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Navigating our way past disappointment - the path through processing

I wanted to share this recent experience, in case it resonates with you too.

My family and I were heading away for a few days on annual leave. I'd just experienced a massive disappointment; something that I planned and expected to happen hadn't happened, and I was feeling a real weight in my body because of it. It was making my body feel quite slow, and my mind reflective. Driving past an animal crematorium, I reminded myself that there was some aspect of loss or grief going on here for me, in terms of the loss of what I had expected to happen.

Having been reading an article about the assumptive world theory developed by psychiatrist Murray Parks, I was reminded that the feelings in my body were just a reaction to the environment being out of kilter - albeit on a very tiny scale and exclusive to my experience, and not akin to bereavement and its effects. But a loss none the less.

With a few hours to kill in the gorgeous little village of Lulworth in Dorset, I continued to reflect on the heaviness I was feeling. There's a lovely coastal walk from Lulworth to Durdle Door, The South West Coast Path – this segment is only around a mile long, and after a hearty breakfast, I decided to take a walk up the steep cobbled path to the top of the hill in Lulworth.

I reflected on how I was feeling today. Not sad, exactly. Not low or miserable. But just with a low sort of energy; not feeling particularly engaged, and not wanting to engage with other people today. Just quite peacefully reflective. Although I recognise this as being a form of shutdown in the nervous system, I don't see this as being a place I have to desperately climb out of - it's there for replenishment, recuperation and reflection. It’s our body telling us what we need. I needed to process the loss and change of plans I’d experienced.

I slowly plodded up the hill. Looking down at my feet on the cobbles, occasionally looking back to see how far I'd come, and rarely looking up to the summit of this gentle coastal path. I would go at my own pace.

When I got to the top, a stone marker revealed the halfway mark for this segment of the walk. I stopped here, as it was never my intention to walk all the way. The view I was greeted with at the top was I'm sure no less beautiful than the one further on, at Durdle Door. Just a different perspective. Families and hikers lapped me on the way up, and on the way down. A couple were even jogging up and down the path. But I kept my pace, feeling pleased with my mini expedition and not dissatisfied with the 5000 steps I had achieved.

That walk was definitely a metaphor for how I was feeling - sometimes we just have to go at our own pace, experience life as it is, and not focus on other people, whose path is different to ours and who may have a different destination. Sometimes, there’s a need to focus on the now and what's directly in front of us, and how we are just putting one foot in front of the other, to achieve our goals. Sometimes, it's nice to look forward or back, but mostly it’s best to stay in the process and the ‘now’.

When I returned home to base after the walk, I felt quite peaceful and pleased with myself. I'd seen some beautiful scenery and enjoyed the fresh air - my low, slow feeling hadn't miraculously shifted or changed much, but that's okay. It was there for a reason, to let me know that my body and life situation at that time was a little out of stasis or equilibrium. It was a little imbalanced because of that change of plans which I had not accounted for. I was disappointed, with no amount of other people saying to me, ‘It’s is not that big a deal’, or trying to problem-solve their way out of my loss because they were uncomfortable with my disappointment, helping the situation.

Does this process speak to you? Are you in touch with your needs? Do your friends and family allow you to just ‘be’ in the shutdown, the low energy, the low mood, the processing, the reflection?

I hope you’re able to give yourself compassion and put one foot in front of the other, as you navigate your path. By Kathy Carter.


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