A Case Study In Dealing With Negative Emotions OR How I Coped When My Cat Barfed on My Laptop

 Dealing With Negative Emotions OR How I coped when my cat barfed on my laptop

Despite my best intentions, sometimes I just don't get to everything on my To Do list. This week has been especially bad in that regard. With a sick child, a sick dog, and a laptop that is dead because my cat barfed all over it, I'm ending the week with a lot of important things undone.

I've decided to take this experience as an opportunity to try to learn something about myself. So, upon reflection, I've identified the following internal experiences related to my undone tasks:

  • First up is anxiety. I'm jittery and tense. I feel a lot of impulse to be active.
  • Some of the anxiety becomes anger. That damn cat! He did this on purpose! I should take him back to the shelter. Why did everything have to go wrong at once?! Why can't I ever get a break?
  • Next on the docket is guilt. I know and feel bad that some of the things I didn't get done will affect other people.
  • Close on the heels of guilt comes shame. I feel bad about myself for not getting more done instead of taking those 5 minute breaks to read a snippet of a novel.
  • At this point I want to eat an unreasonable amount of chocolate.
  • After shame(and the chocolate thing), I find myself starting to talk back to those negative feelings. After all, I had so much on my plate! And look at what I did get done. The cat has so much hair (truly, you should see him), it's not his fault he's so barfy.
  • Finally, I look around at how to take care of myself. I check in with my body, and notice the agitation. I start thinking about how to discharge it. Can I fit in a walk with the dog? A yoga class? Clean the kitchen to feel more organized? If not right now, pretty soon? I pick one of those options, make a plan, take a deep breath, make myself a cup of tea. I feel better.

So what did I learn by examining my process? Well, this is not how I handled things earlier in my life. I was much more likely to get stuck in anxiety, anger, guilt, and/or shame. Or charge off in some random direction that was close at hand, trying to discharge that negative energy. As often as not, this led to wasted effort, bungled tasks, or the creation of new problems. Or a traumatized cat.

I'm happy to see that I've come to a healthier place. A place like the one I try to help my clients find. Of course, I still have those negative emotions that can turn into monsters. But I don't get stuck there as much these days. I'm more and more often able to smoothly transform them to something positive.

What do you notice happening internally when things don't go as planned? How would you like that to change?