I turn again this week to Miriam Greenspan’s Healing through the Dark Emotions for what it suggests about how we can best approach the processing of painful feelings.
When we experience fear, grief and despair, many of us tend to hold back from sharing these emotions. This silence can help us to discover what is at the core of our pain. With time to ourselves, we can delve into how what has happened treads on basic values or re-activates old wounds. We can start to decode the messages our pain has for us. Off on our own, we can wrestle with how much we hurt without worrying about needing to put a good face on things. Time alone can be a crucial part of the healing process.
Alternatively, silence can seem the only safe way forward. We may believe that we will burden others with what we are experiencing. We may imagine that speaking with them will only intensify our pain through encountering a lack of understanding or empathy. We may be concerned that admitting our brokenness will cause us to be shunned, shamed or belittled. This sort of silence can hinder rather than help our healing.
“Emotional alchemy is not only a process of going deeper, it’s also a process of getting wider—telling a wider story, recontextualizing your private, personal pain. The wider we get, the more our dark emotions connect us to the world and the more we grow in wisdom and compassion.” p. 85
Engaged in thoughtfully, going deeper can facilitate your healing and help you grow as an individual. However, it may also serve as a substitute for looking at the broader meaning of your feelings, circumstances and experiences. We all want to feel that our story is unique and yet focusing on this uniqueness may obscure our options for action. We can derail our healing if we fail to acknowledge the way our narrative is shaped by the world around us. Becoming conscious of the bigger picture can also help us to be more self-compassionate.
“The single greatest barrier to…healing and transformation is not really…traumatizing events themselves but…isolation. This isolation…is not so much a failure of the individual to find community as it is a failure of the human community to offer connection to the individual.” p. 212
Let’s begin to think about emotions as being a bit like breathing. That is, think about how can you cycle between taking them in and then out again: Connecting with yourself, connecting with others, understanding the personal nature of your pain, understanding the universal nature of your pain. If you can connect with others – when you or they are in pain – and at the same time deepen your connection to self, you can transform isolation into enlightenment.
Miriam Greenspan. (2003). Healing through the dark emotions. The wisdom of grief, fear, and despair. Boston: Shambala.
The Diversity Dividend by Katherine W Hirsh is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.