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Hope Forward: Surviving and Thriving through Emotional Pain: August 2012

Monday, August 27, 2012

Suffering in Silent Desperation

Often people tell me when they come to talk that they'd been thinking about coming in for a while.  Sometimes for a long while.  Not everyone who decides to open a dialogue about their life or their relationships or their psyche has been suffering emotionally, but it's more common then you'd think.

We have  great resiliency and often think that we can go it alone, or that it's not so bad, or it will get better.  And things do, often.  Time has a way of healing us and moving us along.  But it's not always enough.  Many times people wait for their relationships to really crumble, for the emotional distance between them to grow so deep and wide that it's almost impossible to bridge it.  Sometimes we wait for something to shake us up or wake us out of our reverie, or we act out in ways that are vengeful, self harming or overly dramatic in order to get our message across or relieve the frustration, monotony or pain.  And sometimes we wait until resentment and doubt have grown so big that we cannot really see our way back.  We might move past wanting understanding and resolution and want revenge, escape, or both.

Sometimes moods dive, anxiety heightens and we just don't feel well.  But we keep on keeping on thinking something's got to give.  We tolerate loneliness, fear, frustration and depression, thinking that to start talking about it won't change things.  Or at least not fast enough.  We agree with ourselves to suffer, feeling desperate, but feeling bad about feeling so lost, as if trying to address things is some sort of admission of defeat instead of an act of strength and rightness.

In some ways, we almost like our suffering.  Not when it gets too dark, or too frightening, but just before that.  There may even be something noble in it.  And people often tell me, "well, it's not like I don't have food or running water.  I should be grateful."  As if this means their pain should not exist or they are being selfish for feeling their feelings.  (Gratitude and perspective is essential to emotional wellness, of course, but it does not negate pain).

We do have a responsibility I think, to ourselves, to take care of our suffering when it heats up.  We have to be curious about why we ignore it if we are ignoring it, or what really we are waiting for before taking action to make things better.  There are many choices.  Therapy, of course, but also, friends, books, support groups, personal growth classes, marriage retreats, 12 step programs, motivational seminars, wellness programs.  We don't have to go it alone, and we don't have to keep suffering in silence.

Monday, August 13, 2012

All You Have to Worry About Today is Fun

A friend of mine told me the following story.  She was at the beach last week, sitting in the froth and watching her kids run in and out of the ocean.  It was a classically gorgeous day on the Jersey Shore.  She was thinking about how good it felt to just be.  She was warm and happy and in that moment, totally serene.

And then her thoughts started in on her.  Lightly at first, her mind wandered from the sail boats on the horizon to what she was going to make for dinner.  Then she was thinking about what time they should head back home, and then she started thinking about her marriage, and then her job, and slowly her mood started to dive.

And as she started slipping out of the moment, a five year old boy who was building a sand castle a few feet away from her walked over to her out of the blue.  "All you have to worry about today is fun," he said, and then he turned and went back over to his sand castle.  My friend said that for a moment or two she thought she had imagined it.  It was hot, maybe she was hallucinating.  And she began to laugh, a slow, gentle, head nodding laugh. 

She wanted to know what to make of it.  What did I think?  So I think that sometimes we get messages in the most amazing ways, when we are open to them. We could, we decided, chalk it up to silly coincidence.  But the truth is that my friend suffers from chronic worry, rumination and a longing for more serenity in her life.  And for permission to take a break from the thinking and planning and straining and to just have fun.  So we decided not to chalk it up to silly coincidence- and to chalk it up to being a gift.  That there is a time and a place to think, to study life, to plan, to be with our feelings and thoughts and to review them, but there is a time to not.

And not is just as valuable. 

Of course worry and anxiety and rumination don't just evaporate because we decide they should.  Sometimes, we do have tend to them, unpack and honor them in orde to get relief, but I do smile at the idea that some days, all we have to worry about is fun.