Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Dealing with painful emotions

It is not a matter of whether or not you “should” feel something. In severe grief you feel emotions you can not control, urges that are foreign. The pressure and pain of grief forces everything to be reconsidered, at a primal emotional level, regardless of what you want.

It is not a matter of what you feel, but what you do and what you linger on. Denial only makes it worse. Acceptance of your feelings is part of acceptance of life and of moving on from what you are feeling now to what you want to feel.

Your survival is not found in fighting or denying feelings. Honesty, not denial, acceptance and then surrender to God’s will – not surrender to the feelings – that moves you to healing.

You take inventory of yourself, accept reality and create a foundation of truth to build recovery. The pain, the emotions, assimilate with time and honesty. You can’t avoid the tempest, but you can survive through it to tomorrow. Just like you had these emotions and feelings before you knew what feelings were (everyone cycles at a very young age) and they passed as you grew, so that can happen again as an adult, if you let it happen.

I’m not sure this puts it right. Basically, the principals are: (a) in grief there are uncontrollable surges of emotion and feelings, often ones a person has outgrown, never felt, or that just don’t fit, because the force of grief subconciously causes you to cycle through everything trying to find a solution that works; (b) you can’t deal with them by denial, but you don’t have to embrace them; (c) instead you accept that you are feeling painfull or inappropriate emotions, don’t linger on them, and honestly work towards building recovery.

"Shoulds" are toxic. "What is" is only the past that creates a lesson learned, upon which recovery follows.

In my personal life I had a time when I wished I had spent more time on my career, more time focused on the office and writing. My work was still there, three of the children I had given my heart to had died. Was that painful? Of course. Was it appropriate? No, but it was what I felt. Only by accepting the pain and the reality of what I felt could I move forward (and back at the same time) to feeling that my children should come first, that family was more important than career.

There are lots of other examples, better than mine, from other people's lives. But that is my story.


Jacob J said...

Stephen, thanks for this.

Anonymous said...