Disclaimer: This is not a traditional step-by-step Medium-style article, but instead a stream of consciousness based on personal experience. It would be myopic and also lots of silly for me to speak from some “galaxy mind” POV and think this is universally helpful. I understand that different things work for different people. These are some ideas that helped me, which I share in case you might find them helpful, too.)
(written late February, 2021)
There is a lot of info out there that reiterates how important healing is, but it has taken my entire life to understand what I’ve been missing. Apparently you have to feel that shit to the very core.
My whole problem has been thinking that avoiding unpleasant feelings, pushing them away, trying to tame them somehow or distract myself from them, is the way to go.
Turns out all that does it make the feelings more solidified and persistent.
What works – for me, at least – is letting it out and not fighting the fact that the feelings hurt, dropping the Stoicism and the putting-on-a-brave-front-to-myself and the kicking-myself-in-my-own-ass and just very honestly – like the chick that played – I had to stop and think about what the name was and now I’m embarrassed – Annie (ugh) did in the Rob Zombie version of Halloween – say OW OW OW (figuratively, I don’t mean out loud, unless you prefer). Everyone else in movies Hollywood-screams when they get stabbed, but fucking A, I am pretty sure my response in that situation would be closer to OW.
Emotional pain can feel like being stabbed, too. So why not dispose with the formalities and get down to the core? That kind of honesty gets down to the child that’s hurt.
And it just now occurs to me: It is always the child that’s hurt.
Okay, fine. It’s not the inner child if you get stabbed. Let’s not look too closely, please, Brain, get on with it…
I will be straight up honest because I’m a cliché in a Simon & Garfunkel song now so who cares what anyone thinks of me. I have had moments where I literally sat and cried and the overwhelming thought was just, “I’m bad”, like I was 3 years old and got yelled at for something, and THAT is what healed whatever issue it was at that moment I was purging, because I just gave in to that thought and I didn’t try to make it not true somehow in my head or argue with it or deny it or analyze it or intellectualize it or put it in adult-fucking-language, I felt every inch of that bastard and it sucked horribly and I guess that is the point. That the suckage cannot be dodged.
(Obviously your predominant thought doesn’t need to be “I’m bad”, it was mine as an example, the ultimate distillation of a constellation of feelings – if you can distill constellations, let’s say yes – I’m saying go with the guttural. Whatever that predominant, primal feeling is. That.)
I don’t care for the way that’s designed, frankly. But – I wish I could remember who said this, or whose therapist actually said this, I’ve a feeling it’s Anne Lamott – “that just appears to be the way we are made”. Which is the most comforting sentence on Earth sometimes.
I’ve spent years and even decades dissecting wounds that were only soothed by actually feeling every micron of every horrid attendant emotion, or at least the parts of the wounds that present themselves, because I am finding that while people are super-into talking about “The Dark Night of the Soul”, they all sound like they mean this is a one-time thing, and maybe it is for them, I don’t know.
Feels like I go through Dark Nights of the Soul more often than I do my nails.
I should probably do my nails more often.
I want to add to the healing thing that surrendering to that primal shitty feeling doesn’t mean sitting in it, and I’m not sure how to describe the distinction between surrendering to it and sitting in it… surrendering in the way I mean is really about acceptance of the fact that feeling is there and letting it run its course – that course is outward, not burrowing.
The burrowing comes from fighting it on some level, like, being all ‘Fuck, this hurts’ but at the same time, there is some form of denial, however subtle, and that seems to me to result in, “Who’s your buddy, who’s your pal? THIS SAME FUCKING ISSUE, THAT’S WHO!” again and again.
I used to think the “talking cure” would wear out the welcome on that, but that isn’t shit if the talking – external or internal – isn’t accompanied by the part where you feel everything, and in fact, absent of that part, can be a fabulous way of imprinting the awfulness on your mindset so that you get cognitive distortions borne from the original issue – bastard little hydra-headed things – and then the whole thing ends up Sorcerer’s Apprentice and Brain is like, oh, fuck this immediately, and runs away from the whole inner discussion, which is now running on its own accord in a loop – then Brain will be watching this from the sidelines like a cat watches its prey, will get more and more into that predatory mode and before you know it, this hamster wheel that was unknowingly self-installed and Brain start the debate once more, cause somehow Brain wants to involve itself in this nonsense instead of something fun.
This is because a brain can be like J. Robert Oppenheimer, in that it will chase an intellectual challenge no matter the long-term impact because the problem has been presented to it and it can’t help itself. It follows the chain, just like Oppie did. And then, just like him as well, decides that it has become Shiva, Destroyer of Worlds, and you spend the rest of your life getting dental work without anesthesia (the metaphorical equivalent) because of guilt or shame or regret or any other negative emotional, mental and/or spiritual impact of this self-flagellation.
Not that I am attempting to over-simplify nuclear warfare.
The analogy seems appropriate, though, because an unhealed wound can make everything feel like nuclear winter.