Emotionally Charged

The Service of Suffering

Over the course of our lives events happen that can leave us feeling overwhelmed, heartbroken or depressed. Have you ever been in the depths of despair and asked why? What is the point of this pain and suffering? How we answer this question affects the way we feel about our life, it’s purpose and how we perceive the world.  These terrible occurrences can shape who we are, if we chose to learn nothing from our pain then we may end up getting stuck in it. Perhaps suffering is a conduit to help us learn and connect to one another. What if there was a purpose to your misery?

While in the midst of a life altering loss or tragedy it can be incredibly frustrating to hear the phrase, ‘Everything happens for a reason.’ Although it may be something you believe, it can be difficult to feel that way in depths of grief. When I speak of learning from painful experiences, I do not assume that this is something that can be done in the middle of the grieving process. It is completely healthy and encouraged to feel your sadness, anger and frustration. However, if you stay stuck in those feelings it can be easy to believe that the world is conspiring against you.

Feeling like a victim is an incredibly lonely place. Watching others have their dreams come true, while another opportunity slips from your grasp. Believing that nothing has and ever will turn out positive for you is heart wrenching. It is difficult to believe there is any point to your misery when you have yet to see a break in the clouds, let alone a silver lining. Often these feelings cause us to isolate ourselves further. Feeling ashamed and believing that we are a failure can make it less likely to reach out for support. Usually having the assumption that no one has experienced exactly what you have, so no one can understand.

The belief that we are separate and alone in our pain is what can make us feel so terrible. However, I believe it is through this pain that we can learn how to connect more fully to each other. The first step is acknowledging that everyone hurts. Everyone has moments of feeling lost and believing their life is a mess. However, when we cannot find that understanding for ourselves it can be difficult to believe that anyone else would. That belief causes many to stay quiet, suffering in silence, never being able to share their inner pain. When the truth is, everyone has a right to feel. If you have been hurt you feel that way for a reason. Trying to convince yourself you do not, will not make those feelings go away; usually it makes them worse.

It is in these dark places within ourselves that there is space for personal growth and understanding. However, that can only be achieved when we find compassion for ourselves and our pain. That means not being judgemental of how you feel. Nothing is gained from thinking and speaking negatively about yourself. These thoughts are not usually facts and if they contribute your misery they are not helping you. If you want to evolve from the pain you need to consider if you have learned or gained anything from the struggles in your life.

As therapists the most common prerequisite to training is ‘life experience’. Which really is a nice way to say suffering. To better connect and help someone move on from their pain you have to have been there yourself. Having the ability to facilitate growth, knowing that in the end there is hope, light and possibility. You don’t have to be a therapist to recognise the benefits gained from living a full life, one filled with ups and downs. The difference is that many people use their losses as a way to separate themselves from others, instead of a way to connect and learn. We should be able to see ourselves in every tear that is shed by those around us, but we don’t.

Suffering disconnects us from ourselves and in turn, one another. This disconnect means that we can find it difficult to relate to the suffering of another. From the stranger we pass on the street to a loved one, the up’s and down’s are called ‘the human experience’ yet we usually perceive them as ‘my’ experience. Living with the belief that what I experience is different from what you experience. Which is only true to a point, I may not know exactly how sadness feels to you or why you have experienced it. However, I do know that when I feel down what makes the difference is knowing I am not alone. I believe is true for all of us.

In an ideal world we would see our struggles as lessons, teaching us to grow. Or we would recognise that no matter the culture or religious background the experience of emotion connects us all. Perhaps suffering is a part of our experience because it allows us to appreciate the joy while also teaching us how relate to one another more fully. Either way, until we give ourselves the opportunity to reflect on all parts of our journey it will be increasingly difficult to learn from it. Allow yourself to believe in a life where your suffering has not been worthless and explore what there is to gain.

“Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.”  – Haruki Murakami

Advertisements

Grieve the Dream

The ending of a relationship is like a death. It’s the death of the life we were living. It is also the death of the life we imagined for the future. Often times the sadness we feel when a relationship ends is not completely connected to the other person; but instead connected to the life we saw with them.

9RjOqdC,

Although happiness begins with ourselves, the right person can make us feel complete. While the wrong person can make us feel like something is missing. For many people, that feeling of unhappiness makes us change many parts of our lives. Not yet wanting to admit what it is that’s making us feel unfulfilled.

The thought of not being with your partner can seem scary and overwhelming. Especially if they have found a way to chip away at your confidence and shine a light on your insecurities. That’s why the question of ‘Why do they stay?’ to women in abusive relationship is so unfair. When you feel as though you deserve terrible treatment, you put up with terrible treatment.

Sometimes a relationship ends with no fault of anyone. You used to love each other, now you don’t. You had a wonderful life together, now you don’t. You saw an entire future with this person, now you don’t. Although this connection with them is ending, your life with them may not be (especially if you have children), it will just be different.

tumblr_mdjooqyIIL1ryekkxo1_500

If you have just come out of a relationship, or you are thinking about ending one, it’s important to give yourself time to grieve. Grieve the life you had imagined and grieve the person you wanted them to be. It can be difficult to move on, especially if you keep searching for closure. We usually want to get that from the other person but like most things it has to come from within. Give yourself time to be sad and know that this ending is the beginning of a new chapter.

There will come a time when you will look back and perhaps see this time as a defining moment. A time of chaos when like a phoenix you rose from the flames and started a new life.

“Sometimes it takes a heartbreak to shake us awake and help us see we are worth so much more than we’re settling for.”  -Mandy Hale

Grief

At some point in our lives we will experience the loss of a loved one. Through my interactions with clients, friends and family I have seen how grief can change over time. I also know about the changing of grief from my own experience, today I am going to break therapist protocol and share some of my own story.

Ten years ago my father died and the world I was familiar with came crashing down around me. Suddenly and without warning everything I knew changed forever.

The days that followed his death were incredibly surreal. I had never allowed myself to imagine this scenario before; the thought was too much to bear. Therefore it did not seem real when I was met with the reality of never seeing him again. It seemed like a cosmic joke with a punchline I didn’t get. When we lose someone I believe our head and heart work at different speeds. Your brain can understand the concept that someone has died but the heart can take much longer to catch up.  Especially when you still feel them and see them everywhere you look.

When someone we love dies there is the initial shock. Even if we think we are prepared for the death, the moment it happens we can feel that we aren’t equipped. The shock can last for weeks, months or years. If we do not give time and space for grief, it can be difficult for it to leave us. It may take at least two years to grieve the loss of someone close to us. Two years where you give yourself time to reflect and time to mourn. There are very few people who I have met who gave themselves that sort of timeline. Often by the first anniversary there is an internal consensus that you should be able to move on. Which is incredibly unfair, especially if you look at how profoundly the person you lost touched your life.

99c7cdeeac6ea54133dba849a3e8aad3

After my father died, someone shared with me that they had lost their father twenty years prior and still missed him everyday. In that moment, I hated those words. The thought that I would have to feel as I did then, for what sounded like forever, knocked the wind out of me. Only with the passing of time could I gain an understanding of what they meant. And they were right; I miss him everyday. But it’s different than in those first few weeks and months. In the early days it felt like the grief and heart-break was going to swallow me whole. However, over time that changed and it doesn’t hurt like it used too. Now if I feel that dull ache in my chest, it demonstrates what a huge place I had in my heart for him and him for me.

When someone we love dies it can end up changing the course of our entire lives. I know that I would not be where I am, or who I am had I not experienced such an earth shattering loss. It has defined me in a way that I did not let in for a long time, acceptance was not easy. But acceptance is a better feeling than bitterness which could have grown within me.

If you find yourself grieving at the moment please remember that it is okay to be sad, angry, disappointed and every range of emotions you can muster. You are starting to live in a world that feels new and scary without that person you loved so dearly. Get support if you need it, like all things that happen to us in life you don’t have to go through it alone.

“No matter how your heart is grieving, if you keep on believing, the dreams that you wish will come true.” – Walt Disney

Time

We live in a world of instant gratification. We have centuries of knowledge available at our finger tips. We rush and race both mentally and physically. People are constantly exhausted and no one asks at what pace we are actually meant to function at.

Time is a construct which differs depending on where you live. Living in Western civilisation often means we are very connected to time. Usually talking about what little of it we have. There is so much anxiety related to time that ironically it causes us to waste the precious moments we have.

While on a holiday in Nepal I asked a local man what the weather supposed to be like the following day. He looked at me confused and bewildered and said, ‘How should I know, it’s not tomorrow yet.’ I smiled and knew he was wiser than I.

40DtCU1

We can often get consumed with the past and/or the future, which means we are missing what is happening right now. We don’t give ourselves the space to explore what thoughts or emotions we are experiencing. When was the last time you asked yourself how you were feeling?

Why not start giving yourself a few more minutes a day. Funnily enough making time for a short mediation like the one below can make you feel like you have more time. The amount of guided mediations out there are staggering, find one that fits for you. Then start deciding at what pace you want to live your life, don’t let that be dictated by others.

 “We have been moving along at such a fast pace that we no longer know what we are doing. Now we have to wait until our soul catches up with us.” – Paulo Coelho

 

 

 

Depression

With the recent suspected suicide of Robin Williams a limelight has been shone on what could have led him to do this. Which has brought attention to depression, and how without help it mentally chips away at those who suffer from it.

It’s a shame it takes the death of someone in Hollywood to draw attention to a disease in which hundreds of millions of people suffer from.

It can make you feel isolated and alone, forcing you to wear a mask. A brave face to show the world unable to share the pain that is really being felt.

There seem to be many comedians who suffer from depression themselves. Perhaps that’s because those who battle depression experience a flat affect, no emotional responses to situations or experiences. Seeing that they can make others experience joy and laughter gives them purpose. However, at the end of the day if you don’t have love for yourself the love of others means nothing.

depression

If you are suffering from depression, get help. Although you feel alone in the darkness, you don’t have to be. Those feelings are a symptom of the disease. I had done a previous post with a focus on talking to someone when you are feeling down, you can read that here. It’s never too late to reach out, to ask for help, it could save your life.

“There are wounds that never show on the body that are deeper and more hurtful than anything that bleeds.” -Laurell K. Hamilton

Feeling guilty?

Guilt is one of those emotions that can often make us do things we don’t want too. It’s usually paired with ‘I should be doing this’ or ‘I shouldn’t be doing that’.

Letting ourselves be controlled by guilt can lead to feelings of unhappiness. If you’re doing things out of obligation it’s difficult to enjoy yourself. Or if you’re beating yourself up from something that happened in the past it’s impossible to be in the present.

There are many facets of guilt, you can feel guilty because you:

  • Did something wrong
  • Think you did something wrong
  • Didn’t do something that you should have
  • Were told you did something that hurt someone else

This list goes on.

604102_459713434096187_2003333116_n

You’re feeling the way you’re feeling because guilt is linked to shame. Shame is a very difficult and vulnerable space. It’s defined as a painful feeling of humiliation or distress, caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behaviour. Shame is something we find at a young age which means it’s hard to let go of. However, there are things you can do to help you with your guilty conscience.

Wiki How has some suggestions to help you deal with guilt, including recognising if you should be feeling guilty in the first place.

If you have wronged someone then you need to accept that and try to fix what has happened. If that’s not possible then you need to learn from what you did and make sure it doesn’t happen again. If you aren’t learning from the behaviour then the guilt will stick. If you want to learn about how to deal with your guilt, there are more tips here.

I also recommend looking at the things you do in your life for you and the things you do out of guilt. Start doing more for you and less for guilt. Don’t go visit your angry father because you feel a duty too. You’re just giving the guilt the power and taking power away from yourself. Why do you deserve to be in pain to make someone else feel better?

It’s important to remember that guilt like every other emotion is a choice, a decision made. Not an easy choice but you are the only one that controls how you react in a situation. Decide you won’t let guilt call the shots anymore and untie that knot in your belly.

“There’s no problem so awful, that you can’t add some guilt to it and make it even worse.” – Bill Watterson

It’s not easy to forgive

‘But in my heart I was given a choice. There were two ways of looking at the situation, one would lead to despair and darkness and the other to light and peace of mind.  I took the road of light. It was an instant decision, a moment of opportunity and grace.’

The above quote is Dave Dineen from Cork, he was a victim of multiple forms of abuse from his mother and brother. After not seeing his brother for many years he assumed when he did, he would want to kill him. However, something else came over him and like he said, he chose the light. His story of forgiveness is an amazing one, read all about it here.

Forgiveness can be very difficult and in Dave’s case it is incredible. When I hear of amazing examples of forgiveness I often ask myself, could I do the same?

To help myself with forgiveness I like to remember that I have a choice. If something terrible has happened, the only thing you can control is how you react to it. If I get rear-ended by another driver, I can loose my mind. Or I can be grateful that I am in one piece and that accidents happen.

If you are looking for steps to help you work on forgiveness this site has great suggestions. For example, living a happy life is great revenge for those who hurt you. And learning that the Aramaic word for forgive means to ‘untie’. You are loosening the hold that this other person had over you. With forgiveness you take back the control for your own well being.

If you aren’t ready to forgive quite yet then just remind yourself you are the one choosing to feel this way. The more empowered you feel, the less power you’ll want to give away.

“The only way out of the labyrinth of suffering is to forgive.” – John Green