See if any of this sounds familiar:
“I shouldn’t be in this much pain.”
“I cannot stop thinking about how badly they’ve treated me.”
“Why am I not over this by now?”
… or the ever-popular and very versatile, “This sucks this sucks this sucks this sucks.”
Imagine having the ability to stop that train.
Here’s the scene. I want someone’s attention and I’m not getting it. Could be professional, could be romantic, whatever. I think about it at inconvenient and impractical times, like when I’m perfectly happy and everything is fine. I’m minding my business being my fabulous self and pop! there it is in my head: rejection. I’m not getting what I feel I deserve.
I find this feeling familiar so my mind offers a few more examples of times I have felt this way. Some from a very, very long time ago. How thoughtful of her. Then she has suggestions on why I am right to feel this way. I haven’t worked hard enough. I am unlucky. I’m not tough enough. Not brave enough disciplined enough pretty enough never got ‘discovered’ should’ve chosen a different major shouldn’t have left DC. You get it.
From all these helpful hypotheticals my mind constructs a pattern. This always happens to me. This actually IS the best I can hope for. Freedom beyond imagination is for other people. Getting the notice acknowledgement validation I want is for someone who has had a different life. A world of yes is for other people. I am to find happiness in the crumbs. The glimmers. The full shine, I don’t get that.
This pattern hardens into belief because I am very convincing. I begin to walk through life with the knowledge that I don’t deserve fullness richness satisfaction and like any truth I want to see, I find evidence for it everywhere I look. Every traffic light, which could be saving me from disaster, I interpret as poor timing. Every ‘no’ is rejection instead of simply a data point. Every tremor of energy is fear and not excitement. Instead of giving me direction and focus, obstacles rob me of momentum, will, even breath. I quit. I give up.
And then at some point… I spend a herculean amount of energy restarting my engine and approaching my life again, a little slower, a little duller, a little more doubtful, and with a little less fire. All because I couldn’t stop the train.
ASIDE: This happened to me recently. A business partner was paying far more attention to someone else we work with than to me and I thought that was an expression of my value. As it turned out it was, but in the opposite direction from the way I interpreted it. They saw my competence and directed their energy at someone who appeared to need more support. Whoops.
Imagine the time, the costly, exhausting time we will save when we learn how to stop the train, get off, turn around and just stand there with it. Look at it. Say, “Huh, anxiety. My chest feels tight. I should breathe.” Why don’t we do this? Because it sucks. Seriously, make yourself jealous right now and try to sit still. It’s terrible. It’s like wearing a hair shirt. A spiral of faulty logic is way more comfortable.
Having feelings and emotions is the normal, healthy expression of a balanced diet of human interaction. You are not here to be Buddha on a lily pad on quaaludes. Life is not supposed to be a flatline. You can’t escape it. Full stop. You can, however, master it.
You know what I’m about to say next. Come to class, honey. This is what we do.
We sit there and say huh, sadness. Oh, loneliness. Wow, pain. Wow. That is empirically an impressive amount of pain. I have to almost stand back and respect it. I’ve actually had that exact thought. And if you can do that, you are no longer really at the receiving end of that feeling. You’re just watching it, in awe of your capacity to feel this rainbow of stuff. You’ve got range, girl. And it makes you powerful.
I love you and I’m in this with you.
Chin up, hammer down.