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Hope Forward: Surviving and Thriving through Emotional Pain: Down Dark Hallways

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Down Dark Hallways

Why do we go? Over and over again I hear folks tell me that they go to places that they know are not safe. I am not talking about real places even, though that too. Certainly that. But to cyber places and mental places. I have been thinking most recently about ruminating and perseverating. About going over and over again in our mind a particular event, memory or idea. Trying to grind our fists together to reverse time, or work out a problem or change history. Or figure out why someone acted or spoke the way they did.

How is it that we pursue relief by excessive thinking? And hurt ourselves at the same time.

The twelve step folks will tell you that this is downright dangerous; thinking that we can think our way out of something on our own. Thinking that we can control something or someone, or get relief by obsessive reviewing in our mind by ourselves.

Some of us, being altogether too human, recoil at the idea that we may have made some mistakes along the way, that if we were wrong, then we are worthless. (five mistakes a day says a pal of mine - ten if part of the time we are awake). So we review, rethink, revisit ad nausium so as to try not to have been wrong. Or to punish ourselves if we think we were. Often times self name calling goes along with this kind of mind wringing ("you idiot," "what were you thinking?" "Dummy," "screwed it up again, " or worse, and you know what I mean!). We take ourselves down over things. And we forget to build ourselves back up.

Some of us go to cyber hell. A friend of mine just got divorced, and before the ink was dry on the papers, her ex-husband remarried. She knew it was coming, but still. Of course the new couple has a web page and a blog of their happiness and joy. So what does my friend do? She checks out that blog almost everyday. She saw the blow by blow of the honeymoon (para sailing at sunset in Hawaii), and lots of very cuddly pics of the newly wed bliss. And my friend goes into convulsions of emotional angst. She thinks about all the times that he promised her a vacation and never would plan one. She remembers all the things she thinks she could have done to keep him from leaving (the "if only I had just...), and she remembers what a louse he was (in her opinion), and she signs onto the computer and looks at him now and puts logs on the fire of her pain.

Down the dark hallway into dark dark rooms.

I am not suggesting we don't revisit painful experiences and reflect on our role, and our lives. (I am a therapist after all!), but I am suggesting we don't go alone, and we don't stay too long at any given time.

And that we leave a trail back out of the woods so that we don't get totally lost. A few crumbs of truth, like that we can move forward, that our value is still intact, that while we are shaped by grief, loss, disappointment, regret and anger, we don't have to be ruled by it. That feelings are not always facts. We can agree with ourselves that we will leave room to meditate on the positive, recall our strengths, accomplishments, gratitudes (yes, we all have them, you can come up with at least a few in each category!)

A little grace goes a long way. Especially to hurt souls.

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