Listen to ‘How to Have a Conscious Meltdown’
Episode 10 Transcript
How to Have a Conscious Meltdown — which is the opposite of having a temper tantrum!
Hello, my name is Roxanne Darling and this is In the Transition podcast.
In today’s episode, I am sharing a process that has helped me clear a lot of my fear and anger, in case you find it useful.
Years ago, I was a guest instructor at Rancho La Puerta Spa. I filled in for the renowned director, Phyllis Pilgrim, to teach her daily meditation class, and I also taught a workshop I’ve never given before or since. I think it’s time to bring it back as we are dealing with boatloads of new experiences, emotions, and reactions due to the coronavirus situation.
Before we begin, though, I’d like to put this concept of a conscious meltdown in context. On the free group call I hosted a few days ago, we connected over the idea of Find Calm, Share Calm. The main takeaway from my point of view was to get off our cases, drop the rules and the shoulds, and do whatever wacky things we can to support ourselves. Whether it’s snacking on fried chicken at 3 am or staying in bed to catch up on lost sleep, I think it’s a great time to expand our self-care options. We can work on getting back to regular, preferred habits when, well, whenever things settle into a new normal. For now, in the early stages of this unpredictable disruption, first things first means to me creative and non-judgmental self-care. We have time to work out the details later.
So along those lines, I see a lot of people ranting and raging, letting off steam as the fear and frustration many are experiencing is very real, palpable, and can at times feel overwhelming.
In the big view, I support this! And yet, I also know that some rants and rages can reinforce ideas or behaviors that do not support our consciousness. For sure, even consciousness can be put on hold or on the back burner while we get oriented to this situation we’re in.
But when you’re ready to experience expressing your justified anger and confusion, I have an alternative plan for you. For me, one way of thinking about consciousness is that it allows us to feel the entire range of human experience while learning about our individual selves. It takes more energy and attention to step outside of the ‘group mind’ or to step away from predictable or rote behaviors. But the ability to do so has created infinite rewards for me, the greatest of which right now is to feel relative calm during this corona craziness.
If you’ve listened to this podcast before, you know that I used to be a very fear-based person — too scared even to return a broken appliance.
What I didn’t realize for so long was that my fear was also masking my anger. Lots of this stemmed from childhood experiences in my case, but I believe the mechanics of this ‘fear-anger’ complex apply in a lot of situations. Some are unpredictable, like now, and there is the urge to lash out and blame someone.
Fear feels like weakness, so many of us suppress it and instead expressing anger — which feels more powerful. But this back and forth can be like a whipsaw inside of you. Emotionally, one goes back & forth from feeling frightened to being angry at others. (And quickly enough we can throw some hopelessness in the mix, too.) In some ways, this can also describe the experience of panic.
Back when I was doing intense therapy, a lot of confusing and even terrifying feelings would come up for me. I found myself oscillating wildly between fear and anger. At the same time, I was learning a new way to think about my inner child, or as I call her, Kid Me. The most useful way to deal with kid reactions and emotions was to become conscious of when Kid Me was thinking, feeling, or acting for Adult Me.
Getting my brain back under the control of my adult self, was key to getting off the pity pot and also to feeling empowered without the hot flash of anger.
So how do we do that when the crap is hitting the fan? I do it by having a conscious meltdown. It’s a way of feeling all the fears and all the anger, but in the end, getting grounded in my adult mindset. Along the way, the emotions are physically flushed from the body, and the thoughts that went along with them are examined in the light of consciousness. In my experience, I often realized that much of what was driving the fear and the anger were misconceptions or grudges that I could finally let go of.
What remained was understanding the legitimate harms I had experienced and that I now had more options for managing.
Here’s how to conduct a conscious meltdown for yourself.
It can be done in 10 minutes, though I suggest setting aside at least half an hour, depending on the depth of your feelings.
Setup Your Space:
You’ll want to find a private space where no one else can hear you or interrupt you. This may be the hardest part of the process. But you can do this outside or in your car, if you can’t ask your housemates to leave you alone for a while. Tho making that “ask” is a strong step in self-care and hopefully something you are willing to reciprocate for them. If you use your car, park someplace where you won’t be bothered.
Select Your Music:
Next, you’ll want to have some music and possibly headphones. The music provides both a backdrop to encourage your emotions to flow freely and it also creates an audio buffer zone for the experience. The sound creates like a container. You could also play music in the bathroom on a speaker, for example, while taking a long shower while crying without others hearing you.
I recommend music that is evocative and moving to you, probably without words that could distract you from your own thoughts or feelings. My go-to favorite is Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings. I heard it in the Vietnam war movie, Platoon. It was the first time a film used non-marching style music during the fighting and shooting scenes. The contrast between the deeply sad song and the violence of war was striking and horrible for me. The piece itself has waves of soft and strong, which I find works so well in the conscious meltdown experience. I’ll include a link to this song in the show notes for you.
Bring Along Some Props:
My essentials are tissues, of course, and a pillow or towel. Also, consider having a blanket to cover yourself at the end of the meltdown process.
Set the Terms with Your Inner Child:
Have a short conversation with yourself, from your adult point of view. Tell Kid You that you are aware of all the frustration, fear, and anger you are both feeling right now. Explain that you are creating a safe space to experience and release those feelings. Let her (or him or them) know it is safe to feel these feelings and that this is not about proving any points. It is instead about moving the feelings out of the body so you can clear your mind and heart. It may not feel comfortable, but this is how we’re going to get from feeling lost, or hopeless, or furious to feeling grounded and able to proceed. Keep your chat with your kid self short and direct.
Start the Meltdown Process:
Once the music is playing, allow your mind to dredge up all the ideas and opinions and observations that have led you here today. Give Kid You the mic and let her go on and on about all the unfairness. Talk to the little one who is hurt, scared, or angry and let her know you are listening — from your adult point of view. For me, this usually involves a lot of crying! I may also journal during this time as a way to flush up more unconscious things that are running wild inside me. If there is a lot of fear, I am usually crying really hard. If there is more anger, I may scream or squeeze a pillow or bite into a towel.
This sounds difficult, and it can be, but this is where the body also gets a chance to express itself. Remember, all those feelings are being stored somewhere, and that somewhere is your physical body. Those congested feelings may also be adding stress or even illness to your life. Now is the time to clean them out and let them go.
What makes this a conscious meltdown is that Adult You acts as a “fair witness.” She is a good listener, not there to pile on or to dismiss the complaints. As your adult self, you can listen for insights, learn new things, and be ready to update your opinions when this process is completed.
The screaming and crying part of this is why privacy is so important. The more you can stay focused on yourself and not be monitoring for others, the more you can let go. The more you can let go, the lighter you’ll feel when you’re done. If the music ends and you still feel thoughts and feelings flowing, start it over again. There is no set amount of time for this process; take the time you want. I’ve sometimes done 3 or 4 rounds of this, about 9 minutes, song.
In my experience, it’s pretty clear when “I’m done.” The wailing tapers off. My breathing gets slower and deeper. I feel hope starting to seep in. I start noticing my environment again. I like to set aside time to journal at this point, as it’s another way of allowing my mind to share intel with me. Seeing things on paper serves to clarify them as well as save them for more digestion later.
The miracle of this process is that once the wildness of the emotions has moved out of my body, my mind can see more clearly. I understand why some things may have happened. I sometimes feel forgiveness making an appearance. I experience a deep sense of compassion for myself and all that I’ve been dealing with. I may or may not have ideas about where to go from here, but I do have clarity and concern for myself that paves the way for solutions to show up later. The journaling seems really effective at pulling together some of the random energy so it can coalesce into some rational advice I can give to Kid Me, in terms she can understand and hopefully accept.
After the Conscious Meltdown Process:
I’ve done this many times, and each time it’s a little different. Sometimes I feel so unshackled from the pain and confusion that I’m ready to re-enter society alive and well. Other times I feel quite tender and choose to hibernate or maybe take a nap. Your experience will be yours; I please ask you not to judge it or let Kid You seek to shame you for being courageous enough to deal with your emotions in this way.
One of the other benefits of this process is the separation you make between Kid You and Adult you. Yes, both are you. However, Kid You will repeatedly make dumb decisions that lead to messes that Adult You will have to clean up. The more your brain, heart, and body are managed by Adult You, the more functional you will be as a human being. To me, this is the essence of consciousness: being able to observe and act in the world, allowing feelings to flow freely, while not allowing them to run roughshod over your job, your relationships, and your sense of self.
I encourage you to download my free eBook called The Three Yous. It’s a short read that lays out the core *functional* differences between your Adult self and your inner child, with a bonus mention of your Soul. I’ll include a link to it in the show notes.
Before I close, I’d like to mention that I’m hosting some free calls to Find Calm and Share Calm during this time of confusion and disruption. Please subscribe to my email list to get notifications.
Thank you so much for listening. I’d love for you to share your comments with me. So I have several options for you.
- You can leave an audio message at my Google voicemail, which is 505-510-1135.
- You can email me at email@example.com.
- You can also tweet or Instagram me @roxannedarling.
That wraps up today’s episode. I include about a minute of music at the end of each episode to allow you to stay “in the zone” of the podcast, giving you additional time to rest and integrate. I appreciate you for listening and hanging out with me here in the transition. I think your most courageous act may be unconditional self-acceptance.
Thank you for being You.