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Hope Forward: Surviving and Thriving through Emotional Pain: April 2014

Monday, April 28, 2014

April: Memory and Desire

“April is the cruelest month, breeding
lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
memory and desire, stirring
dull roots with spring rain.”
T.S. Eliot, The Waste Land    

It's almost the end of April and in the Northeast we are slowly inching toward better weather.  It is, I think, finally, getting warm.

The sunshine and good weather are definitely good news especially for those who suffer from seasonal affective disorder, depression, and anxiety.  The ability to step outside and tilt one's face toward the sun, absorb some Vitamin D and take deep breaths of fresh air can go a long way toward lifting moods and calming fears.

When I read this poem from T.S. Elliot I am moved by how much it conveys some truths of emotional pain.  Especially grief and longing.  The blending of remembering what was, or what was lost, or even the fantasy of what was, or what was lost, and longing for those good feelings, or that person, or for emotional relief and contentment to trump the hurting.

We are resilient.  It may not always feel like it, but I believe it's true.  Sometimes we need a lot of soul searching, a lot of talking, a lot nurturing and some rigorous but gentle honesty about what we really need, how we are behaving, what we hope for, expect and desire.  And we can't always push the process, move the months, the way we might like to, but relief comes, progress happens, I believe.  Things open up when you keep looking.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Mistakes, Motives, and "I've had three different marriages - to the same man."

“In case you haven't noticed, people get hard-hearted against the people they hurt. Because they can't stand it. Literally. To think we did that to someone. I did that. So we think of all the reasons why it's okay we did whatever we did.”
Elizabeth Strout, The Burgess Boys

When we have hurt someone, or have done something that does not seem right, it can be so hard to study it, to take a look at what all the moving parts were and are, and to take a deeper look at our motives.  And most of time humans have mixed motives.  And most of the time we are just trying to protect ourselves, get our needs met, cope with emotional pain, communicate something that we cannot exactly articulate.  Sometimes we are trying to get someone to understand something, or find a way to make sense of something, or get what we think we have to have in order to survive, in order to deal with something we think is unforgivable, or unacceptable to ourselves or to others. 

And often there is fear.  Fear and shame.  Fear and anger.  Fear and frustration. 

The irony is, when it comes to emotional pain and mistakes or hurt, that taking a look at our motives when it comes to our mistakes, and having them be understood, usually goes a long way toward healing.  Not just for the person we may have hurt, but for ourselves. 

It's like losing weight in our minds and in our hearts.

Understanding our motives does not necessarily mean that we are off the hook.  Sometimes amends need to be made, whenever possible. 

But it's a start. 

And sometimes we might be surprised that healing really can  happen.  And that new ideas, new hope, new chapters can begin.   I once heard a colleague of mine say that she has had three different marriages -  to the same man.  

It may sound cliche, corny even, but we grow from things, and we can learn from our mistakes.  Even, maybe, especially, the ones with unconscious motives.  And relief can come from taking a look, more, I think, than it comes from either ignoring, denying, or defending ourselves without a true knowledge of our motives, needs and shortcomings.  We all have them after all.   And I think it's easier to move forward and get relief, and have better all around when we take out the self attack and take in curiosity, responsibility and repair.