Monday, January 17, 2011
Suffering and Loveliness
"When I am willing to question and therefore feel whatever is there - terror, hatred, anger - with curiosity, the feelings relax, because they are met with kindness and openness instead of resistance and rejection. To the degree that my feelings are familiar, that I've felt them before in similar situations - feeling left out, rejected, abandoned - the willingness to allow them offers a completely different scenario than the situation in which they first developed. ~ Geneen Roth, Women, Food and G-d
I've had my head in Geneen Roth's newest book, Women, Food and G-d. And its good.
Among the gems in her latest book, Roth talks about reteaching ourselves loveliness. She talks about acceptance, letting go of self - hate, being willing to feel our feelings, living in the moment and using our compulsions to teach us about who we are, who we want to be and what we need.
Okay, the ideas are not altogether new. The 12 step folks have been talking about these for decades, and so have meditation masters, religious leaders and therapists. Sometimes its the same messages with different wrappings. But the messages are aways good. And Roth's packaging is gentle and easy, and often poignant. That does not mean that living the message is easy, but that's the good news, actually. It means there is possibility.
The messages stretch beyond food and eating disorders, they flow into marriage issues, career, grief, finding love, personal growth. One big obstacle to progress is the negative voice. Roth (and others) call it The Voice. The 12 step folks call it "the disease." Some call it your negative tapes, your inner critic. Your repetitions. Whatever you call it, its the voice that says you can't be helped, that there is no hope, that its all bunk. That you are awful, or that those who are frustrating you are awful. Its the voice of status quo that keeps you doing what you've always done. Its the voice behind the idea that familiarity is comfortable (and it is sometimes!), but not when it is driven by fear, or by the not quite clear notion that in order to stay safe, you will have to do what you always did.
Many of us find that what worked to protect us most of our lives often stops working for us once we are in relationships, or trying to advance in careers, or personal growth as we age along. When we slow down and study things a bit, we can see inside ourselves, our relationships and let things breath and change.
Here in my office, where feelings are welcomed "with tenderness," as Roth says, things can get sorted through, and life can get better.
I often work with couples and individuals who are suffering. Some from obsessions, from anxiety, rumination, or anger. Some from frustrating relationships, fear or grief. People often find that progress and relief come from talking it out, from letting your fear flag fly, letting your anger breath, and then uncoil.
I really like Roth's idea of reteaching ourselves loveliness. Its such a soft approach to all the hard feelings we endure when things are not working quite the way we'd like them to. It is lovely to feel and not be swept away from it. It is lovely to feel and not necessarily act, or destroy or lash out. Or in. It takes practice, of course. But Roth says that we are very good at practicing suffering, that we can redirect ourselves to practicing kindness, to ourselves and to others.
I am, of course, inclined to agree.