My sister and I were chatting about grief this morning. (As one does over an early morning cup of coffee – at least in my family it is not an unusual setting for such conversations).
It got me thinking about the experience of dealing with emotional pain. It is never pleasant. And many of us avoid emotional pain at all costs. We use numbing behavior of all kinds – binge watching TV shows, over eating; drinking; obsessively exercising and, sometimes, even choose relationships which distract us. We can avoid in ways which appear to be ‘moving on’. And yet, time and again the issue raises its head again.
For the last couple of years I have actively tried to steer into the pain, not to wallow in it, but simply to risk allowing myself to feel it. On each occasion, or at least the bigs ones, I have been afraid that I would drown in the pain. But it never happens. In fact, it passes through much more easily than I anticipated. Not that the process is easy, but that it has been far less turbulent, far less disorienting, and far less scary that I feared it might be. And the process is far less draining than the avoidance is.
When we fail to brave the pain head on it does become our whole story. We cannot help but operate out of it, even as we try to avoid it. But when we take a deep breath and allow it to pass through us, we can close the chapter and genuinely move on.
The avoidance, in the end, is far more costly, far more all consuming, and far more toxic than the engagement will ever be. So why, oh why, do we fight it so hard?