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Hope Forward: Surviving and Thriving through Emotional Pain: December 2013

Monday, December 30, 2013

The Year in Review (sort of) and Hope Forward Again

As the year turns again, I've been thinking a lot about hope and about resiliency and about resources.
I've been thinking about complicated grief, complicated life choices, sacrifice, joy and meaning.

Lots of folks this year in my office have talked out and through difficult relationship issues.  Some have stayed in the relationship and tried to climb through the mountain of anger and sadness and do what needs to be done to cultivate a culture of mutual respect and to bring back the love and seen surprising good results. Others have decided to move on and forward.

Some folks have keep at the good - but not always easy - work of understanding more about their relationship with themselves.  Some have dug into the past to see how it effects the present and could shape the future.  Others have been talking about trauma, frustration, grief, addiction and obsession.

Some situations take time to sort through, others give way to clarity sooner.  The questions of who we are, what we need, what we are willing to sacrifice for, compromise on and invest in continue to be important and discussion worthy.

A lot of folks tell me that there is peace of mind and meaning that comes from the search.  That at least the looking serves the purpose of honoring one's self, spirit and psyche.  That even when things are not abundantly clear, there is goodness in knowing the effort is being made to find out more.

And, a lot of folks ask me "What if I try (to heal, figure it out, do this method or that) and it doesn't work? What if there is nothing left to try?"  So this is where hope can be painful.  But I think that there are always new places to explore, and there are old places to explore again in new ways. 

Sometimes, we are even afraid of better.  Someone once asked me "Why does getting better - feeling better even - seem to make me feel worse sometimes?"  And I think that maybe it's because the familiar is so comforting and we think that the fear and the worry will keep us from something really bad happening.  That the things that kept us feeling safe no longer work really as we move forward in life is a daunting idea sometimes.

But I land on hope anyway.  I think that when we are sorting it all through -   be it quickly or slowly - that if we have our sources of nourishment in place, we can keep at it and it pays off.  We just have to take good care of our sources: our supportive relationships, our spiritual life, our service to others, our safe places to talk, our quiet time, our genuine pleasures - the places where we get uncomplicated good feelings -  and then we can keep on keeping on as the rest unfolds.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Lee and Mordy and Ellen and " We Compromise: She's Always RIght"

It's sweeping the nation: 

Lee and Mordy's Swiffer commercial and their comic but relate- able exchange.  Lee is talking; Mordy is sleeping.  Lee is cleaning; Mordy is watching tenderly, hoping she does not fall.  He does not do any cleaning, he tells Ellen DeGeneres. And when she asks him to what he attributes the success of a long marriage he says:

"You compromise.  Then I give in."  Everyone chuckles.

And it's sweet.  And maybe we are laughing because we recognize some of ourselves, some truisms about how relationships work, about the ways to make a marriage work over the years.

But - not that I want to put a but into Lee and Mordy - But a few things:

First: It is often a good marital tool to give in.  To grace, to concede, to not have to have our way.  It's okay and outside of abuse, it is often useful.  Except when resentment creeps in and starts to color how we feel.  Except when we dumb ourselves - or our spouse down. 

Dumbing men down and witching women up does not help us to come into our relationships with the emotional strength and maturity we need to make things good.

While there are many general truisms about gender differences (and even some bio genetically based evidence now scientifically supporting how differently men and women process emotion) and while these truisms can help us to laugh at ourselves, grace ourselves and our partner,  the feeling that many men have is that their only way out of discord is to give in.  Often men simmer over long periods of time. feeling either defeated, frustrated or resentful.  And they often then, retreat emotionally.

And women then wonder why their man does share more of himself, more of his thoughts, more of his ideas.  And they wonder why he withdraws, and so goes the cycle. 

If every - or almost every - word or action we do is aimed at creating a culture of support, of building up, not breaking down - if we are conscious of this and careful - women get so much more of the emotional connection they crave and men get so much more of the feeling of respect and effectiveness they need.

Morty did say, too, and first, that you have to love each other.  What he did not say is that it's hard to do in a culture of defeat.  We can - and we should - laugh at ourselves and the dynamics in our relationships and at the gender differences that play out, but only when we are in sync and connected and are laughing on a foundation of clarity and mutual acceptance.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Grace and Grief

and this too

“Grief, as I read somewhere once, is a lazy Susan. One day it is heavy and underwater, and the next day it spins and stops at loud and rageful, and the next day at wounded keening, and the next day numbness, silence.”    ~ Anne Lamott

I just finished Anne Lamott's latest book, Stitches, and wanted to bring you a few quotes; there some more... especially on grief that I will bring you soon as well.

Because we are all, in one way or another, at one time or another, grieving.  And sometimes that grief comes in disguise.  It shows up as anger or fear or agitation or overwhelm or lethargy or depression.  And sometimes even when life is rolling along seeming okay, but our mood is off somehow, grief can be the cause.

What sometimes comes up here in the therapy room is this:  the idea that when we have a feeling or reaction that is really big in current time, it is often because it is a re-trauma, or re-experience or reminder of something from our past.  Meaning that something can happen in a current relationship, a current job situation, interaction or event of some kind, and we feel it deeply.  It certainly has importance in it's own and current time and right, but we may experience it and react to it with more power because of past trauma or past experiences.

It usually helps to know.  To shine the light on things a bit because when we can figure it out, we have a better chance of  recognizing, healing and living better with the grief.   If our past is still effecting the way we respond in the present, then it's shaping our future. 

So that's where grace comes in.  When we allow ourselves all of our feelings, and let ourselves be curious and studious about whether they are old ones or new ones or some of both.  And then we can be open to grace, for ourselves and others.