Dealing with Emotional Pain - Sit, Admit, Accept
I am discouraged. I am alone. This is good.
Looking for a crutch, I crack open my second beer. The news drones in the background reminding me that other people are in worse places. A plane has crashed. A child is missing. A whole family is lost in a tornado. And yet here, in my pajamas with my hair hanging in a sad and messy ponytail, I feel flattened.
When I can’t shake this blue funk, I start the usual questioning. What is at the core? It is my normal course of action. I get tired of the useless, unproductiveness of pain and I want what everyone wants - a quick fix. It doesn't usually happen. I've learned, quite by experience, a different approach.
The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.
- Psalm 34:18
It is at this point of low productivity, self-pity, alcohol and Piano Variation in Blue that I do the opposite of fixing. I sit and realize not every problem is solvable right away. In fact, few are and what this requires is that I let myself feel. According to Ronald Alexander, PhD. (Psychology Today), "Buddhism teaches that as you sit with your pain and grief, simply noticing it as if you were sitting on a riverbank watching these heavy feelings float downstream, you’ll discover how to live, learn, and heal through it." I arrived at this teaching without ever studying it because one day I just got tired of fighting the blues I can be prone to on occasion.
The dilemma of handling pain, says Leslie Becker-Phelps, Ph.D (Psychology Today) " is so common that the Buddhists long ago reduced it to a formula: Pain x Resistance = Suffering. Translation: Fighting against (or resisting) the reality of the pain in your life creates suffering." I realize that striving against what I feel is futile.
Sitting goes against the grain of many trite, yet common suggestions such as snap out of it, don't worry and my favorite, it's all in your head. This is the counsel of fools bred purely out of ignorance to normal conditions of humanity.
Tonight, I sit with my pain realizing it has purpose, knowing there isn't always an immediate solution and waiting to learn something through the process.
“In the end, these things matter most:
How well did you love?
How fully did you live?
How deeply did you let go?”
Often using thoughtful music, I touch that inner part of myself like pushing through the final stages of a race to break the finish line. Clarity is a process and a process rushed is just bent for failure. Oddly I find myself repeating, “I am not okay, I am not okay” even though I've lied to everyone else all day. I understand, I must stop lying to myself.
I take an honest look at any broken pieces in my life. I take stock - a good hard look at the list of possibilities. When something breaks, can it be healed in 3 months? When someone dies, can I not feel pain near the anniversary of a death? When something falls through, it is normal for me to feel discouragement? Death, breakups, moves, disappointments - these are all losses. Loss takes time no matter how good you think you feel.
"Everything that has broken you in one way or another has a hand in why you do what you do and your perception of things." says Nancy Suto, Professional Motivational Consultant (Poughkeepsie Journal) "Does your past lead you to do the same thing over and over, or does it move waves inside of you to do things differently? Be completely honest with yourself: What is old debris that needs to be cleared out? Acknowledge it, then figure out how to remove its toxins from your system so you move forward. Anything that keeps you stagnant needs to be re-examined."
Tonight, I admit my pain. I am honest with myself about the things in my life past and present that are hurting me and examine why I may be feeling as I do.
The Full Serenity Prayer
God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
That I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
Forever in the next.
Scenarios of this pain may replay over in your head, but all that ruminating and wishing can't change a thing. There is only one thing to do. Realize that pain can be uncontrollable. Cross over into acceptance.
When you’ve done everything you can possibly do (right or wrong, good or bad, thought out or not thought through) then you must accept where you are. Are you alone? Are you heartbroken? Are you confused? Are you going to be demoted? Are you sick? Are you discouraged? Or don’t you even know for sure? Acceptance is the first step in moving forward. I often say, "It is what it is" meaning you can't change everything - some things simply are. This is what Becker-Phelps calls, "Accepting your current reality."
Tonight, I accept my current reality. It may not be perfect and it may not always produce happiness, but with acceptance I take the first step toward feeling better.
When you feel pain, how do you deal with it?
By the end of the night, I have realized the unproductiveness of pain and sat with it to find its purpose. I have admitted that there are things in my life that have caused or are currently causing pain so I tell myself that truth. Finally, I accept my current reality knowing in doing so that I will be one step closer to feeling better.
I am done contemplating pain tonight and as Piano Variation in Blue from Finding Neverland dips in a staccato finale, I have found peace... for now.
Uploaded on Oct 23, 2007 By Jan A.P. Kaczmarek
Alexander, R. (2010, May 14). Recovering from Sorrow, Loss and Heartache. Psychology Today: Health, Help, Happiness + Find a Therapist. Retrieved August 27, 2014, from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-wise-open-mind/201005/recovering-sorrow-loss-and-heartache
Becker-Phelps, L. (2013, October 14). Accept Your Pain; It Will Hurt Less. Psychology Today: Health, Help, Happiness + Find a Therapist. Retrieved August 27, 2014, from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/making-change/201310/accept-your-pain-it-will-hurt-less
Dear Nancy. (2014, August 3). Don't let past hurt keep love away. Don't let past hurt keep love away. Retrieved August 27, 2014, from http://www.poughkeepsiejournal.com/story/life/2014/08/03/let-past-hurt-keep-love-away/13031161/