Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional.
When we are hurt by another person we can choose how to respond to it. Do we deal with it immediately and let it go, or do we nurse a grudge and let it fester? Holding on to the hurt is like letting the perpetrators live rent-free in your head.
Do you think of things to say after the fact that really would be a zinger and it haunts you? You know you really could have hurt back. It feels like insult to injury. But the person who damaged you may not even be aware that they did more that stub your emotional toe
As a survivor of drastic offenses, I am not a victim because I have chosen to let go of it. I had an ulcer at age 14 because I couldn’t get past what had happened in my childhood and teen years. The thing is, my inner turmoil wasn’t hurting the offenders. In fact, had they known how much I was hurting, might they have received a bit of pleasure at the notion?
I understand that it is over and my peace of mind is worth saying that I am done letting it roost in my head and heart. My experience with it is that Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, with its focus on current coping mechanisms, has been effective in purging the torment. There is nothing to be gained by reliving it over and over. Picking at scabs and watching you bleed over and over again is destructive and not necessary.
It wasn’t until my early twenties that I learned that if I kept that up I was subject to flashbacks. I lived the episodes over and over again. They weren’t pleasant the first time around and going back was unpredictable and horrible. I’m not saying that I am no longer flash-back free, but without holding the wrongs in my heart I have a great deal of control over how I handle them.
I had to learn how to forgive. Not for their sakes, but for mine. I never talked to the offenders personally. I didn’t need to roll that dice. I didn’t know how they would respond. But I forgave them unilaterally. I wasn’t going to give them the satisfaction of punishing me. During the abuse they had more power than I did. Now I have power of my own.
John Lennon sang that “Life is what happens when you are making other plans.” Life in this case is something that we barely recognize because we are so invested in having everything run the way we think it should. We hang on white-knuckled, so afraid that something may go awry; that we miss what is really important about life.
White spaces are the occurrences and adventures that happen between the planned activities and compulsory duties. We work so hard to have free time, getting all our chores done. But then, we rush to fill the gaps, frenetically filling in the spaces that could otherwise be used in contemplation, re-assessment, re-booting.
The world of artists and graphic designers refer to white spaces as the portion of a page left unmarked; the space between images. White on a page is not wasted space. They are necessary for us to see the intended subject matter. They outline and give depth.
Sometimes there isn’t much room for ‘spaces in between’ because there is so much information that has to be transmitted, resulting in a busy sensory overload that is hard to manage. If there aren’t enough places for your eyes to rest, you miss out on what you are supposed to be learning that day. Mismanaging your ‘time between’ can make your day feel incomplete.
Filling your time with indiscriminate activities can actually be detrimental to your emotional and physical health. Our spirits cry out for sincere input and positive experiences. If you are fleeing from yourself, you are missing all the scenery that composes the time between. Living in the white spaces frees you to be so full of life that you can overcome the ‘gray’ areas of despair, anxiety, and depression.
“However mean your life is, meet it and live it; do not shun it and call it hard names.” Thoreau.
Sometimes “Later” is my favorite word. It is the only thing that keeps me going. Knowing that ‘later’ does come, but hopefully at a time when you can cope with that which you put off.
People have the agency to change the course of their lives by taking an active role in the requirements of the day. How do you know what those requirements are?
I have found that if I can plan in advance what my requirements are, in a calm moment of clarity rather than in the heat of the moment, I am far more likely to accomplish my goals of the day and era.
Have an understanding that you control your destiny. Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional. You spin your wheels if you think you can control all factors that play a part in the drama of life. But what you can control is how you face it.
Developing the capacity to cope involves a desire to face things head on.
- My best method to fight the urge to put life off is to make my plans and lists the night before. That way when I am faced with a difficult day that would otherwise paralyze me or keep me down, I have a clear cut plan that I wouldn’t have been able to visualize if I was having to do it from scratch in an environment that would otherwise defeat me before I even start.
- Do the most onerous tasks first thing in the morning. Getting them done opens up your whole day. You don’t spend your time in apprehension and dread, which would otherwise color all that you do get done and increase the chance you would otherwise procrastinate it.
- The time is going to pass anyway – why do ‘hard time?’ You can’t get to the end without the journey. It can be as instructive as the end itself.
- “For a long time it seemed to me that life was about to begin – Real Life. But there was always some obstacle in the way, something to be gotten through first, some unfinished business, time still to be served, a debt to be paid. At last it dawned on me that these obstacles were my life. This perspective has helped me to see there is no way to happiness. Happiness is the way. So treasure every moment you have and remember that time waits for no one. Happiness is a journey, not a destination!” Souza
- Choose to start from where you are. Sometimes you just have to pick yourself up and carry on.
- You can’t help but be aware that there is something you ‘should’ be doing, or opportunities to experience and live. Will you pursue it with all your hear, piece by piece, or will you slack off? There is no such thing as staying in status quo. You are either going forward, or sliding backward. “Life is a process of becoming, a combination of states we have to go through. Where people fail is that they wish to elect a state and remain in it.” Anais Nin
- Once you sideline yourself, there is a good chance that when you do come back to it, the energy has changed, you will never be able to enter the river of life in the same place as that which you passed by.
- The Hindu mystic Ramakrishna wrote that “The winds of grace are always blowing, but you have to raise the sail.”
During my sophomore year as a university student, I had the opportunity to teach ESL, English as a Second Language. My job was as a ‘conversation’ tutor. The students had learned the fundamentals of English as they went through school in their native countries, but still needed conversation classes to be able to apply the components in actual speech. We listened to “In Your Wildest Dreams” (1986 Moody Blues,) and watched the movie “Field of Dreams” (1989 directed by Phil Alden Robinson) over and over, ad nauseum, until the students were able to fill in the blanks in the sentences with lyrics and dialog.
That my students were all Asian did not mean they spoke the same language, or even the same dialect. As human beings we share emotional languages amongst ourselves, but each person has his/her own dialect that must be learned and understood.
While at BYU I worked nights at a major hotel. One evening I was describing features available to an incoming guest, including hors d’ oeuvres in the bar. I had never made the connection between the spelling of these bite size appetizers and the pronunciation. When I tried wow this guest with this information, I pronounced hors d’oeuvres phonetically, including the ‘H.’ I knew what the spoken word meant and used the correct pronunciation all the time. But whenever I read it in a book, I thought it was pronounced ‘horsdevors’ I was mortified that I had never made the connection between how it is spelled and its use in conversation.
Like my faux pas with hors d’ oeuvres, there can be a gulf between what is understood intellectually, and what is actually experienced.
Emotion as a Second Language requires practice and sometimes repetition when you just don’t get it. Often we need a conversation tutor’s support to bridge the gap between personal understanding and our interactions with our loved ones and supporters. We know how we should be acting and feeling, the technical aspects of interrelationships, but it takes practice with them before we can make them our own
- When some emotions are taken at face value they can be treacherous. With Emotion as a Second Language, you can turn your liability into a strength. Learn how to translate raw emotions into appropriate and manageable chunks. By taking what is overwhelming and breaking it into its component parts, (like diagramming a sentence), it becomes clear that was seems insurmountable is in fact attainable and doable.
- Sit down with someone you trust and check your premises. Is your thought process appropriate to the situation? You need to break down your emotions into recognizable parts. This enables you to teach another person your language, your personal dialect, in the broader spectrum. Just because we all have emotions and can apply labels, your dialect still may need translation, even to yourself, let alone your support network.
- What you think you may be saying and what the other person hears may be completely at odds with each other. Like playing telegraph as a young child, the message is passed along person to person until at the end the message comes out garbled with the interpretations of those passing it along. They don’t mean to make it up, but somewhere in the process of telling and hearing the message breaks down.
- Had I just had someone help me bridge the gap between what was on the written page and its verbal interpretation, I could have been saved from embarrassment. But I didn’t have the insight to know I needed help pronouncing it. I didn’t know I had a problem with it. The people around me were not mind-readers and so had no idea that I would have a deficiency. No doubt they would have corrected me had they known.
- When we don’t have the self-insight to get help when we need it, our supporters can hold up a mirror so we can understand and correct our deficiencies. Several years ago my husband sat me down and told me that I could get mean when I was manic. I had no idea that the things I was saying were coming off as hurtful. I knew I got irritable when the mania was crashing, but no one had ever told me that my sarcasm increased and my patience decreased. I was so grateful that he had the courage to put a mirror up to me. My job was to listen and act on it. I had to learn a new dialect when dealing with my family.