Avoiding Pain Causes Pain
“Sit with the feelings for ten minutes each day” I tell her. “Just sit and don’t take any action and don’t judge it. Open yourself to the feelings that come up and just acknowledge that sadness and pain you’ve carried in your chest all these years. Let it finally begin to empty.”
“But there is so much anger” she tells me. “I don’t really know how to deal with the anger.”
“Anger is a feeling and despite what you fear, feelings can’t actually kill or damage you. If you repress them for years, or do things to avoid or distract yourself from the feeling, that does sometimes cause damage. But it’s never the feeling that causes damage, only the stuff you do to avoid it.
The destructive stuff we associate with anger or hurt usually happens from things we do because we are afraid of the feeling. Feelings are like gas, they need to come up and out – otherwise they cause pain. Just let the feeling come and be what it is – even if it’s unpleasant. Even if it smells bad for a while. Only then can it go. Let it flower and fade.”
“I don’t know,” she says. “I can face the pain but I’m not sure about the anger.”
“But isn’t the anger only there because you’re trying to avoid the pain?” I ask her. “You’re angry because it hurts – so you’d rather focus on the anger. It’s a distraction.”
“Oh yes,” she says laughing. “That’s true.”
We are so well trained to avoid our feelings. Society sells us every possible tool to get rid of our feelings – food, medicines, screens, clothes, cosmetics, holidays… Then we teach the same to our children.
Not many of us parents can simply stay with, rather than try to distract from, our child’s pain, frustration and anger – or their excited happiness mind you. Bounce, bounce “STOP moving around and making so much noise. You’re driving me nuts!”
We learn to distance, to not engage. We learn to block feelings off. And we decide that feelings must be bad or dangerous for us so we don’t allow them near – which is the saddest, most shooting-in-the-foot thing we could ever, ever do!
Because: feeling is where it’s at, maaaan. Here’s why:
1) Our emotions make life worth living, or hell on earth. When we cut off our feelings we live in numb zombie-ness. We see things, hear them, taste them (sort of) but none of it really touches us deep inside in any satisfying way – and we wonder what’s wrong with us. Living without feelings appears pointless. And the reason for that is…
2) Our emotions are how our soul communicates with us about where we need to go to next in our life. We get pleasant feelings when we are on track and unpleasant feelings when we are off track. So our feelings are in fact our main tool for getting everything we always wanted in the world – for reaching our fullest potential. They are our GPS for our ultimate life.
WHY would you want to throw away those tools? It’s the weirdest thing to do. It’s like wandering about in front of a locked door that you yearn to get into, and bemoaning that you can’t get in. You bang on it, hurt yourself against it and wish over and over that you could just get in – all the while the keys are in your pocket. “What those old things?” you sneer derisively, “Nah, they’re sharp and heavy. Just ignore those.”
Start to practice this week by paying attention to the types of feelings you have at any given moment. If it feels good then you are on track. Keep doing what you are doing. If it feels bad then you are off track. Pause and ask yourself, “What is my truth right now? What do I know about this? Why am I not following what I know?”
This, by the way, is also the key for how to keep yourself while parenting.
Questions anyone? Anything specific you want to know about this? I can do follow-up posts on your questions.