Below is a poem by Rumi that I find incredibly powerful.
So a little back story first. Lately I’ve had a number of patients and friends share that they are afraid to put their thoughts and emotions into form, out of fear that they would manifest the very thoughts they were trying to avoid and get rid. The prevalence of this thinking seems to be high and I would like to venture to another possibility, another way of living with our emotions, one that embraces them, and sheds light on them so that they can be seen for what they truly are.
What I’ve learned with emotions, is that if we suppress one, we suppress all of them. There is no selective choosing. Which sucks. I admit. It is not comfortable to experience some of the tougher emotions like sadness and despair. The tendency is to fight them and to lock them away, like some tyrannical terrorist. Happiness though, well…that is a much more favorable emotion to experience. Interestingly enough, we probably try to lock away happiness as well. Either way, it seems like many us need some support with knowing how to navigate the deeper seas of our emotions.
To start, I am firm believer in the power of our thoughts and words. To a large extent, they shape our perception of reality. So I can understand when people have some fear around putting their thoughts into words, like in journaling. The last thing someone wants to do when they are depressed, is talking about how depressed they feel. I think deep down, people are afraid of going down the rabbit hole and never finding their way out.
Expressing our emotions and feeling them is one thing, but indulging in them is another. The point is not to retraumatize our selves. The point is to help us to heal. One of my teachers always says, “Feeling is healing.” As corny as it may sound, I believe it to be true. So I guess the trick is, how does someone feel their emotion, without feeling like they are going to morph into that emotion forever? While there is a lot here that can be discussed, as it is not always simple, a few things come to mind for now.
Some time back I learned a great analogy about how the neurons in our brain make strong synapses or connections. It goes like this: Imagine you are in a field of tall grass and you would like to get to another location in the field, but the only way you can get there is by walking, with no help of other tools. Well initially, as you can imagine, it would take some time to create a path. But if you continue on the same path, the grass begins to lie closer to the Earth, and the path becomes much pronounced. So much so that overtime, that you can now run down the path unimpeded, getting to the other side much quicker and with little exertion.
We can look at this analogy in a few ways. I think it is a helpful model to understand how we learn, as well as what it takes to rewire something different in our brain. If a trauma has occurred in our life, I do not think it is helpful to revisit the same path over and over and over in the same way, as the path become more pronounced. Neither is it healing to completely avoid the path and convince our self that it does not exist.
There is an honoring, embrace, and respect for these parts of our self, that Rumi speaks so beautifully of in the Guest House. What would it feel like to unconditionally love and embrace all unexpected visitors, in this guest house of being human?
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.
Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.”