I had a bit of a terrifying experience this past weekend; I was driving back to London, Ontario from a conference in Blue Mountain and it was snowing.
Snowing in October.
Driving in an unfamiliar rental car with no snow tires.
Curvy, country roads.
Less snowing, and more blizzardy, snow squally, white out, cannot see anything, conditions.
I was going around a bend, approaching a stop sign and I started braking.
And then I started sliding.
I slid through the stop sign and was frantically slamming down on the brakes. The car started to overcorrect and nearly went into the ditch.
(Luckily there were no other cars on the road at this point, or I likely would have taken out some poor souls with me.)
And then I remembered.
When you lose control, take your foot off the brake and drive into the skid.
It’s a metaphor that I often use in sessions when talking about intense emotions. When you feel an intense emotion starting to bubble up, often the responses is to slam on the brakes. You may try to distract yourself from the feeling. You may shame, judge or criticize yourself for having the feeling. You may try to shove that feeling away into a box, lock it up tight and hope that you never have to feel it again.
Usually this response is because you are afraid. You panic. You think that if you allow yourself to feel the intensity of the feeling, you will get swept up in and be lost forever. You slam on the brakes and hope that the feeling goes away.
You may delay the experiences. You may muddy the emotional waters and be later confused by reactions that don’t quite make sense to you.
However, if you take your foot off the break and drive into skid; the fear, the sadness, the anger, the suffering, you may be surprised what happens.
You will feel it, yes. It may feel painful and terrifying (as terrifying as nearly sliding into a ditch in snow squall conditions) but you will regain control. The intensity will subside. You will have survived.
As I literally took my own foot off the brake and drove into the skid, I started to gain control of the car. I slowed down, took a deep breath, and just kept driving. Within minutes, the squall passed, the roads were clear and the sun was shining high in the sky.
The next time you feel yourself skidding into uncomfortable territory, please don’t lay on the brakes. Allow yourself to feel it, even if it is so, so scary. I get how terrifying it is. However, it will pass, the intensity will subside and you will be on a clearer, smoother path soon.