I am 9 years old, maybe 10.
For years, I’ve watched in envy as my father and my brother happily swim out in the ocean together during family beach trips.
Oh, I’ve tried to join them, gathering my courage and braving the waves, only to be put through a blender and spit back out on the sand every time.
My father has told me the secret maneuver. He’s demonstrated it many times. I’ve watched him and my brother do it successfully hundreds of times.
I’ve been too afraid to try.
Today, I’m so tired of running from the waves, I can’t help myself.
I have to try.
As I stand in the surf and face an on-coming wave, everything within me screams, “Run! Run! It’s going to tumble you!”
But at the last possible second, as the wave arches over me, I dive into the base. As hard as I can.
To my astonishment, I pop to the surface—on the other side of the breakers!
I body surf to shore and try again.
It works, again. Like magic.
I spend the entire afternoon taunting the very waves that once terrified me, learning just how close to let them come (ooops — not that close!) before I dive right through them.
Hope for Highly Emotional People
As I’m learning how to be less easily overwhelmed by emotion, this childhood memory has been a useful metaphor.
The word “overwhelm” means
- to cover or bury beneath a mass (such as floodwaters, debris, or an avalanche)
“Overwhelmed” comes from a word meaning “to bend all the way over” and another word meaning “to cover.”
If you’re a highly emotional person who also gets easily overwhelmed, perhaps you recognize that feeling of being smacked over and suffocated by feelings you didn’t ask for but suddenly have to deal with!
Healthy detachment is a lot like diving into the base of a wave.
It’s a way to
- PUSH PAUSE.
- get away from the flood of adrenaline that will blend you up and spit you back out dazed and frazzled.
- go some place safe.
The Promise of PUSH PAUSE
As we dive into the base of an emotional wave, we stay so much calmer than when we let the wave bowl us over.
- We’re not stuffing our feelings.
- We’re not detaching from our bodies in an unhealthy way.
- We’re not intellectualizing or people-pleasing.
We are taking a time-out.
We are making this promise to ourselves:
I will process my emotions, but I’ll do so on my terms, not theirs.