I've been thinking a lot lately about the role of pain in transformation and rebirth. Allowing ourselves to sit with pain, embrace it...pushing away the impulse to run away, to hide.... As we allow ourselves to sit with fear and pain without losing ourselves in it, staying on the edge of it...watching ourselves and our feelings flow past like on a screen before us... great gifts of insight and wisdom can emerge. And a kind of inner acceptance and peace can blossom.
This is a concept not often encouraged in our culture, because we tend not to make room for pain and fear (for many other feelings either). We try instead to outrun or hide from them. We busy and distract ourselves from the feelings, we want to appear strong and productive. We wrongly equate feelings with weakness or being out of control. And besides...we don't have time for this, we have plans, darn it!
Ironically, pain and fear weald greater power over us when we try to run away from them. So, what if we were turn to face these feelings...acknowledge them...from a deep, centered place within?
When such an opportunity arises, take five deep breaths, filling up your lungs...and then let the air go out slowly and deliberately each time. As you do this, ground yourself in the knowledge that pain or fear do not define you, they are merely passing through (some need more time than others). Be gentle with yourself. Feelings often arise to remind you of things you need to know or remember. Now that you've created a quiet space within you with your breath, pay attention to the feelings, locate the sensation of them in your body and make a note of it. Notice, too, that feelings do not have to possess you. You can tolerate these feelings, you can hold them and recognize they are not you, but are merely experiences of this moment within a lifetime of moments.
Become curious about these feelings. Why have they visited? What role do they play in your life right now, or within a particular scenario? What message are they wanting you to hear? Feel their energy diminish, as you tend to them with curiosity, as a friend. There is a kind of freedom that comes from this sitting with pain and fear, from the recognition that it does not drown you, or overtake you*...not when you face it squarely. This practice can be the beginning of quiet strength and significant transformation in your life. See if you can put this into practice more and more frequently. Don't beat yourself up when you don't, just try to incorporate it the next time.
This is my first blog entry. I will write more, but with variable frequency. I would enjoy hearing from you about your thoughts and experiences. Write me if you have something to share or wish to hear from me. This blog is not meant to take the place of therapy, but may be useful in exploring general themes and experiences. My responses will be periodic. I look forward to hearing from you.
Take very good care.
Stacy Montaigne AuCoin, LCSW
Passages & Pathways
Counseling and Personal Growth
*Within the psychological field, it is of course recognized that some more acute and chronic illnesses, such as clinical depression, may require medicine or greater mental health resources to help people pull through.