For most of my life, I have asked myself…”why”? Not so much “why me” but why? Why do people suffer? Why is there pain? Why are some people so cruel? Why am I the way I am? What’s it all for anyway? There was a moment once when I was still married to my ex husband and he had been having problems with his car. It seemed that there was one thing after another that needed fixing. He finally got it all working out alright when he got a flat tire. This frustrated him and I remember him asking me: “why is this happening to me?” I remember thinking to myself first of all, that it was a flat tire…and I also thought, why not you? Everyone has “stuff” that happens to them at one time or another. No one is immune from…life.
In retrospect, I understand that during my childhood, it’s not as if I could have changed the situation. Any child that is at the mercy of the adult abuser IS a victim but as I gradually became a young adult, I chose not to be a victim of my circumstances. I had much sadness within me for years but despite this, I wanted to make the best of the situation. I see now how much I’ve grown to understand so much.
Despite the lack of love growing up, I do know what love is…I know love by having experienced the opposite…hate and cruelty. By this contrast, I understand love. I know compassion. Witnessing and being the focus of someone else’s cruel intentions, I feel compassion towards others. So by taking a negative experience, I chose to use it to try and understand. It is easy to know what the meaning of each of the words; love, compassion, cruelty and hatred are…we all know the definitions but to have actually experienced the negatives, I understand and appreciate the positives. It does seem like a backwards way to learn something, but it is still a way to learn.
We have heard many times that our feelings are a “choice”. Maybe we didn’t choose the negative things that happened in our lives but we have a choice on how these things will impact us.
Today, I feel that there are so many people who decide to fall into the victim role of their negative experiences. It is so much easier to point our fingers at another person and say that it is THEIR fault. “You made me this way”. This may be true initially but no one holds a gun to anyone’s head and tells them that for the rest of their lives, they will be bitter, angry and mean to everyone around them. Your feelings are YOUR feelings. If this were not true, how then would we expect the perpetrator to change the emotions within us? It is the same as expecting someone else to make us happy. That is a tall order to fill…no one outside of ourselves can do this. When we take responsibility for our own emotions (regardless of what they may be) only then can we grow Spiritually from any experience. This may be difficult. One must decide to become responsible for ALL aspects of themselves.
The first step for myself was to acknowledge that all those terrible things happened to me in my past. Yes…it happened, it was awful, it hurt me, it made me sad, it made me feel angry and hateful towards my parents. I felt lost, insecure and I felt as if there was no sense of safety and security anywhere. What was difficult for me was to really take a look at how each of those incidences made me feel. Half the time, the feelings were so ugly inside of me that I couldn’t even identify or label those emotions. They were just a big wad of jumbled up “bad” feelings. It’s hard to know where to begin unraveling all those yucky feelings and try to identify them…and I found that that was not important, but more importantly, to heal as a whole. I remember telling my therapist once that if I likened my bad feelings as colors, the mix of colors were the darkest, murkiest colors you could imagine all mixed together creating the deepest, ugliest, darkest black that you could imagine.
Acknowledging and accepting what happened is the first step to letting go. Realizing that I had no control over the situation while I was a child and learn to let it go. Accepting myself just the way I was. Easier said than done. It’s not as if I could smash all of my pain into a box and drop the box in the ocean and say goodbye. Emotions are not something tangible…like dropping a rock into the ocean. These emotions were within my entire being. It sometimes felt that it had consumed me and lurked within every cell in my body, …pain, anguish, anger, loathing and fear. Talking about my feelings helped. Find someone that you trust and then spill your guts…
My “letting go” reminded me of the whole grieving process proposed by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross in her 1969 book “On Death and Dying”. There are 5 stages of this process: Denial, anger, bargaining, depression and finally, acceptance. There is no particular order as we each go through this differently. My whole adult life seems to have been to work through each of these stages until I finally reached acceptance. This is when the healing for me really began. The realization that I could not change the past or present actions of others but that I could only change myself…my perspective. Depression for me came before the anger and when I felt angry, I was angry at -them- and somehow found that I could deal with the anger better than the depression. When I was in the anger stage, I felt justified in feeling it. I would talk it out, or exercise and feel better. In the depression stage, it just hurt…and I didn’t understand why but came to understand that during the depression stage, I was just hanging on to the pain but when the hurt and sadness turned into anger, I was able to work on it.
We live in a society where we are told to ignore our feelings. We have to act rationally, behave in a manner that conforms to society, or to the way our parents want us to behave. We’re taught to shove down our feelings, bury them and never mind your feelings…just do what you’re supposed to do…do what you’re told. However…our feelings ARE important! We are all sentient (feeling) beings and acknowledging and getting to know your feelings and what they mean to you is needed on our Spiritual journey. Our emotions are our guides. When our feelings get “all jumbled up and confused”, there’s some work to do.
As I’m typing this, I feel like I’m rambling on but I’m being truthful and honest. There really isn’t an easy way to heal. Healing should make us feel better, but not in the beginning… which seems contradictory. To heal means to acknowledge and FEEL the pain…understand yourself, be ok with yourself and all that you feel…and it’s OK…
One of the many things that helped me to heal was to realize that the people who had inflicted such pain in my life were hurting too…and I will talk more about this on my next blog.