by Harriet, Editor-At-Large
Address suffering and unresolved emotions.
Sometimes life sucks. Shit happens. Families break up. Loved one’s die or betray us. We lose all our money. A business is destroyed. The lifestyle we have worked at for decades is destroyed by government or big business. We have a car crash leaving us with physical trauma or get cancer.
Then there is the “smaller” stuff – the bullying, the sexual abuse, the constant belittling by a family member, the frustration of not being “good enough” at home or work, not being able to live up to our own values, recognizing that we are just not the people we want to be, being terminally bored with life and so on.
This suffering and the unresolved emotions of guilt, grief, resentment, frustration and boredom eat into us at every step. If we think of this stuff in psychological terms its easy to just add another layer of judgement on ourselves. However if we think that suffering and unresolved emotional content are just the first step of an important spiritual journey then, for me, it feels quite different. A spiritual journey is a positive step, a worthwhile activity. It is worthy in and of itself.
I am not suggesting that we wallow in or to feed the unresolved emotions. But we do need time to go exploring how to resolve the emotions that get in the way of a wholesome life. The strong negative emotions provide us with energy to make personal changes. Pain and suffering are a call to action.
But do take it cautiously. We want to avoid replacing a bad situation with a worse one. One of the reasons we became really hurt is that we didn’t see a problem coming and/or were unable to take avoiding action. Therefore we may not be very skilled at managing this situation. Along with dealing with the pain we need to learn the skills for each of the next steps to improve things.
While some people can and do let go of guilt (or whatever unresolved emotion) with the snap of the fingers, or few minutes in the confessional, for most of us its an ongoing process. Acceptance of what is can happen almost instantaneously, though don’t count on it happening in all cases and certainly don’t beat yourself up if you find you can’t let go easily. But do keep working on it.
I don’t know when I was able to let go. I was talking with one of the bosses where I volunteer last week. I mentioned some of the bad stuff that had happened to me in the past and some of what I had learned about how to handle it. Then we went to discuss other things. As we parted she said she was sorry I had had such a difficult time. My response was that I had completely forgotten about it. It no longer had any negative impact on me. And it was true, though there was a time that such a conversation would have brought it “all” back.