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Equanimity with Painful Feelings

With my partner away on silent retreat these last three weeks, I have had frequent moments of loneliness, disorientation, and melancholy.  These feelings are painful, but not nearly as painful as the jackals (critical voices) that follow them.

I notice the jackals come in two types.  The first argues the idea that feeling as I do means something is wrong and I should hurry up and do something about it.  This creates a sense of urgency and an impulse to try to wriggle out of my skin.

The second set of jackals attack my identity.  The main argument here is that if I were a more together person who was more confident, strong, evolved, etc., those feelings wouldn't come up.  Unchecked, these voices leave me feeling heavy and depressed.  I get the impulse to withdraw and collapse.

In response to the first set of jackals, I get immediate relief comes when I remind myself that it is okay to feel what I feel.  I am big enough to feeling these feelings.  In fact when I pause and just feel them as they are I create a sense of peacefulness around the painful feelings.

The next level of relief comes when I remind myself that my identity is not determined by any passing experience.  I am not a worse person because I feel melancholy.  I am not a better person because I feel confident and joyful.  Both are just experiences that come and go.  In fact my value and who I am cannot be measured by anything in this relative world.  I simply exist.

If you are asking the question, "Well, if I don't create my identity by what I experience, by what I do, by how I look, or by who I hang out with, then how do I know who I am?" I would say that is a good question to have.

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5 Responses

  1. Jan 12, 2011
    Jacob Angel

    Dear Lashelle, I take this sharing as one more example of using a challenge as an opportunity to grow.
    What is missing for me is also sharing at the unmet needs level.

  2. Jan 12, 2011

    yea, that was certainly relevant and a part of my consciousness. My needs for acceptance, intimacy, being seen an heard, empathy, and grounding were the ones most up.

    As I write the gems I try to balance what to include and leave out in order to meet needs for clarity and integration for the reader. I can see how including needs in this article could have contributed to a level of depth without distracting from the point.

  3. Jan 15, 2011
    Tam An Tran

    I don't feel confortable with sharing myunmet needs with a lot of people, especially with family members. This is because I am told that I am proud (not wanting to ask for financial help when it cannot be given without conditions, etc.) I want the freedom to share any inheritance that is left for me the way i want to, e.g. give to charitable causes, etc. I also do not wish to ask for money when I sense I am not trusted or valued as to being capable of deciding what I need. So I will only ask for help while the person (mother or father) is still living and then only if I am sure they won't judge me and tell me I waste 'their' money!

    That is their opinion and I DO try to be responsible and generous with the use of my money.

  4. Mar 04, 2011

    greetings lashelle,
    i find it hard to get out of the 'withdrawal cage'. once i slip into isolating myself with my pain it can take days to bounce back. i get literally paralysed. it's a tough place to be in yet getting out of that shell seems to be almost impossible. what is your experience about this unfortunate strategy? any hints? thank you.

  5. Mar 08, 2011

    Yea, this sounds difficult. I am hearing you need some clarity and relief when this strategy comes up?

    A couple of things that come to mind are reminding yourself what you know to be true about staying engaged with others (for me I know that I get out of a overwhelmed/withdrawn place faster when I engage with others). Another is that when you do withdraw into your room or home, do something physical to help change the state - deep breathing and stretching, exercises, dancing, anything to shift the physical base of that state can you give the resource to make a different decision.

    I hope this helps.

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