Have you noticed how distress narrows your focus?

The problematic conversation, tricky decision, or unwelcome symptom is like the fog that blankets your inner system, blocking everything else. It doesn’t feel like you have the necessary resources to tackle the challenge. Frustration can spiral into despair or hopelessness.

How can you regain clarity? What helps broaden your perspective?

First, let’s talk about what doesn’t work.

Bypassing pain with platitudes is an understandable protective strategy, but it dishonors your experience. We do it to ourselves and “offer” it to others because it is challenging to turn toward vulnerability with curiosity. Protective strategies are always well-intentioned but they aren’t the most effective and loving way to address challenges.

Advice-giving is another common protective strategy that is equally dismissive if not sought by the person in pain. It is particularly frustrating when you share something distressing, and another person shifts the focus to their experience and advice about what worked for them. There’s a time and place for that, but if it’s the initial response, chances are the part of you holding pain will feel invalidated.

So, what does work? What helps lift the fog?

The first step is to notice and thank the parts of you who work diligently to keep you from focusing on pain—your protectors. They fear you’ll be overwhelmed by distressing emotions or distorted beliefs. Their perspective is influenced by past events where you were overwhelmed. When you connect with them, your presence reassures them that you hear them, appreciate them, and are a trustworthy leader.

Landmarks begin emerging from the fog.

When protectors trust you, you can shift your attention to whoever is holding distress. Where do you feel tension in your body? Start there. Can you be with it, welcoming it as it is? Your presence is what tender parts of you need most. They have been cut off from connection, sometimes for many years.

When your heart is open, and you feel curious and confident, ask if they would like to share their story.

This is the heart of healing. Adversity inevitably happens, but if we have someone trustworthy to process our experience with, we release the impact. It is never too late to offer that to members of your internal family. The more you practice this inside, the more you will be able to offer the same compassionate presence to friends and family when they are caught in the fog.

If protectors move in to distract you or you feel anxious about connecting with vulnerability, It is essential to go at the pace that feels safe to your system. Your most vulnerable stories are typically buried under layers of protection, and it might require support from a trusted friend, spiritual director, or therapist to be able to be with them.

As you connect with members of your inner family and build relationships with them, clarity is much more accessible. There will even be days of pure blue skies!

For most of us, the reality is more like a complex sky where sunshine peeks through storm clouds. The blue sky is there—your God-given resources are only obscured, not absent.

I am holding onto the hope of healing for you and with you.