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Daily “Emotional Dialysis”

Filtering Difficult Experiences


I’m a big fan of the emotional equivalent

of  “emptying the trash.” Writing in a journal

helps people get in touch with their feelings

and express them without censorship.

It’s a research-tested treatment for those

suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress.

And if you journal right before bedtime,

it often leads to better sleep.

I Don’t Have Time For That

A lot of people (myself included) don’t like

writing everything out long-hand.

I hate hand cramps and who has the time?

And yet, taking a few minutes at the end of the

day to process what has happened that day

is just so fantastic for one’s mental health.

It prevents a build-up of stressful emotions,

provides effective stress management, and

leads to better sleep, mood, and energy levels.

Hmmm…what to do?

Try Emotional Dialysis

I pieced together a system for sorting through

the stuff that life hands you each day that

doesn’t take very long, is still very effective,

and I call it Daily “Emotional Dialysis.”

I have relied heavily on the wisdom

of centuries of sages, prophets, researchers,

and AA to put together what works for me.

If you like to make lists, you are going to

LOVE this system.  If you don’t…well,

just keep doing what works for you!

First, The Toxic Crap

In your journal or notebook, up in the top

left hand corner, you start making a list of

all the toxic crap that’s going on in your life.

This is the trauma, the tragedy, the stress,

the annoyances, the irritations, the yuck.

This is the stuff that if you don’t know how to

effectively filter and manage, it builds up in

your emotional system and causes major

back-ups, a kind of sepsis of the mental health

system leading to depression, anxiety,

and eventual hardening of the heart.

Next Up, Gratitude!

You know I am all yin and yang, and

think you need to balance everything.

Since we’re making a list of all the toxins, we

need to make a list of all the good stuff, too!

So on the right hand side of your journal,

right next to your list of all the crappy stuff

that you’re dealing with, make a list of any

and everything that went right today, that

was an example of goodness, or that you

can honestly say you are grateful for.

If someone was genuinely nice to you today,

if someone or something gave you hope that

maybe things aren’t all completely messed

up in this world…add it to your list!

I always love it when my Gratitude List ends

up being way longer than my Toxins List.

You’re Not Done Yet!

Getting in touch with the good stuff to

balance out the bad stuff helps to prevent

depression, but it doesn’t always help you

to know what to do with all the bad stuff.

But we’re not done yet.  Now comes the really

interesting part…this is where the dialysis or

“filtering” comes in.  You get to filter the toxic

stuff through something that helps you figure

out what to do…and (just as important )…

what to not do.

The CAN DO/LET GO Filter

Next we take the Serenity Prayer by

Reinhold Niebuhr:

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

This is the filter we use to take each item in

your Toxins List and sort it through.

Ask yourself these questions:

*Do I have any control over this?

*Is there anything I can do about this

situation that might help?

*Do I have some responsibility or feeling

of being called to act/respond in any way?

Right below your Toxins List, start making a

list of anything that you can actually DO

about the tough stuff that’s happening

in your life.

Not a TO DO List, your CAN DO List.

What you do with this list is up to you.

Acceptance Means Letting Go

One more time, take each item in your

Toxins List, and ask yourself these questions:

*Do I need to accept that I do not have any

ability to control or change this situation?

*Do I need to be able to let go and be at

peace about this, however things turn out?

*Do I need to ask for strength, courage, stamina,

patience, or grace to be able to cope with this?

Now you can start making your final list I

call the LET GO List: you write down what you

need to accept, be at peace letting go of, and

a mini-prayer list where you ask (it’s okay to beg)

for what you need to be able to do these things.

This is the list where you have already

acknowledged that there is nothing you can

DO…or you would have listed that in your

CAN DO List.  It’s time to LET GO.

No, It’s Not Easy…

Just like going for real kidney dialysis,

this process is not easy or fun, even if the

process is speeded-up by using lists.

Considering all the things in your life that

are causing you pain or suffering is not fun.

Trying to figure out whether you have any

control over any of them is often not easy.

Trying to get to the place where you can accept

the things that you cannot change is neither

fun nor easy.  But I can tell you that it is

absolutely worthwhile to filter through the

toxins that you encounter in daily living so

that you can emerge with a clearer sense of

purpose, gratitude, and humility.

So could you use a little daily emotional dialysis? 🙂



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