This is probably the commonest problem we face as we encourage people to explore meanings and feelings. People tend to doubt the relevance of that which is emerging. To help here I use a rather frivolous analogy.
If we start burrowing under the right toe nail or behind the left ear, and we keep going we will eventually reach the heart (of the matter).
Remember the woman with the severe skin rash which got better when her father started to wear the hearing aid. Surely her mild frustration could not cause this awful skin condition. Well, the mild frustration was connected to having lived with him all her life, with having never been assertive with him, with not being properly independent, with not having had a separate existence with a partner, with running out of time to fulfil these normal aspirations, with the reminder of his advancing age and the prospect of loneliness for herself.
Toenails are connected to hearts!
Relatively easy-to-manage feelings on the surface are connected to not-so-easy to manage feelings underneath. Let us consider our minor feelings on the surface as our doorways to important feelings underneath.
Your minor feelings are your opportunity!
Let’s say you have got hold of a ‘minor’ feeling in relation to some event or happening in your life.
Try the following:
1. Really important—give yourself some time in a quiet spot uninterrupted, and relax. Be quiet and still and let your mind settle as much as you can.
2. If something keeps pressing into your mind then stay with that because it will be feelings behind it pressing for attention or resolution, so you have something to work on. If nothing is pressing take your mind back to an event, or happening, or a worsening of your symptoms, or the beginning of your illness. It doesn’t matter what it is really. Important things (even if they don’t look important at first sight) float to the surface (remember the iceberg metaphor?).
3. Stay with the thing you have chosen. You may find a tendency to move away, or even find yourself keen for a distraction. This is often a sign that there are feelings underneath which are hard to acknowledge.
4. Write down the ‘minor’ feelings and stay with them for a bit. Let’s imagine a situation. You decide to have your mother over for lunch with the rest of the family. But you hesitate. Your wife reminds you to ring but you still don’t do it –rather something else takes precedence. Your wife gets irritated. What is going on? As you think about it, you realize that you want her to come and don’t want her to come, but you are not sure what you feel. You have little in common so conversation is hard, but you are loyal and want to be loving. You then realize that underneath you are sad about the lack of closeness, and each contact reminds you of the long-standing disappointments in your relationship with her. More than that you get angry and frustrated with people who disappoint you in relationship in this way, and that you tend to try hard with them, and so it goes on and on. That reluctance to ring was the tip of the iceberg.
5. Try any number of situations and you will start to find that the same feelings keep emerging even if the situations you choose seem very different.