For experienced ocean swimmers, waves are just part of the challenge. So it is with life. Waves of emotions can throw us for a loop disorient us, and confuse us before we even have time to process what we’re going through. Unfortunately, our cultural biases have taught us to handle our feelings in exactly the wrong way.
What do you do when you’re hungry? Grab a bite (whether it’s nutritious or not). What do you do when you have a headache or some other kind of pain? Pop a pill. The tendency to want to avoid pain and discomfort is not only understandable, it’s completely natural. But it’s not always the best way to handle things, particularly your feelings.
What’s the quick fix for bad feelings? Take your pick! Food. TV. Pornography. Alcohol. Drugs. Everyone seems to have a favorite. You may feel good temporarily, but put off your self care indefinitely and you’re in for a world of hurt.
Here there be dragons
Think you have total contol over your feelings? Think again. You can control how you respond to what you’re feeling to some extent. But the stronger the feeling is, the more difficult it is to control your response in a given moment. You may soon find that you’re repsonses to things are way out of proportion and make no sense. This is often because of emotional problems you’re refusing to address properly.
So, guess what happens when you try to ignore, cover-up, or otherwise run from what you’re feeling? It gets strong. Your feelings are like a monster that feeds on your resistance. The more you ignore it or deny it’s there, the bigger it gets.
It’s like the dragon in this excellent children’s story:
The more the child bought into the mom’s argument that the dragon didn’t exist, the bigger it got. Before long, it was carrying their whole lives away from them.
Winston Churchill said “If you’re going through Hell, keep going.” The only way out of an unpleasant feeling is through it. This is true for even serious emotional trauma and grief. Mental health professionals are trained in guiding their clients and patients through the process of feeling and re-living their trauma in the most vivid and detailed way possible. It’s not pleasant at all. But neither is surgery.
Even a massage, when used for treatment, can be very uncomfortable. There seems to be a principle at work that dictates that in order to overcome physical or emotional pain and to heal, one must feel it completely.
Ride into the wave, or risk drowning in it.
Tom Gunn is the marketing director and blog editor for The Good Life Massage. You can hire him to assist with your brand development and marketing my emailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org