I often tell my clients about a series of observations I made in my private practice office last June. I had a stream of clients enter, look out the window solemnly, and make a defiant comment about the gray sky. "When is the sun going to come out?" one would say. "I just can't take another day of this weather," said the next with his head hanging. It went on like this hour after hour.
We live in a coastal town in Southern California where a thick marine layer inhabits the sky verrrry consistently through June. (We'll also sometimes have a few dark days the month prior, affectionately known as May Gray. Don't get me started on the occasional day of Graypril.) But I'm not here to discuss the combination of atmospheric and oceanic conditions that produce this weather. That's definitely not my area of expertise.
As a psychologist, I'm fascinated by the human resistance. If we watch closely, we often find ourselves fighting with reality. I have a good enough relationship with my clients to cringe and say sarcastically, "You're fighting with the weather?!" We giggle. But really... they're fighting with the weather. Good luck! I know who's winning.
This serves as an excellent metaphor for the way in which we resist our internal weather. We're content with blue skies, calm waters, and 70 degrees. Many expect this state all the time, and if our mood shifts to anything less comfortable, we think we're doing something wrong. Our thoughts may also pipe in to tell us that we have to GET OUT NOW because we can't tolerate this. In therapist speak, we call this emotional dysregulation.
Most of my clients come in with a storm brewing in them. Of course they do. Being a human means that we experience ever-shifting emotions, including painful ones. Jobs are lost, partners leave, parents die, money is tight. Other times, we are not going through an extreme event but life lacks meaning or we feel lonely or unsure of ourselves.
In my office, I sit with clients as they describe their inner landscape. "Tell me more," I often say. "What does that worry/regret/grief feel like in your body?" I watch them close their eyes and search. They tell me about heaviness on their chest, constriction in their neck, or a hallow emptiness in their core. I encourage them to stay with those sensations.
"Are you resisting it?" I ask. If rough weather is arising, is there really a problem?
I encourage you to experiment with this yourself. Notice the sensations in your body right now. Imagine that there is no problem with whatever is happening in there. Perhaps it's a cold storm or maybe it's foggy. Now reflect on how it feels to lower your guard, to stop the fight.
This is a path to peace and contentment. No matter the weather, you can be okay, so long as you allow and drop the resistance. Let everything be as it is. You'll survive the storm.