Are you willing to experience some pain in order to get a healthier body? What about the emotional pain that sometimes accompanies personal growth? Not so much huh. Let’s face it, most of us want to avoid facing our negative emotions and painful memories. But then, sometimes we have no choice. Behold, the crisis.
When I was 24, only 15 months after we said our vows, I quit my marriage. It’s a long time ago now and I’ve never regretted doing it but jeez, it took a while to process the emotional fallout. My initial approach was to get on with my new life and bury the grief and guilt. That got me through the first year but then about six months later, when on the outside, my life looked pretty good, I began feeling really bad inside.
It wasn’t because I was unhappy with how things had panned out. It was because I was harbouring a ton of sadness, regret and guilt, not just about what I’d done but also about having gotten married in the first place. Ugh! I felt so angry with myself and filled with uncertainty about whether I even deserved to be loved by my new partner or anyone.
What really got me was that when I looked back to the lead up to my wedding day and the day itself, I knew I was doing the wrong thing. I knew in my heart that I shouldn’t have been marrying this person and yet I just kept on going through the motions and suddenly it was done. But what’s done is done. And then I went and left him which made me feel relieved certainly but also very wrong. Wrong in my eyes and wrong in the eyes of many people who knew me. Especially since I’d left him for someone else.
So here was my crisis. I was 25 and going through a divorce. And I was the last person anyone would have expected to have found herself in this predicament. This made it a little harder to face. Who was this wild young woman who’d left her husband and hurt him so badly? It wasn’t me. Was it?
For the first time in my life, I had to face my shadow self and she’d been a long time in hiding, so she wasn’t all that cooperative. There were moments during the sessions with my wonderful psychologist, that I observed myself splitting off and becoming the watcher of the ‘Tricia’ who was talking. I dredged up a lot of unpleasant thoughts and beliefs about myself there on that chair, and spent most of every journey home crying my eyes out.
But you know, it helped. It helped me so much and got me through a very tough reckoning that was way overdue. It was time for me to wake up to more of who I really was and to let go of the limited version of me I had so assiduously created from a very young age. I was the good girl. Good at school, good at sport, good at friendship, good at home and good as a girlfriend. Not that good as a wife.
And these counselling sessions were only the beginning. It would take me another decade of life and beyond, to truly grasp how much more there was to me and how I could use what I’d learned to begin helping others.
The emotional pain I felt as I dealt with the aftermath of my divorce was the very balm I needed. I needed to vent, to face up to my flawed beliefs, to admit my failings and to take responsibility for my actions. It was from doing all of this that I gained some wisdom, became more humble, created some healthy coping skills like meditation and yoga and grew in my compassion for myself and everyone else.
What I’m saying is that sometimes we do need to get down into the quagmire of our crap because it’s by shining a light on what’s there, that we’re able to truly acknowledge our immensity as humans. We are so much more than the roles we’ve chosen to play and we can not wake up to this by only looking on the bright side or by emphasising the traits that seem socially acceptable.
When I sit with my beautiful brave clients and we hit a tender spot, the tears may flow and I’m often sitting there in silent tears with them, but they never last for long and the person always feels lighter for the release. What occurs is more than a release though. What’s also received is: clarity on how they’d been feeling beneath the surface, the realisation that this had been holding them back and that they can now move forward, free of that burden. It’s powerful and yes, sometimes it’s painful.
We’ve grown afraid of emotional pain and the expression of it. The pervasive yet unrealistic expectation, is that if you’re not happy, you’re not emotionally healthy. This is a dangerous lie and one that needs to be corrected. I believe our aim as far as our emotional well-being goes, might be to court peace or neutrality or even at a pinch, contentment. Certainly not the elated, grinning, celebratory form of happiness we’ve been presented with in films and television. It’s all part of the human experience to move through many emotional states in a day and if we’re conscious of the desire to cultivate a particular feeling, then we certainly have something to aim for, but to seek to be happy all of the time is a very big ask.
My vote is for peace within. But first we need to look inside and acknowledge everything else that’s there.
What do you think? I’d love to hear your perspective.
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