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Hope Forward: Surviving and Thriving through Emotional Pain: October 2010

Monday, October 25, 2010

Trick or Treat: Curiosity And Compassion and How We Treat Ourselves

"I've seen the worst of myself and I've survived." ~ Anonymous

"I've seen the best of myself, and I've survived that, too." ~ Just as Anonymous

And just in time for Halloween, though I am not usually so themed...but I just can't help it this week. With all the haystacks and pumpkins and scarecrows around. Not to mention the barrage of eye candy on all the trees.

If you are hurt or hurting, or depression and its BFF anxiety are following you around, then taking a look up at the leaves and inhaling the fresh fall air (at least here in New Jersey - and yes, there is fresh fall air here), may seem pointless at best, and painful at worst. Even if you are walking around in mild, but annoying despair or disappointment, it is possible to breath in a bit of hope and consider how you are treating yourself these days.

If you are grappling with grief, or frustration or anger, are you talking about it? Writing about it? Taking the time to honor it, feel it and tend to it? Are you able to take in good feelings as well, or do the bad feelings steal everything?

Recently, I was discussing with a group of healers whether its better to think yourself into acting or act yourself into thinking. Which is the quickest route to relief when you are hurting or trying to change something that is no longer serving you well? It was a lively debate, and the bottom line was: both. Depends on the situation, on your unconscious mind, on the severity of the pain. But either way, it was agreed that being curious about your feelings and feeling them, and studying them with compassion, is the bottom line below the bottom line. It's the treat behind the trick.

Whatever path you take toward working on your stuff, on your relationship with yourself and others, on feeling better, or having more, its best done with curiosity and compassion. Many folks, when in emotional pain are so prone to self attack, to giving themselves a hard time for feeling what they feel, that they stay stuck in the feeling just by trying not to feel it. And they beat themselves up for that too. And sometimes, underneath all the struggling is the quiet whisper of "It must be me." Meaning that even when things are going haywire, and people around us are acting like goons and goblins, somewhere, many of us think its really our fault somehow.

And there is some truth in this, we usually do have a role in our circumstance somehow. That's not to say that we registered at Macy's for it, lots of times it's unconscious of course. And it's not to say that we are responsible for the behavior of others, but we may play a part, and we do have the ability to take a look at ourselves. Another can-be trick, toward making life better. As long as it comes with the treat of compassion.

It's not aways easy to walk in the door here. My office is nice. The couch is comfy. Its quiet here, and conducive to talking. But still and all, many folks are nervous about it. Even those who've been to therapy before.

Perhaps it's fear of the unknown, or of having to start anew, or start at all. Sometimes it's both the anticipation and anxiety of getting to tell your story. In here, there is nothing that can't be talked about. That does not mean everything has to be talked about. But there are no off limits feelings or thoughts or subjects.

I don't think that has to only apply to the therapy room, though. I think we can practice letting ourselves breath in the fresh air, -even when we are huring - maybe especially when we are hurting - enjoy the leaves and get to know our own stories. And taking the tact of curiosity and compassion can go along way toward paving the way for progress no matter what the path or setting.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

When Doing Your 1% Seems Like Pushing a Truck Uphill in the Mud

"I finally figured out that I had a choice: I could suffer a great deal, or not, for a long time, or I could have the combo platter: suffer, breathe, play, pray, cry and try to help people. There was meaning in the pain. It taught you how to survive with a modicum of grace when you did not get what you wanted." ~ Anne Lamott, Grace (Eventually)

The road from suffering to freedom is just so full of potholes. Lately, I've been hearing a lot about the connection between fear and anger, and between forgiveness and freedom.

I hear from wives who are angry when their husbands want to play more golf (or be out more, doing whatever). They feel unloved, and fear they are not important enough, or won't get the love and attention they need. (and, btw, its often not the going out more that bothers wives, its their husbands wanting to).

I hear from husbands who are angry that their wives don't respect them enough. They fear that they are not doing a good enough job, that they are not effective as partners and providers. They are angry that their wives need so much emotional connection. They fear they will not be able to provide it, and then will not get the things they need, like sex, and space, and trust and appreciation.

I hear from singles who are angry they cannot find a life partner. They fear they will always be alone, and missing out on what couplehood has to offer. Or fear they are unloveable or unable to love.

I hear from professionals who are angry they are not making enough money, have to work crazy hours, or may get laid off. They fear for their livelihood, effectiveness and value.
The fears often run far deeper, even, which we discover when we unpack them. And tackling them can feel like pushing a truck uphill in the mud.

The folks in 12 step like to say that if you do your 1%, G-d will do the rest. But sometimes, emotional pain, (and anger is, I think, pretty close to the top of the list as far as emotional pain goes), and fear and frustration often make doing your 1% seem like walking upstream in the deep end of the Amazon River.
Besides, half the time, we don't even know what our 1% is.
But we can find out. And maybe that's enough. Its a good start anyway. It means a lot of talking, or writing or praying. It often involves muddling through a lot of self attack and feelings of self pity, but if we are brave, we can do it. We don't always have to assume the worst about ourselves, or others. We can give good consideration to the best in ourselves, and others, and take it from there.
That, and allowing ourselves to have all our feelings, makes truck pushing and river walking much easier, I think. And it leads the way to forgiveness of ourselves and others, and freedom from the fear and frustration.
The suffering does not have to eclipse the rest of life, and knowing that can help a lot.