Emotional pain. I’d venture to guess we’re all feeling more than our share of it these days.
There’s something else I’ve noticed recently too, perhaps directly related to the times we’re living in.
Especially in the personal growth arena, I’ve noticed many more stories of struggle that are sad, difficult, challenging, painful and traumatic. On websites, blogs, newsletters and social media.
Sometimes, the struggles and emotional pain don’t leave room for much else.
In fact, there seems to be less space lately for the transformational and hopeful parts of these stories, the parts that speak to our resilience and resourcefulness. I’m not seeing much of that in the online world. Or what’s there is minimal.
Maybe it’s because, as a recent article in the New York Times suggested, we might be living in a post-happiness world.
But, no worries, because the article says it’s still okay to grab moments of joy. Um, who decides these things, I wonder?
Anyway, as I was sorting through all this I came upon a passage in The Wisdom of the Body, written by Christine Valters Paintner.
Her words about emotional pain stopped me in my tracks…
Although grief is welcome here and there is a chapter dedicated to welcoming in those feelings, this journey isn’t about dwelling in your wounded places…my inclination is that a more helpful and transformative place to spend our time is in the invitation into presence and learning ways to really listen…rather than getting stuck in thoughts and judgments.
Ah, such wisdom: welcoming the feelings and emotional pain without dwelling in the wounds.
Moving toward that transformational place of listening inward. To our bodies and our psyches.
Having said that, I want to be crystal clear about all of this.
Without a doubt, the stories of our woundings are important and true and need to be told.
Without a doubt, we need to feel our feelings, naming them in a kind, self-compassionate and non-judgmental way.
No matter what emotional pain we’re experiencing—fear, anxiety, grief, anger, worry, sadness, depression, overwhelm, betrayal, abandonment, rejection, neglect, or something else—it needs to be welcomed.
At the same time we need to enlarge the story, and begin to appreciate its evolution.
Because the thing is, most of our wound stories sit right next to stories of our resilience and resourcefulness. Our wisdom and discernment. Our goodness and worth.
Given that our brains are hardwired to go negative, these stories are more important than ever. And it’s actually been shown that transformational stories light up our brains, in a good way.
So I long for a world where women share the entirety of their stories with one another.
The wounds and the wisdom. The emotional pain and the goodness. The challenge and the resourcefulness.
After all, that’s what we do in the therapy room. Is it too much to ask the whole world to come along???
Well, maybe it is. Yet, I can’t help remembering what Rumi famously, and wisely, wrote:
The wound is the place where the light enters you.
Perhaps there’s never been a better time to open our arms and welcome that light.