When Valentine’s Day Is Not All It’s Cracked Up to Be…

           Under “Psychological Tidbits’ I said it’s okay to mope on Valentine’s Day if your day is not a great one.  So… how to mope well   ;-)

            (with one caveat: moping is low-level blues that may be eased by the following exercise; if you are seriously depressed or despairing, skip this exercise and hang out with a soothing friend or get professional help. Holidays really can trigger serious depression.)

         Okay...  Sit in a chair or sofa or on the floor—wherever you’re comfy.  And gently let your awareness be on your moping—just let the moping be.  Notice how it feels.  How intense is it, 1-10?  Where in your body do you especially feel the moping?  Is it overwhelming?  Manageable?  (Go with these questions even if they seem silly.)  Does it have a color?  Texture? Shape?  What is the body sensation that goes along with the moping:  heaviness? tingling? empty? paralyzed? agitated? dragging your feet? … As you continue being aware of the moping for a moment, don’t think about it.  Thoughts will come—just let them go by, gently maintaining awareness of your moping.  Don’t judge it and try to figure it out; just observe it and let it be.

            Sometimes when we just observe an unpleasant feeling, without frantically or forcefully trying to get rid of it, the feeling dissipates, or even flows into a more pleasant feeling.  If the moping is still there, see if there’s anything it would like to say.  What’s the first thing that comes to mind, without censoring?  Say it.  Say it again, louder.  (It’s okay if nothing came to mind.) 

            If the moping lingers on, praise its tenacity ;-).  Imagine it as a colicky infant.  Holding the baby gently, nurture and soothe him or her. (Which gender does it seem to be?) Tone is more important than words with an infant—but let her know you’re sorry she’s so miserable, and it’s not her fault, and this too will pass… Is the moping still there?  Increased?  Decreased? Or, the same?   Whatever is is okay... there is no wrong outcome as you practice awareness of your moping.    

  Now shift awareness to a grounded or settled or safe feeling in your body if you can find one… or to pleasant images (nature? fun with a friend? a cherished child?)… for a long moment.  And then stand up and jiggle your limbs and fingers and look slowly around the room to re-orient.  If moping well leaves you feeling lost in the blues, call a friend or relative who’s safe and talk openly with him or her about what Valentine’s Day is meaning to you.

            You have just moped well.  You have let the moping be, not tried to force it out of awareness.  You have respected it and let it speak and embraced it.  Moping is an ancient, honorable feeling.  It is a part of our broad range of affect, feelings that we need to feel, that are a part of our aliveness.  If we only feel the good feelings, shutting out the so-called bad feelings, eventually all feelings shut down into numbness or boredom.  We lose our liveliness.  Learning to sit gently with all our feelings--without judgment--as the feelings arise in our bodies helps us be lively, interesting people who also have readier access to the enjoyable feelings.  Sitting with our feelings is different from acting, perhaps impulsively and wrongly, on those feelings.  In fact, sitting with our feelings helps us learn that we can contain our feelings; we don’t need to act them out or dump them on anyone.  They’re ours to be enjoyed or soothed or, frankly, managed, just like a sometimes colicky infant.  If you’re Valentine’s Day is not happy—then may it be full and rich, which is sometimes better than "happy", as you honestly face its unhappiness.