I am another you.
Curious about creating space for emotional connection and to meet the emotional systems activated within.
Facing that this is only possible with authenticity and openness, something that can be deeply uncomfortable – putting us on or beyond our learning edge.
For emotional connection to be maintained, we need to bear complexity, and yet it can sometimes be too much. The layers of challenge that I personally have had to deal with since the pandemic began certainly fit with that – way too much. I’m sure you can relate, from your recent or past experience. It is always a dilemma when we go beyond our capacity, beyond our learning edge... how do we effectively get back to a place where we are learning and growing, within our emotional capacity again?
As I pondered what to share here, my ‘go deep or go home’ attitude is winking at me from within. In 2021, I start a different journey, one I didn't expect to find myself on, and for me there is one way forward or it’s time to quit.
Telling it how it is, is part of what I have learned, so here a little of my pandemic story so far.
I started 2020 with a newly developing and small but incredibly passionate team, from a delightful clinical and training base. We had finished 2019 feeling that 2020 would be a remarkable year for us, and it started brilliantly - delivering workshops, therapy and training to 100s of people – psychologists in Cardiff, CEOs in our regional conference centre, and passionate and brave people of all walks of life – all ready to reap the rewards from living and working more emotionally connected.
But then on 12th March 2020, I retreated with my family to shield my extremely clinically vulnerable husband. At work, we changed our business model, moved everything online, submitted multiple grant applications, and furloughed ourselves as much as we could. By July, it was clear that with my personal and professional future so uncertain, I had no choice but to make the awful decision to make my team redundant and move out of our premises permanently. In the autumn, my ability to work reduced even further when other children returned to school as it wasn’t safe for our situation. I got up to speed with 10 GCSE (high school) subjects quickly and found that the patience I have for emotional learning and training health care professionals, did not translate to my boundary -pushing, 13-year-old twins. So, I started knitting again. Knitting helped me stay present with my children without being impatient about their learning process, it helped me multi-task in a useful way, and it quietened the fears within.
As a family, as a wife and mother, and as a business owner, I have had a lot to consider, with immense long-term implications. What contributed to these decisions being too much was in part that the emotional reality was a context of terror. Terror fuelled not by the unknown but by the known. My husband had had acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS - a common consequence of severe COVID) after heart surgery for two weeks in ICU in 2013 and we have been dealing with the long-term respiratory disorder my husband has been left with ever since.
My heart broke many times last year as I said goodbye to loved and valued colleagues, to one of my businesses, and the clinical and training centre I had dreamed of creating for a decade. The heartbreak I fear most, we have protected ourselves from. I am so proud of my children who have so consistently sacrificed so much to protect their father. Our fierce commitment to make sure we do everything in our power to try not to have to face ICU and ventilators again, has only increased and crystalised. My heart goes out to all of you touched by these challenges.
It has been devastating and my broken heart was mendable. In part it mended with conscious awareness of what was happening inside me, the feelings being stirred up by my experiences, the anxiety spiking, the almost constant panic and the guilt that initially paralysed me. In part mended with caring, careful and precise attention.
And it mended with connection and love.
I don’t think these losses, even in the context of terror, made it too much. What made it too much was the intense disconnection I experienced in many guises. And for me, who has coped with so much in my life through the powerful connections I make; these disconnects, pushed me from within my capacity to beyond.
Finding a way to reconnect and mend, in the midst of this incredibly disconnecting time; this will be one of my proudest achievements, whatever happens next.
And this achievement is an ‘us’ achievement, it is a ‘land of and’ achievement. I AND the amazing people around me; from the emails of encouragement I keep receiving to my team taking redundancy with integrity and dignity; from people looking in my eye (as best as is possible on zoom) and letting me know they care and are with me, to my therapist showing me her fierce care towards me just when I needed to hear it. Slowly, I mend.
At home, we have cabin fever but are all really well, and five pretty awesome blankets have been knitted. And from the rich ashes three fantastic associates have joined my clinical service - Connection Studio, our Emotional Systems online courses have grown, three eBooks are in the pipeline and my podcast is launched. Suffice to say that the waves and tsunamis of complex feelings have generally passed, and still moments have brought clarity and rejuvenation. I have always loved the image of the phoenix, but never more so than now. A mythical creature yet in reality evolution has given us the emotional systems we need for powerful reconnection and emergence in the face of loss. Together we can have courage, step forwards and ensure that we connect with ourselves, with each other and the planet we call home.
Dr Jess Bolton
Tenacious Emotional Connection and Emotional Systems Pragmatist
Consultant Clinical Psychologist