A little Emotional Counseling.
Not to embarrass my little daughter, but I thought it might do someone good to read a conversation I had with her the other day. To set the stage, my little one had been complaining of stomach aches for a week. She had missed four days of school and church because her stomach hurt, but she had not thrown up and was eating fine all week. Here is our conversation as we sat in the parking lot, Sun telling me her stomach hurt so bad she thought she was going to throw up on a Monday morning.
Me: All right, little dear, what exactly is going on?
Sun: My stomach hurts. I am sick. I think I am going to throw up. What do you mean?
Me: You have missed four days of school and a day at church. You say your stomach hurts, but you have not thrown up and you are eating just fine. We already know that sometimes when you are nervous, scared, sad, hurt or upset, you put your feelings in your stomach (a slight grin crosses her face…aha! truth!). So what are you feeling?
Sun: I don’t know. My stomach hurts. I don’t know what you mean.
Me: You are the only one who can know. What are you feeling?
Sun: I don’t know (tears)!!
Me: (thinking…OK different approach) Sweet sister, when I was your age, and my parents were trying to get me to talk about things, I was always worried I was going to say the wrong thing and then I would get into trouble. So when they started to grill me, my mind went blank and I couldn’t think. This is not what this conversation is about. You are not going to get in trouble. I am not going to get angry with you. I am trying to help you and you are the only one who knows what you are feeling and what is going on inside you. So I am asking what is going on inside you?
Sun: Me and Heavenly Father, you mean. I don’t know what is going on inside.
Me: Yes. Then you need to think about what you are feeling and what you are thinking.
Sun: (tears, big tears) I think I just miss Scuff (a brother at college) (bigger tears)
Me: (finally!!) OK sweetheart, tell me all the things you miss about Scuff.
Sun: I miss how kind he always is to me. I miss his laugh and his jokes. I miss his hugs. I miss talking to him and his personality. I miss having him at home every day.
Me: Good!! Let all those tears out. Has it been bothering you that we have been talking about when Scuff is putting in his mission papers and when he will be leaving for his mission?
Sun: YES!!!! (More tears and sobbing)
Me: Good, little sister. Cry all those tears out. Are the other boys mean to you or not nice to you?
Me: Do they tease you or say things they shouldn’t? Or is Scuff just special and you just miss him?
Sun: No the other boys are fine. I just miss him.
Me: Did you miss Slim when he left? Or Spanky?
Sun: No. Just Scuff.
Me: OK…deep breath. How does your stomach feel?
Me: So what you need to think about whenever your stomach hurts is: Are people around me sick? Have I thrown up? Am I eating? What am I feeling? Am I sad? Nervous? Scared? Hurt???? Isn’t 15 minutes of crying better than a week of stomach ache??
Me: So are you ready to go off to school or do you have more tears in there??
Sun: No, I’m ready.
Me: Off you go. Have a great day!!
This was just such a profound example to me of how our emotions can affect us physically. I tend to use food to mask my feelings. When I cannot seem to control my eating and I really do not care about watching what I am eating, and I just keep stuffing things in my mouth, that is my clue that maybe I am feeling something that I don’t want to and I am using food to keep from feeling it. At those times, I have to stop what I am doing and take time out of my day to think about the things I am feeling and why I am feeling them. It is usually through this process that I come across the emotion that is keeping me stuck or in my case, fat. Then I have to make time to allow myself to feel the emotion, which for me is usually hiding away in my bedroom and crying my eyes out until I am sure I have exhausted the emotion. Then I pray, read the scriptures, words of the prophets, or call my husband or a girlfriend and then I don’t need to eat.
The trick is learning how you manage negative emotions. Are the ways you manage them healthy and appropriate? Or are they damaging to your person, emotionally, physically, socially, spiritually, or otherwise? Once you learn what your triggers are, or your tells and you have determined if they are healthy or damaging, you can then change behaviors to be healthier ways of managing negative emotions.
We all have them. And I believe, we all try to avoid them. But we just need to learn how to handle them in a healthy way. Depending upon where we are in the cycle, we may need professional help. But I think a lot of us can do fairly well if we will ask for our Father in Heaven to help reveal those negative behaviors to us and then be open to changing them and redefining how we cope with them.