How to Let Go When You’re Dwelling on Negative Thoughts
“There is nothing more important to true growth than realizing that you are not the voice of the mind—you are the one who hears it.” ~Michael Singer
My husband and I recently moved into a new home. Shortly after we moved in, I left a wooden cutting board in the sink, where it was submerged in water.
My husband told me, in a tentative voice, that he didn’t want to upset me, but I really shouldn’t leave the cutting board in the water like that, because it would get warped and destroyed.
In case you couldn’t tell, my husband was actually nervous to tell me he wanted me to do something differently.
Sure, in this case I didn’t take any offense to his comment—why should I, really? But the disappointing truth is that I often react by becoming sullen and moody and sometimes even defensive and argumentative.
Luckily, shortly before this conversation I’d been listening to a podcast the subject of letting go, about how our minds are not our souls; they’re our psyches.
In other words, I was in a pretty peaceful place, easily able to see how any thoughts about how he was wrong or he shouldn’t have said that to me or that I was a horrible person for leaving a cutting board in the sink were very, very easy to let go of.
It felt great. I didn’t get upset, I didn’t say anything mean; I just said no problem and moved on. Not just on the outside, but on the inside, too.
It’s still not always that way for me, though.
In fact, a very recent interaction with my husband was a different story entirely. I’d gone to the store for a few last minute things before Thanksgiving, and when I came home my husband could see that I had purchased a tube of toothpaste—the wrong kind.
As soon as I walked through the door he said, “Crest? Why did you get Crest? We always get Colgate!” And, at least from my perspective, he didn’t say it in all that friendly of a tone.
I immediately got defensive and took on his tone and told him he didn’t have to use it if he didn’t want to, then I went into the kitchen and went back and forth between seething and hating myself.
Luckily, somewhere in that process, I was able to, just for a moment, name what was going on inside my body and mind instead of being completely sucked into it.
I said to myself, as though I was describing symptoms to a doctor, what was going on. “I feel all jumbled up in my chest, and my stomach feels nervous. I notice that I am feeling really bad about something small, and I’m really, really blowing it out of proportion.”
To be upset about something so insignificant is probably indicative of a larger problem, of course; in this case, the fact that I was stressed about holiday prep and my upcoming birthday and, well the list could have gone on, I’m sure.
Still, this is an absolutely perfect example of how the smallest things can unhinge us, even when we’re walking a spiritual path or doing our best to improve ourselves and our lives.
I know I’m not alone. I see it in my husband, I see it in co-workers and friends.
We’re so busy trying to be right, trying to keep our egos and sense of self safe, that we don’t let things go. We let thoughts take over our hearts and minds, and often ruin relationships in the process.
I feel so frustrated at myself when I look back at all the times I’ve not been able to let things go and have reacted negatively, but that doesn’t help me move forward, either.
How can I consistently be calm? How can I consistently let go of the things, both big and small, that cause so much internal turmoil?
Always, always return to the stillness inside me, for one. I know it’s there, I’ve felt it. I’m just better at accessing it sometimes more than others.
That stillness is the place from which I believe our true selves speak, and that true self is not concerned with small things, or worried about keeping our egos afloat.
I know taking three deep breaths helps me do it. I know simply telling myself that “these thoughts are not me” helps me do it.
Besides accessing the stillness, naming what I’m feeling, as I mentioned earlier, really helps. It puts a distance between me and the thoughts pulsing through my head, again helping me to remember that I am not my thoughts.
Acknowledging that I’m spiraling or feeling sorry for myself helps, too. I think it’s something about knocking back that part of me that always has to be right and telling it I see it and I want it to go away.
Another way to let go is to ask myself if this will matter in an hour, a day, a week, a month, a year. Usually it won’t matter, and that, too, allows me to give myself some space to move on.
I know there are certain things in life that do need to be dealt with, that are bigger than a tussle over toothpaste. I still think those are best dealt with by first letting go of that negative, insistent voice, though.
I think back to when I was in my early twenties and a job I was supposed to have was given to a guy who’d recently returned to the inn where I worked, even though he’d abruptly disappeared for another job and left the inn owner in a bind.
I was so mad, so angry, that I stormed out, packed all of my stuff (I lived on premises), went back to the office, quit, and then drove away.
I’m not saying quitting wasn’t the right option for me, because it probably was. The owner of the inn was new to the game and extraordinarily disorganized, and I probably would have been miserable for the whole winter.
Still, there was a better, calmer way to handle things that would have left me feeling more balanced and sure about myself and my decisions.
If I could go back fifteen years, I think I’d tell myself to take a few deep breaths. To be still. I wasn’t meditating yet, or even aware that I was in charge of my thoughts, but I would tell that younger woman to find her center and go from there.
I’m genuinely tired of letting my mind run my life. I want to let go, to let decisions come from the deepest part of myself. I think by remembering to find the stillness and let the negative thoughts pass by, and to find any way possible to separate myself from them whenever possible, my life will be much closer to peaceful.
Jen Picicci is an artist who believes in better living through pretty colors and kind words. She creates uplifting tree and word art, and when she doesn’t have a paintbrush in her hand, she can be found wrangling a preschooler, petting a cat, or hugging a tree. To learn more about her and get a 20% off coupon, visit www.jenpicicci.com.
Get in the conversation! Click here to leave a comment on the site.
The post How to Let Go When You’re Dwelling on Negative Thoughts appeared first on Tiny Buddha.
What Annoys Us About Others Can Teach Us About Ourselves
“Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.” ~Carl Jung
When my wife and I had children, little did we know that we’d be creating little bundles of nerves. Between my wife’s depression and my own anxiety, we created two anxiety-ridden, depressed balls of mess, and then some.
Don’t get me wrong, we love our two girls to death, and we are very proud of them. They are both very strong and beautiful young ladies. Occasionally we like hanging out with them too.
While the two girls have similar interests, their personalities couldn’t be more different. They both exhibit anxiety and depression, yet they show it in different ways. The oldest has panic attacks and hyperventilates, unable to stop herself from crying and heaving. The youngest just curls up in a ball and is unable to move or do anything.
We find it interesting that the qualities we love, and those we dislike, about both girls stem from both of us. It is as if though the Universe took the best and the worst from both of us and amplified it in our children.
All That Talent Gone to Waste
My oldest daughter is naturally talented in many areas. She’s strong and athletic, she’s naturally artistic, she’s smart, and she also has a talent for music. She has a beautiful voice, and picked up playing classical guitar in almost no time.
What drives my wife crazy is that my daughter doesn’t realize how talented and gifted she is.
What drives me crazy is that she doesn’t develop that talent, and do something with it. She has so much potential.
As parents, it is easy for us to look at our children and wail and moan about their perceived shortcomings, their lost potential, and so forth. We know what they are going through, because we have both been there. We both struggle with anxiety, so we know what it looks like and how it affects our children.
In general, isn’t it easier to see the shortcomings that we perceive in other people, than our own?
What I’ve realized, however, is that our children mirror our own behaviors and attitudes as parents. What annoy us about our children’s personalities are often quirks we ourselves have.
This principle actually applies to all our relationships, not just with those of us with children. We should stop and ask ourselves, “Am I setting that example? Am I acting the same way?” Often, we don’t realize that what annoys us about someone else is actually an issue we ourselves have.
For instance, in extreme cases, children who exhibit violent behaviors often come from violent households. They are mirroring the behavior they have been exposed to at home.
In my wife’s case, it drives her crazy that my oldest daughter doesn’t realize how talented and gifted she is, even though my wife clearly sees it. Yet, when I look at my wife, I see the same thing in her! It is indeed ironic.
My wife doesn’t think she’s very talented or gifted, and wonders what people see in her. Obviously I saw something in her, because I married her! So the very issue that irritates my wife about my daughter is the very issue that she herself unconsciously struggles with.
So Much Potential…
What drives me nuts about my oldest daughter? It frustrates me that I see so much potential in her, and yet I don’t see her developing it. She has so much natural talent, she could be a leader. Her peers look up to her and admire her, and she doesn’t even realize it.
What does this say about me? Am I the same way?
Looking at myself through the same lenses, I am forced to laugh, because I do see the same thing! Like my daughter, I probably have many talents I don’t even realize I have. Looking at myself from the outside, I think I have the potential to be a leader as well, but I choose not to. I had so much potential…
Learning About Ourselves
From this perspective, I can’t really blame my daughter. I have social anxiety and don’t want to deal with people, and I know she does too. Often times I’ll go out of my way to avoid people. What I perceive as my daughter not developing her talents is more than likely her not wanting to be the center of attention. I can relate to that—I don’t like being the center of attention either.
I never thought I would be learning about myself from my own children. Sure, I figured they’d know more about new technologies than me, for example. When I have a question about how to do something on my iPhone, for instance, I go to them, and they can show me right away.
Yet, what my children are teaching me are what issues I need to deal with in myself. Perhaps I, too, have many skills and undeveloped potential, if only I could learn to manage my social anxiety. We often want our children to be different from us, to have different experiences. We don’t want them to go through the same things we struggled with, yet as much as we try or want to, we can’t change who they are.
We can, however, change ourselves. There is value in stopping to reflect on what frustrates you about your children, your family, or your friends. What behaviors irritate you? What do you think they could be doing better?
Then stop and look at yourself. Are you exhibiting the same behaviors? What could you be doing better? Are you making the changes in yourself that you’d like to see in your relationships?
Practice the Golden Rule
Of course as parents, we want to support our children and provide them everything they need to be happy, healthy, and successful. What parent doesn’t? It may frustrate us that they are not living up to their potential, as we see it—but the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree. Are they mirroring our own behavior?
As parents, we show our children love and patience, but our expectations of them should follow the mirroring principle, or the golden rule—would we want to be held to the same standards? My daughter could be captain of the soccer team, but would I want to be one, if I was in her position? Probably not.
We could make our kids practice the piano for an hour every day, and do their homework for three hours after school. Would we want to do that? Probably not.
The mirroring principle with our children, family, and friends, then, goes both ways. What can we learn about ourselves from our relationships? Conversely, what should we expect from our family and friends, that we ourselves would be willing to do?
Known as the Be at Peace Coach, José de la Torre takes a holistic approach in helping clients overcome challenges, and helps them find peace, balance, health and wellness in their lives. Keep an eye out for his book, Spiritual Living for Busy People, coming out January 30, 2018 on Amazon.com. Find out more at jose-delatorre.com, or connect on Facebook.
Get in the conversation! Click here to leave a comment on the site.
The post What Annoys Us About Others Can Teach Us About Ourselves appeared first on Tiny Buddha.
Why I Now Appreciate Years of Pain and How Gratitude Healed My Life
TRIGGER WARNING: This post deals with an account of abuse and may be triggering to some people.
“Hope is faith’s impoverished sister, but it’s a start.” ~Maureen Barberio, Gettin’ Out of Bullytown
My life wasn’t always easy. It’s not always easy now, as a matter of fact. But there was a very long period where it was quite difficult and painful. It is sad how many of us can say that, isn’t it?
I grew up in a dysfunctional home with two sisters. My father was an alcoholic and was physically and verbally abusive. My mother, herself a victim of my father’s verbal abuse, was very loving and complimentary but could do little about my father’s behavior. My mother, sisters, and I have always been very close.
Each time I was yelled at, and with each blow I received, a little bit of my spirit was broken.
Instead of gaining confidence during my grade school years, so I could enter the teen years ready to face the hormonal changes and roller coaster of emotions that go along with them, I went into the teen years feeling unworthy of anything good. I looked at my sisters and saw such beauty in them. I looked in the mirror and saw nothing but flaws.
In addition, I had done what so many children do: I assumed all blame for the abuse my father was heaping on me. I continued to look up to both my parents, as impossible as that may sound, and I took to heart every word spoken about me.
The fact that my father found me so imperfect and flawed meant it must be so. And being imperfect and flawed meant I was unlovable. The guilt and shame I felt about this was devastating, although at the time I had no idea that guilt and shame was what I was feeling.
While other girls in high school got prettier and prettier, while my sisters became prettier in my eyes, I viewed myself as less and less attractive. I watched the excitement others had about boys and dating, and I knew in my heart I would never have those things. I’d never fit in. I was different. I was unworthy.
There’s nothing like leaving a house of sadness on a sunny day, unable to enjoy the beauty of nature because your heart is so heavy that you want to die. There’s nothing like going to school and seeing how carefree your friends are, all laughing and having a great time, and joining in with them even though inside you feel like a piece of garbage who shouldn’t even have friends.
I felt phony because I had so many secrets, not the least of which was my unworthiness, which they either didn’t see or they recognized but never mentioned out of pity for me.
Even the most confident girls struggle in high school with all the changes they’re faced with. Imagine going into it convinced you’re nothing but a hideous thorn in everyone’s side. Those high school years magnify the negatives, but with the help of a loving, supportive family, young women come out of them feeling good about themselves and their future. I came out of those years just feeling worse about myself.
By the time I hit my late teens I was convinced I would never have what ‘normal’ people have in the way of a life where there’s a man who cares about you and you plan for the future and build a life together.
I was living in emotional pain, and to lessen that pain, I began drinking and using drugs. I wasn’t resorting to these things all the time, but I was using them as tools to help me instead of seeing the root of my problems and pain.
In my early twenties, I met a man I thought was simply wonderful. The attention felt incredible. I started feeling better about myself. He loved me! This was as close to feeling loved and carefree as I had ever felt before, and it was so different that I embraced it.
Six months after meeting, we began living together and then married when I was twenty-six, despite the fact that by that point he was drinking heavily and doing a lot of drugs. I guess it didn’t matter to me, because I was doing the same.
Somewhere along the way, he began being very critical of me, so I found myself on the receiving end of verbal abuse once again. I tried harder to please him, as I had spent my childhood and teen years trying to please my father while always missing the mark. The little bit of my spirit that remained was constantly chipped away.
To cope with the reality of increased disappointment and anger on the part of my husband, I went through periods of abusing drugs. During other points in our marriage I decided to live without taking substances, but my husband would push me to join him, and to keep the peace, I did.
Even though I was a fully functioning adult, had jobs and attended college, I spent more than twenty years in a verbally abusive, alcohol and drug-fueled marriage.
Each morning I’d wake up and tell myself I wasn’t going to drink or do any drugs, and each day that I failed I grew more and more disappointed in myself. I felt such intense shame about who I was and how I was living that it was difficult to even think about. I spent much time feeling depressed in a place of darkness.
Growing tired of our lifestyle, we eventually stopped drinking and taking drugs and discovered we had nothing in common. The verbal and emotional abuse continued. So at the age of forty-five, I moved out of our home into another property we owned. I had no faith that my life would ever be better, but I hoped it would, and as the quote above states, that’s a start.
There is something that is so satisfying about seeing a neglected garden of weeds and taking steps to clear them out to see what you can grow. Or watching a caterpillar move through various stages until a beautiful butterfly emerges.
There were many uncertainties I was facing, but I decided that the Universe gives us each a garden—our lives—and it’s up to us to tend to that garden to see what beautiful things we can grow. Each of us is a beautiful butterfly, and sometimes we must let ourselves go through the process of getting rid of a hard shell in order to emerge as our true, beautiful selves.
I was uncertain about who I was, what I wanted to do next, and had a million questions that couldn’t be answered. At the urging of a friend who had mentioned it numerous times, I finally gave in when she once again said, “Why don’t you try Centers for Spiritual Living? I think if you go it will help you.”
And so I went. As soon as I walked in the door I felt like I was home. I actually felt something within me that was so moved on an emotional level that I cried.
A wonderful speaker talked about gratitude and challenged us to spend forty days writing down everything we were grateful for, an exercise meant to shift our focus and put it on the good instead of what we felt was lacking in our lives. The Minister handed out a journal to each of us, and the person who walked out of the church that day wasn’t quite the same as the one who had walked in.
Over the next forty days I diligently did my homework by trying to find something I was grateful for. At first it was hard. I’d sit for five minutes, ten minutes, fifteen minutes, and wonder what it was that I was grateful for.
Oh wait, I’m grateful I don’t drink and take drugs anymore. I wrote that down. I’m grateful to be out of an abusive marriage. I wrote that down. Those seemed a little bit like I was still putting my focus on negative things, however, and I had to ask myself whether or not I was grateful about anything positive.
Well, yes, I was grateful I finally took my friends advice and went to the Center for Spiritual Living. I was grateful my friend told me about it. Oh, and I was grateful for my friend! In fact, I was grateful for all the new friends I’d made. I was grateful to be living in a place where there was a Center for Spiritual Living to even go to. I was grateful to be living in a place that is surrounded by beautiful nature. I was grateful for nature!
This is how it went every day. I would struggle to write something I was grateful for, but once I wrote down one thing, it would lead me to another and another and another.
Sometimes I would close my journal and notice I’d spent thirty minutes writing and it felt like it was only five minutes. The floodgates would just open and I’d get lost in thinking about how wonderful my life had become. One more thing for which to be grateful!
I so loved this exercise that I did it for a second time once the forty-day challenge was up. What happened after that was nothing short of astounding. I became more interested in the spiritual aspect of life, and filled with a bit more confidence, signed up for A Course in Miracles. I was starving for this kind of information, which seemed to fill me up!
I began getting out more. I signed up for a couple of classes at the local university, in order to complete my studies and get a degree. I continued the practice of writing down the things for which I was grateful, only now it didn’t take five, ten, or fifteen minutes before I could think of something, I was already coming up with things while I was still reaching for my notepad and pen. I still found the flow to be the same though. I’d write down one thing, which would lead to another and another.
I continued spending time at the Center, signing up for classes, and reading books to be discussed. It was a whole new world I was being exposed to.
In the years that followed the dissolution of my marriage I achieved my goal and actually earned two degrees, graduating Cum Laude. Somewhere along the way, I began looking at my image in the mirror differently. I thought: Deborah, you’re not half bad! In fact, you’re pretty! You’re kind. You have a good heart. You’re lovable!!!!
I met a wonderful man and got married. I started my own business, and I love the work I do.
As I continued my spiritual studies and practice of gratitude, I came to be blessed more and more. I became a licensed Practitioner at our local Center for Spiritual Living, started a second business, and have become even closer to my two wonderful sisters, enjoying my time with them laughing and joking as though we’re three little girls.
My life looks nothing like the life I lived until I was in my late forties, and yet, I’m grateful for that earlier life because the pain of it has led me to so many wonderful places. My heart and spirit have healed, and I am committed to spreading the word about the blessings you will receive through the daily practice of gratitude.
This doesn’t mean my life is perfect, or without worry, or even absent from the occasional feelings of guilt or shame about something, but I am able to quickly deal with those feelings and put my focus back on the things for which I am grateful. And that has made all the difference in the world.
Can you relate? Just for today, write down some things you feel grateful for. There are plenty of things. Just look out the window, go for a walk, and you’ll find them. Keep doing that each day and make it a habit.
Think of some things you’ve always wanted to do but didn’t pursue because of fear, shame, lack of confidence, etc., and commit to doing just one of those things. Baby steps. That’s all it takes.
And when you start feeling down or worried, open up your journal and read through your lists. It will move the focus from the negatives to the positives. You’ll find that writing about gratitude will lead to feeling more positive about your life, prompting you to take action that brings positive results—and even more blessings and opportunities. I’ve noticed this snowball effect in many lives, starting with my own.
As I live a life that consists of gratitude, I see where every negative experience has molded me, taught me, made me compassionate, and led me to be the wonderful and best version of me that I can be today.
Isn’t that a blessing?
Deborah Perdue is the author of several books on Gratitude and a practitioner at her local Center for Spiritual Living. She owns a graphic design company and creates book covers, logos, business cards, etc. for wonderful people nationwide. Deborah lives in Grants Pass, OR with her husband and menagerie of animals. You can find her at illuminationgraphics.com and graceofgratitude.com.
Get in the conversation! Click here to leave a comment on the site.
The post Why I Now Appreciate Years of Pain and How Gratitude Healed My Life appeared first on Tiny Buddha.
How to Be Whole on Your Own and How This Strengthens Your Relationships
“Only through our connectedness to others can we really know and enhance the self. And only through working on the self can we begin to enhance our connectedness to others.” ~Harriet Lerner
Three decades ago, I married the man with whom I knew I would spend the rest of my life. We each had a rough childhood and had learned a lot about surviving, defending, and protecting ourselves. However, we did not know much about how to maintain a successful relationship.
We took numerous classes on communication, learned to fight fair, and filled our goodwill bank accounts with lots of positive actions. However, despite our best efforts, something was still missing.
There were times that the relationship felt smothering, and new types of problems kept arising. I got sick of saying “we” all of the time instead of “I.” Once when I was sick and slept in a different room, I was equally fascinated and worried by how much I enjoyed being by myself.
Yes, we had learned to reconnect, to repair our troubles, and to deepen our intimacy. However, we had not yet figured out the crucial step necessary for keeping your relationship healthy.
When it comes to love, we have two essential tasks. One, as most of us know, is to learn the skills and practices that allow relationships to thrive. The other lesson is less familiar to most people, but it is even more important. We must also learn how to love ourselves.
By self-love, I do not refer to the type of vanity that is fed by money, power, influence, a gym-toned body, and the admiration of others. What I mean is the kind of love that leads to self-care, not only of our physical health but also of our minds and hearts.
It’s the kind of love that creates for ourselves the time and space to develop and to use our talents. It’s the kind of love that frees us to discover and to foster our true purpose in life.
To become truly wholehearted in our loving, we have to look at when we have acted in a “half-hearted” manner and when have we been “closed-hearted.” Also, we have to examine when it is that we have responded in a “hard-hearted” way.
Our biggest challenge is to achieve the “whole” in wholehearted. In order to love anyone in a wholehearted way, we need to make ourselves whole first. We must integrate the two forces—the “me” and the “we.”
Let me be clear about the three things that are not wholeness:
- A constant state of happiness
- An ongoing state of acceptance, love, and balance
- A perpetual feeling of well-being
Wholeness truly means accepting “the whole enchilada.” The hard, the sad, the mad, the scared, and the glad are all parts of you. The gratitude and the resentment together make you whole.
Your acceptance of all the pieces of yourself makes you whole. Here are five practices that can each help us find our wholeness.
1. Spend quality time with yourself.
I once heard someone say that spending time with yourself is the greatest practice you can do, and I didn’t understand at the time what the speaker meant.
While alone, I always felt like I was “by myself.” I mistook being alone for loneliness. It took me years to discover the pleasure of walking in nature, exploring an art museum, or hanging out at a farmer’s market loving my own company as much as with another person.
2. Each day, check to make sure your self-esteem is balanced by your self-criticism.
People sometimes mistake self-love for self-indulgence. Challenging myself when I am not living up to my own standards is important, but it must be done with compassion. Learning to love yourself despite your imperfections allows you to accept other people’s imperfections.
3. Find a practice that centers you.
Sitting in a lotus position and concentrating on breathing allows some people to find focus; there are also other practices like Zen meditation, walking meditation, Vipanassa meditation, and many more.
In addition, there are methods of centering that are just as powerful for self-reflection; dance, art, writing, and prayer are just a few examples. What they all have in common is that we can use them to check in.
4. Take an inventory of where you are right now. Explore it in your mind.
Body: Am I satisfied with the ways I nourish my body? How can I make even better choices? Examine your nutrition, exercise for strength, flexibility, endurance, and cardiac wellness as well as all of the other kinds of self-care you can practice.
Mind: Am I feeling fed, challenged, expanded, and interested? Am I growing?
Spirit: Am I satisfied with the definition I have for spirit? How can I get more in touch my spirit? Is there a place within me where I can find peacefulness, wisdom, and guidance?
Emotional: How am I coping with my current challenges? Is there a flow of different feelings, or do I find myself stuck on one emotion? Do I feel balanced?
Social: How am I connected with the people in my life (family, friends, partner, coworkers)? What’s working, and where do I want to make changes?
5. Develop a daily gratitude practice and begin by showing yourself appreciation.
Ask yourself about the victories you have had during the week. Acknowledge when you did something that was brave. Thank yourself for taking the time to feel gratitude.
As you explore these five techniques, you might discover others. You will find you already have wholeness inside; you just have to find the keys to open the door.
When we feel good about ourselves, we’re more likely to feel generous toward others; it’s a symbiotic relationship. We feel grounded and centered enough to take risks and to reach out to others. We feel safe by acknowledging our shortcomings and forgiving ourselves, so we are able to open up to our partners wholeheartedly.
Linda Carroll—MS, is a writer, psychotherapist and a love/life coach specializing in relationship issues of all kinds for both singles and couples, assisting people in their life transitions. Sign up for a free 15 minute coaching session or her free newsletter at www.lindaacarroll.com.You can order her book Love Cycles; The Five Essential Stages of Wholehearted Love on amazon.
Get in the conversation! Click here to leave a comment on the site.
The post How to Be Whole on Your Own and How This Strengthens Your Relationships appeared first on Tiny Buddha.
The Most Powerful Way to Help Someone Through Emotional Pain
“When you can’t look on the bright side, I will sit with you in the dark.” ~Unknown
I walked in for my monthly massage and immediately sensed something was off.
A layer of desolation hung in the air like an invisible mist, ominous and untouchable, yet so thick I felt as though I could reach out and grab a handful in my fist, like wet cement, oozing out between my fingers.
I’d been seeing the same masseuse once a month for three years, repeating the same routine each time. I wait in the hallway just outside her rented studio, a large walk-in closet size room in a building filled with hundreds of similar rooms, each rented to private individuals running their small passion businesses. Across from her, a wax studio. Down the hall, a hair salon.
The building houses the manifested dreams of men and women who finally had enough of the daily nine-to-five grind, fired their bosses, and defiantly forged their way into their own businesses, renting space big enough for their hopes yet small enough for their start-up pockets.
The appointment started unlike any other. When her door’s closed, it means she’s with another client, so I sit in the hallway, in one of the two wobbly wooden chairs the building provides for each tenant, and wait.
When the door opens and the previous client leaves, we greet with hugs and smiles, expressing mutual joy in seeing each other again. As she closes the door, I take off my clothes and lie on the table face down, exchanging small talk about any happenings since we last saw one another.
Except this time, on this fateful day, the door opened and I was greeted by an overwhelming sense of sorrow spilling out of the room with a vengeance, as if it had been trapped for decades.
Standing in place of my masseuse friend was a lifeless, hollow shell of a person with empty zombie eyes. I hardly recognized her.
Jen (not her real name) was clearly not her usual self.
I’ve seen her in several bad moods throughout the years but this was beyond moods, and bad was too kind a word.
Like me, Jen’s an introverted, sensitive soul, and neither of us have tolerance for inauthenticity or meaningless chit chat. We had long established that she didn’t have to be “on” around me, that she was allowed to take off her professional mask and I my client mask and we could simply be ourselves with each other, neither of us having to endure the torture of polite pleasantries if we didn’t feel like it.
One of my pet peeves is society’s constant pressure and expectation to put on a happy face and pretend everything’s okay while inside things are desperately broken.
So I said “hi” and walked in, neither expecting a return “hi” nor receiving one. She closed the door behind me and tears suddenly welled in my eyes as I undressed, as if sorrow no longer had the means to escape through the open door and found another way out by hitchhiking my tears.
I wanted to respect the present moment, even though I didn’t understand it, so I stayed silent and lay on the table, face down, as I’d always done.
Ten minutes in, between deep long strokes on my back, I heard a soft, almost inaudible, “I lost the girls.”
Jen had been pregnant with twin girls. I remember the day she told me. She could barely wait for me to get through the door before blurting out, “I’m pregnant!” She and her husband had been trying to get pregnant for a while and finally, she was not only pregnant, she was pregnant with twins!
And now, she wasn’t anymore.
I sunk into the massage table as the enormity of what she said dropped into me. And then, I started to get up and tell her that she didn’t have to massage me. We could talk if she wanted, or she could take the extra hour to herself, I’d still pay her. She gently nudged my shoulder back down and said she needed to work; it kept her mind from self-destructing.
She told me that her soul had been emptied along with her womb, and there was nothing left, let alone tears, inside her.
I had enough tears for both of us so I told her I’d cry, for her, her girls, and her loss. For the next forty-five minutes, as she released my knots, I released tears, wails, and guttural sobs. It came and went in waves and I became acutely aware of the rhythm of her breathing as it converged with mine and became one.
Between waves, there were moments of talking.
Like with me, she had met many of her clients with the exciting news that she was pregnant, and like with me, she also had to tell them she was no longer pregnant. Client after client, spread out over weeks, she had to repeat the same story over and over until every client who knew had been caught up.
It was a devastating loss for her, and one she had to retell to each client, all hearing it for the first time, all with similar questions and the same sympathetic side tilting heads in response.
She said her days have been filled with well-intentioned but stale advice like “everything happens for a reason,” and “they’re in a better place now,” and “you’ll get pregnant again.”
She told me each time she heard these statements, it felt like another jab in her weary stomach. She didn’t care about getting pregnant again, better places, or higher reasons. When a mother’s unborn babies have been ripped away from her, no reason could ever make it right.
She wasn’t in the headspace to feel better or think of a brighter future, she simply wanted to be acknowledged for the pain she was going through now, but no one had remained with her in the pain. They had all tried to make her feel better, which only made her feel worse.
In our own discomfort of feeling painful emotions, we try to help others not feel theirs. It’s difficult for us to see someone we love suffering, and naturally, our first impulse is to try to make it go away, whether it’s through reason, logic, distraction, faith or any other means.
We feel helpless, so we desperately reach for what we know, what we’ve been taught, and what others have done to us in our own moments of suffering. We offer trite words that deep down we know won’t help but we hold onto the hope that they will anyway because we don’t know what else to say or do.
The more powerful choice is to simply be with someone, accepting and embracing the painful moment as is, without trying to fix or make it better. It goes against our natural urge to want to help, but often, this present moment acceptance of the deep emotions flowing through a person is exactly what they need to help them move through it, in their own time.
As powerful as it is to shine a light for someone who’s ready to emerge, it is equally powerful to sit with them in the darkness until they’re ready.
After the session, Jen told me she felt relief for the first time since it happened, as if a weight had been lifted from her. She hadn’t realized it, but with each client, friend, and loved one who tried to make her feel better, she felt a mounting sense of pressure to feel better, as if there was something even more wrong with her for not being able to.
She hadn’t been conscious of the constant pressure until it was gone, in our session, when she was finally allowed to feel exactly as she’d been feeling and was fully accepted in her pain.
Stepping out into the hallway and turning back for a long melting hug, I sensed the profound shift in her energy, vastly different from when I had walked in an hour ago. She was still wounded but there was an element of acceptance in her pain, a faint glow of light within the darkness.
This sacred, healing light only comes as a result of fully embracing the darkness. It can’t be forced, manipulated, or pushed into existence.
This is the true power of accepting our own deep pain and sitting with someone in the dark as they feel theirs.
Tree Franklyn is a best-selling author and emotional empowerment coach who teaches soul-centered empathic women how to manage their deep, overwhelming emotions so they can reconnect with who they truly are and start creating the life they want. Download a free copy of her Ultimate Emotional Survival Guide for Empaths and Sensitive Souls here.
Get in the conversation! Click here to leave a comment on the site.
The post The Most Powerful Way to Help Someone Through Emotional Pain appeared first on Tiny Buddha.
More Recent Articles