Wag More, Bark Less: Managing Emotions In These Uncertain Times

Instagram photo by Stephanie Bennett Vogt

Wag More, Bark Less. It’s a quirky title, but the words of this bumper sticker are as good a message as any for us humans right now. In this time of global uncertainty it seems that our collective anxiety has gotten so big, and our defensive “barking” so loud that we can’t relax, or think straight, or listen…or feel.

The problems are unrelenting and overwhelming of course. But so is our collective reaction to them: the spasms of worry and fear, righteous mudslinging, incredulity, despair. Presidential predilections aside, imagine what trillions of polarized thoughts and emotions, pounding and gumming up the airwaves every second, might be doing to all of us.

As I’ve learned from two decades of clearing the energetic clutter in peoples’ homes, unconscious human “off-gassing” doesn’t just go away…or evaporate into some big hole in the sky. Depending on their intensity, highly-charged emotions have a way of sticking around, leaving behind a magnetic minefield of thought-guck for more negative thoughts and fears to land on.

Not pretty.

Before you lose heart and order up another round of worry, consider that there is something you can do, like… right now. If you’re up for it, you can try this simple practice that I teach my clients and students to release some of the stressful build-up. If this clearing technique doesn’t seem like it accomplishes very much, that’s because from the mind’s point of view, it doesn’t. This exercise is designed to access a deeper power and knowing that bypasses the mind altogether:

The first step is to close your eyes and notice how you’re feeling right at this moment. What’s going through head? How does your body feel? Do your hands feel hot or cold…tingly, sweaty, clammy…? How about your feet? Are both feet on the floor? Do you feel grounded? Do you feel tired? Weary? Energized? Curious? Bored? How about your breathing? Is it shallow? Is it full?

Now, think of an issue or a person that presses your buttons, or something that’s been bothering you lately – a fear, a burden, a worry you just can’t seem to shake. Give this experience your full attention for a minute or so without resisting or doing anything to fix or manage it. Don’t think too much. Just feel whatever comes up.

Okay, so what do you notice? What’s going through your mind? How does your body feel now? More contracted? Less? Do your hands feel the same as they did before? How about your energy level? Your breathing? Is it the same or different?

If you hang out long enough with any kind of emotional weather pattern and allow yourself to feel the charge that comes with it, you might notice a corresponding sensation in your body. You might feel jangled or rattled. Agitated. Teary. Congested. If you’re sensitive like me, it may not take much to elicit a flinch, a cringe, a pang, a wave of localized pain, or nausea, or sudden dry mouth and thirst after less than a minute.

No matter how your body processes information swirling in the ether, if you can allow sensations to arise without resisting them, or personalizing them, or identifying them as “bad” or “good,” you may experience – by simply witnessing – a shift of some kind – a certain something that maybe wasn’t there before. Less intensity, perhaps? More breathing room? A greater sense of calm? Less charge…?

So what would happen if, for every time you caught yourself ready to snap at someone about something or go into a cold sweat of fear, you just stopped, took a breath instead and observed?

What would happen if – before you let your mind go on another bashing spree of all the reasons why things aren’t working in your home or life or the world – you took a moment to stop, breathe, observe, and allow (the good, bad and ugliness of it…)?

What would happen to your sense of spaciousness (and your nervous system) if you opted instead for doing one thing that made your heart sing?

Imagine what would happen to the world right now if you chose peace every time you remembered you had a choice. Yes, one “wag” every time you think of it.

So how are you feeling at this very moment? The same as before? Different?

Awareness. It changes everything.

 

Dear readers: This post is adapted and reprinted from an article I published 8 years ago. When I wrote it, the US was steeped in two wars and economic recession. People were losing their life savings and not everyone was on board with electing an African-American president. Though the problems back then may seem quaint now compared to the emotional roller-coaster ride we’re on right now, the work – our work – of bringing in light and compassionate awareness to our pain, and fear, and insecurities remains exactly the same.

 

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Comments
  • Nancy Wilson

    Stephanie, thank you for this reminder to stop and breathe and allow space around our fears. It is so easy to get angry, hopeless, sucked into a constant state of “red-alert”!!! Becoming grounded and balanced in the midst of craziness is so needed and hard! Thank you for this guidance.