“They’re smothering me, Bill. And they’re so dark, painful, and cold. I’m talking feelings. And I just can’t come up with a fix.”
Feelings – what can I say? They can turn the front porch light on brighter than bright. And they can throw us down the basement stairs into the cruelest darkness.
How is it with you?
Feeling sad? Feeling alone? Feeling depressed? Or maybe you find yourself repeating, “I feel numb.” Perhaps it’s, “I feel empty.”
Hmmm. Well, we’re human. And feelings – light and dark – we have ’em.
Now, most of us do very well when the feelings gods smile upon us. But when the demons come a callin’ and darkness falls, life can become very miserable, very quickly. And if you’re enduring a mood or anxiety disorder you know what comes quickly often lasts an awfully long time.
Perhaps you’ve experienced the same. I’ve done my time in dark basements over the decades. Awful place to be, don’t you think? Yes, we become overwhelmed – stunned – by the darkness, pain, cold, longing, hopelessness, and anger. Am I right? And so distressing is the seeming permanence of it all.
So just what are we to do when we find ourselves desperately struggling in the dark? I can’t think of too many people who wouldn’t want to extricate themselves in very short order. Just as we’re human and have feelings, we’re human and don’t much care for pain.
Our conscious and unconscious minds can be very creative, coming-up with a plethora of extrication tools (can you say, “Jaws of life?”). Let’s see: substances, relationships, thinking/intellectualizing (I call it “living neck-up”), work, school, and I know you could submit more. And it’s all about running and hiding ‘til the darkness and pain magically disappear.
But you know what? Ain’t gonna’ happen!
No, my life experience says the only way to turn the front porch light on is through resolution. And the only way to achieve resolution is through courageous and tenacious processing. And the only way to pull that off is to go face-to-face with that which hurts us. (Of course, along the journey we can’t forget those frequent “come-up-for-airs.”)
Believe me, I know – personally and clinically – how frightening it is to acknowledge and engage feelings that grab us by the scruff of the neck and take us to hell. But I also know the healing power of tactful inner-confrontation.
Okay, this is rather graphic, but it makes the point. You’ve been feeling (there’s that word again) incredibly nauseous, and you know you’re one food ad away from vomiting. But who wants to do that?
So you do everything in your power to keep it down, until you just can’t take it anymore. Finally, out it comes. And – yes – magically you feel wonderful.
And so it is with feelings. They can be so nauseating, and we’re more than happy to endure scads of discomfort in an effort to avoid the very nasty purge. Well, at least until we “just can’t take it anymore,” and muster the courage to take care of biz – ultimately finding ourselves feeling magically wonderful.
I’d like to tie a bow on the piece by sharing the words of Dr. Kay Redfield Jamison, an advocate for those who deal with emotional/mental health disorders, and one who endures bipolar disorder. I actually shared them in a piece I posted several days ago, and they’re such a great fit here. I found them in the Forward to Understanding Bipolar Disorder: Why some people experience extreme mood states and what can help – a report published by The British Psychological Society.
I have often asked myself whether, given the choice, I would choose to have manic depressive illness … Strangely enough I think I would choose to have it. It’s complicated. Depression is awful beyond words or sounds or images … So why would I want anything to do with this illness? Because I honestly believe that as a result of it I have felt more things, more deeply; had more experiences, more intensely; loved more, and been loved; laughed more often for having cried more often; appreciated more the springs, for all the winters; worn death ‘as close as dungarees’, appreciated it – and life – more; seen the finest and the most terrible in people, and slowly learned the values of caring, loyalty and seeing things through.
Feelings – what can I say? What can anyone say? Got’ em, engage ’em, manage ‘em.
Oh, and always remember, I strongly believe the unconscious mind only releases material to the conscious mind it knows it/we can handle – regardless of what we may believe in the midst of darkness.
image credit nps.gov