Shoe shopping with my late mother always ended in angst! From when she turned 60 until her passing, my mother was on a Quest for the perfect pair of shoes. Except she always hunted in the sale racks of big box retail establishments and discount shoe stores. She bought sandals, slippers, tennis shoes, walking shoes, pumps, boots, and clogs. And her feet always hurt. Neuropathy took its toll, making it nearly impossible for my mother, who could once play 36 holes of golf by day and dance the night away, unable to keep up with her grandchildren or enjoy a day out with her daughters. Good shoes, she was frequently told by her medical care team, would help.
So we went to every discount shoe joint in every town we visited, looking for the perfect pair of shoes. And the shoe boxes and unworn footwear continued to pile up in the various closets of the family home. The woman who defined a good fit by the price tag was losing the war on pain and comfort.
How often do we sit in our discomfort and look for a meme, a social media post, or a quick search on Google to solve a problem of the heart, the mind, and the soul? Our partnered relationship becomes a source of unhappiness and pain. We notice that Facebook post that talks about boundaries or expressing our feelings. Except we may not know what we feel or need, so how can we set boundaries when our inner world remains a silent mystery? And in the meantime, we feel our heart connections slipping further away.
The first step in finding our partner, our children, our friends, and our loved ones is to find ourselves. Patrick Carnes, Ph.D., the founder of the International Institute of Trauma and Addiction Professionals, reminds us that change takes great awareness, focus, and effort. After all, our brains are built to streamline repeated actions, behaviors, and feelings systematically. Once streamlined, we move on to other tasks and challenges. That’s why moving my dear mother out of bargain shoe shopping was such a challenge. From childhood, she learned to “not waste money on shoes.” However, telling her what she did not want to hear remained unhelpful.
Most instructions on effective communication start with two parts: how to listen and how to speak. Plunging into a highly emotional conflict armed with instructions can help. But when it comes to knowing how we feel about what and discovering our needs, education on active listening and speaking may fall short.
Instead, we must practice exploring what happens in our minds, bodies, and spirits when conflict and rupture occur. Do I experience;
Next, check in with your body to see if there are any unusual, uncomfortable, or painful sensations. Such as;
Step back and explore what emotions are present. The Discovery of our emotions brings a new level of awareness to our experience. Many grew up in homes where emotions were discouraged, minimized, or shamed. Identifying what we are feeling can be confusing at first. Start with this list of six universally recognized emotions; happiness, sadness, fear, anger, surprise, and disgust. Next, notice what happens and assemble the experience. For example, what do I experience in conflict, where do I feel it in my body, and what emotion am I feeling? Practice this with minor upsets first, then move on to the more intense situations you routinely face. Practice will allow your body, mind, spirit, and brain to know what is happening within you and what it is you need. If you discover deeper hurts and lingering feelings, consider seeking help from a qualified therapist trained in relationship distress, trauma, and boundary work.
And if you are wondering about my mother’s shoe Quest, we finally conquered the problem. One day on yet another foray into bargain shoes, I took her to a shoe store specializing in foot pain and discomfort. Her script of “don’t waste money on shoes” was countered with a gentle reminder that “we all want you to be comfortable” A lovely shoe salesperson chatted with her and recommended a shoe that brought nearly instant relief from the foot pain. The Quest for the perfect cheap shoe did not end. However, we now had the possibility of the occasional purchase of a heart-felt good pair of shoes.
Claudia Hawley, MA, NCC, LPCC, CSAT-Candidate, CTMH see couples and individuals virtually in the state of Colorado. She applies the principles of the Gottman Method for couples therapy and is experienced in treating affair and infidelity couples recovery, betrayal trauma as well as helping couples of all ages, stages, and identifies find renewal, health, and connection in their most treasured relationship.