep it focused on keeping me going.

But why do I get defensive when people I love tell me things?

In my last therapy session, we talked about this. I wrote about that the next day. Read my thoughts on this here.

My therapist and I use a wellness map called the Change Triangle. I read a helpful article about this by Hilary Jacobs Hendel LCSW

What Is the Change Triangle?
A new map helps make sense of emotions.
The Change Triangle is a map and wellness tool. It is a guide to working with emotions, helping shift you from a place of disconnection and/or distress back to calm, clarity, and peace of mind. It’s a step-by-step process for simply feeling better. The Change Triangle works by getting you reacquainted with core emotions like joy, anger, sadness, fear, and excitement. To my own joy and satisfaction, The Change Triangle is a tool that has helped me, and thousands of others recover a vital, more engaged, more authentic Self.
The Change Triangle was first coined the “Triangle of Conflict” in the 1970s by David Malan and later renamed the “Triangle of Experience” by Diana Fosha, Ph.D. in her pioneering text, The Transforming Power of Affect. But since we all deserve to understand emotions and need this information to feel and function better, I adapted the triangle to be used by all, nicknaming it The Change Triangle. Everybody benefits from understanding emotions, not only therapists training in the short-term dynamic psychotherapies like AEDP, APT, and iSTDP, and their patients. It’s simply the best tool I’ve come across to help people understand the effects of burying emotions and to teach how to use emotions the way nature intended, as a compass for living. Education in emotions reduces stigma and eases the fears most people have about engaging with their emotions.
Defining the three corners of The Change Triangle
What are core emotions?
They are largely physical sensations that we come to recognize and name as a particular emotion. Core emotions inform us about our environment. Am I safe or in danger? What do I need/want and don’t want? Am I sad? Am I hurt? What brings me pleasure? What disgusts me? What excites me? Core emotions are hard-wired in the middle part of our brains, meaning they are NOT subject to conscious control. Triggered by the environment, each core emotion is pre-wired to set off a host of physiological reactions that prime us for action. Core emotions are brilliant: if we get out of their way, their innate programming tells us what to do to live life adaptively. The core emotions are sadness, fear, anger, joy, excitement, sexual excitement and disgust.
What are inhibitory emotions?
There are three Inhibitory emotions: shame, anxiety and guilt. Inhibitory emotions are there to block core emotions. They block core emotions for two main reasons: 1) when core emotions are in conflict with what pleases others whom we need like parents, peers, and partners; 2) when core emotions become too intense and our brain wants to shut them down to protect us from the emotional overwhelm.
What are defenses?
Defenses are anything we do to avoid feeling core or inhibitory emotions. Depression is a defense because in that state we are out of touch with our core emotions. There are an infinite number of defenses but some of the other common ones in our culture are: joking, sarcasm, too much “screen time,” criticizing, spacing out, procrastination, preoccupation, negative thinking, misguided aggression, working too much, over-exercising, over-eating, under-eating, cutting, sex, obsession, addiction, and many more. Click here for a list of other defenses.

Click here to read the entire article.

My best and most inspiring supporter talked with me about this last night.

I can see where I have been on the inhibiting top side of the triangle. This is the place where shame, anxiety, and guilt live. They block emotions. And then I become defensive, because I am out of touch with my Core Emotions.

Heck, I have barley seen my emotions in the past 20 years and visit them rarely. It is a hard place for me to go and until my stay in the hospital, I hadn’t let myself even think about how destructive keeping emotions bottled up could be to my physical body.

My decision not to work through the Change Triangle is in direct conflict with my desire to live to 100.

Yet I have generally stayed as far away as I could from my emotions for all my adult life. In thinking back on it, I am pretty sure depression and I had worked out an unspoken deal. If I listened to depression, there was no need for emotions.

Emotions are messy and have feelings attached to them.

They can hurt you, as well as get you high. Over the years, depression would remind me, often in not so subtle ways, that it was a better choice for me than facing my emotions. It would steer me into the abyss and then let me wallow in shame or anxiety, and especially guilt. Then it would stop by for a visit and remind me that all I needed to do was listen to depression 24/7, and I wouldn’t need to face my emotions and all the potential drama that comes with them.

Even 120 or so days after making the decision to stop and face depression, I am often still on the top of the change triangle. I am avoiding the benefits of my emotions, instead choosing to bury them.

Hillary Hendall, LCSW says about the Change Triangle:

“It’s simply the best tool I’ve come across to help people understand the effects of burying emotions and to teach how to use emotions the way nature intended, as a compass for living.”

So that’s where I am at. Learning to use my emotions the way nature intended.

I am not going back undercover, with depression deciding what I think, and who I can talk to. So, I am left with the harder task of not burying my emotions but using them by understanding what the attached feelings are telling me. I am scared to death and excited at the same time. Now I just need to pull up my pants, cinch up my belt and get to work.

What tools do you use as a compass for living?

This post first appeared on Depression Is Not My Boss, please read the originial post: here

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Why didn’t I know it’s a compass for living?


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