Those Constant, Background Gumbo Ingredients

Not too long ago, we talked about my client that felt like she had a thousand things wrong with her life, when there were only three. And then we talked about this more generally, using the analogy of a gumbo to describe the ingredients contributing to how we feel at any given moment. Because often there’s more than one ingredient, and it’s helpful to see this when it’s happening. So today I wanted to mention some ingredients that can be in the background, serving as sort of a constant. And they add to whatever else is going on in our lives, amplifying our feelings.

I have a client that has a major issue with her shoulder that requires surgery. It’s quite painful, and her body doesn’t seem to like the pain meds. It’s also been tough for her to sleep as a result. So she thought she was slipping in terms of her peace, because any little thing that happened would get her really triggered. But when we talked about how she has this constant situation in her life now while she awaits surgery and then recovery, it all made more sense to her. She was in great judgment of herself, thinking she was really losing it. And then we saw that under the circumstances, it would be normal to be more easily triggered! So she’s much more vigilant now of how she feels, and she’s much more loving to herself as well. And she’s really making sure to practice bookending her days in the right frame of mind.

So she had this going on, and the shoulder was getting more and more painful, and then she caught a cold. And her doctor wouldn’t prescribe antibiotics because she didn’t want to compromise her immune system (I think that’s the reasoning there). And it lingered for a month before she finally demanded (nicely but firmly) antibiotics. And then it went away. But that month was even worse! Why? Because now she had two of these constant ingredients in the background. So she was even more susceptible to being triggered by things that would not normally be such a big deal. We’re on to it, though, and now she knows exactly what’s going on. And this deeper understanding has helped her to navigate the shoulder situation with way more peace than before.

So what are some other examples of these constant, background ingredients? Maybe if you’re in an extra tight spot financially. Or the weather… like if it’s been raining for days and you don’t like the rain. Or if it’s been really cold and you don’t like the cold. And speaking from our experience living here in Pensacola, Florida, if it’s extremely hot! Last summer seemed like it had an extra long period of oppressive heat and humidity, and many people just get cranky when it’s like that. I’ve heard the murder rate in New Orleans actually rises in the summer, perhaps for this very reason. Who knows?

Also you might have a bad situation at your job or with a close relationship, a situation that’ll take some time to play out and get resolved. A relative might be sick. Or if a loved one passes away, that’s an ingredient called grief that’ll usually be around for a while. Maybe you just don’t like your house or your roommate. Maybe you don’t like the current political climate, which is happening quite a bit now in the US. I talked with another client about this just recently, in fact, since she’s noticed how greatly it seems to be affecting her peace.

As you can see, there are many examples. When these things are going on, they can act as constant ingredients that are always there in the background, and they serve to amplify everything else. But when you know this is happening, the effect isn’t as strong, because it all makes more sense. And you know what? You feel better. It’s really the same as what happening with my client that’s kicking ass with bipolar – she’s doing it with more and more awareness. Because when you don’t understand what’s going on (low awareness), it can seem like there are a thousand things wrong and it’s all hopeless and you’re a terrible person. Not true! So pay attention to this stuff and maybe it can help. And as always, I’m here to help if I can 🙂