We are not at rest. Within us is a pressurized container of pain, and we have tried to prevent it from disintegrating by increasing the pressure outside, by pressing it together from the outside. Many times we have thought that external circumstances could set us in peace, and we have experienced disappointment every time. We may have experienced short times of 'peace', or less anxiety, but our turmoil returned every time. In fact, it never left us.
We will not find peace as long as the container is pressurized. Nothing outside of us will give us peace. This alone is a scary thought, and it may well be our first issue to grieve. Nobody else can give us peace. They can be with us on the way, and they can guide us, but they can not set us in peace, no matter how desperately they wanted to do so. They can provide safe circumstances, and they can love us, but they can not release the pressure in our container.
We can release the pressure, and we do so by grieving. But first we must remove the pressure that is pushing the container together, the pressure outside the container. Only when the pressure inside the container is larger than on the outside, it begins to disintegrate and leak. Much of this is gained by acceptance, and by acknowledging that our painful feelings are real. We are afraid to look at the stuff that leaks from the container, since we may think that we must try to change ourselves at once when we see something disgusting or dirty. It is not so. We try to understand and accept, and we do not try to change or improve ourselves. We rest. We may see something we don't like, but we look at it. We respect it, since it appears deep within ourselves, and it is real. It may be dirty, and we grieve the dirtiness. It may be scary, and we grieve our fear. It may be painful, and we grieve our pain. It may be shameful, angry, or sad, and we grieve it, but we rest and we do not try to change ourselves. It tells us about something that is stored deep within our soul.
Grieving is the most healing of our tools. It transforms our panics, despairs, fears and anxieties into sorrows, and when we find our sadness, we are already beginning to own our rest in the issues. Sorrow is healing. Always. The essence of sorrow is to let go. In sadness we own our humility in front of life larger than us. In sadness we find rest, and our memories gain rest and peace. Grieving will show us the way. When we begin to grieve an issue, we may begin with panic, despair, fear, or anything else. We process our feelings, and they process us. Eventually every issue will turn into sorrow. However, it happens only when we do not try to change ourselves. We have not reached sorrow in our issues earlier, since we tried to change ourselves or our behavior at once when fearful feelings emerged - or we suppressed them.
When my mama broke my telescope, when my new fathers killed my pets, or when they hit me, I was not allowed to find my sorrow. I was not allowed to weep. Nobody spoke about the issues afterwards. Nobody acknowledged my sorrow for losing something dear, or my sorrow for being beaten. I changed myself, I owned a false self who did not buy telescopes, and did not want to own pets. Had I been allowed to weep, I would have grieved over my broken telescope, and after a large number of tears I would have smiled again. Nobody validated my sorrows, and I learned not to trust my intuition. In order to be a good boy, I invalidated my own sorrows. I thought so. However, my attitudes towards my sorrows have no effect whatsoever on them. They stay with me until I acknowledge them and respect them. They stay with me until they are released with tears. Healing of many of my childhood issues and later issues began with anything else but sorrow. Usually they began with despair, fear or resentment. Eventually I learned to strive towards letting go and sorrow. Only when I found the sorrow because of the losses behind the resentments, I was able to cry and become healed.
We will learn to validate our losses. We will learn to forget all 'objectiveness'. When my new dad killed my frog, I was terrified. Later, as adults, we may think that it was just a single, dirty frog. It was nothing. Why should I still weep over it? But we are not going to validate the adult that we are now. We will validate the little child that we were, in order to own our adulthood now. I lost my frog, and it was not much. Had my parents been with me in my sorrows, I would have understood that it was just a frog, and I could get a new one, or something else. I lost much more than the frog. I lost the love of my parents. I lost validation as a child who loves frogs. I lost validation as a child who can feel. I lost my belonging, and I took another step towards isolation. I had much to grieve. I have cried many times over this event, and over many similar events. I still feel sorrow and compassion for the little boy, but I also smile when I remember him. At first when I began to work through these memories, I was anxious and felt myself stupid. Now, as the terror related to the memories has faded away, I can feel the skin of the frog as I remember how I held it in my hands. My memories have become rich, and they bring me much joy. My history is at rest.
After my frog was killed, I still loved frogs. I played with them, but something had changed. I was afraid that my new dad would see me. I did not dare to tell my parents about the fun I had with frogs. I began to hide some elements of my life. I began to feel shame. I began to own the elements of the life of an addict. Gradually they were given to me, one element at a time, and there was nothing I could do. We are compulsive and codependent because of the elements of life that were given to us when we could not say no. We are addicts because of the shame and isolation that were given to us before we became such. Our obsession increases our shame and our isolation, but they do not exist because of our addiction. Our addictions and compulsions exist because of the original shame, isolation and feelings of inherent defectiveness that were given to us. We may not be aware of our original shame and isolation yet, but we will find them through grieving. But now we rest. We accept ourselves and the tools of life that were given to us. We are good. We did our best, and we survived.
The difference between an addicted mind and a healed mind is coarsely demonstrated in figure 1. The figure is purely my own judgment based on my experiences, and its purpose is only to demonstrate some of the thoughts I discuss in this chapter. It shows the main operating areas of the two minds, but both minds can temporarily visit any other area. A healed mind can experience pain, and a shame-based mind can feel happiness, but they are relatively short experiences. The black arcs describe the main operating areas or attitudes of the two minds.
Figure 1. Workspaces of addicted and healed minds.
The addicted mind swings between pain, fear, shame, numbness and excitement. An addict has experienced many overwhelming sorrows without being able or without being allowed to process them. The pain that we experience is greatly due to preventing ourselves from feeling these sorrows. The container within is heavily pressurized and it requires a lot of effort to keep it from disintegrating. The pressure causes much fear, since we are afraid that the container would some day disintegrate and we do not know what to do then. As we are not aware of our sorrows and we are unable to let go of our pain and fear, we feel that we are somehow inherently defective, and it causes us to feel shame about ourselves. We think we deserve our fear and shame. We do not know how to handle our pain, except through relief and excitement, and doing so puts us right back to excitement, followed by numbness and shame. We circulate from excitement to pain, and then move straight back to excitement. Actually we move towards healing, but we do not own our sorrows through meeting our pain. Instead, we avoid our pain by escaping somewhere else, doing something else that is powerful enough to make us forget.
Sorrow and happiness are very close to each other, as are the physical manifestations of great sorrow and great happiness - tears in the eyes, distorted faces, and so on. Often it requires only a paradigm shift to move from sorrow to happiness, and it can be a quick transition. This is partly because when we are feeling sorrow, we are connected to our emotions, unlike a pain-filled mind. We can own our happiness almost at once when we find our sorrows and realize that we are on the healing path. We become free of pain by becoming aware of our pain and moving through it to our sorrows. In doing so we begin to experience happiness in the middle of our sorrows, and it is due to the paradigm shift of entering the grieving process. This happiness is not excitement - it is peaceful trust in the middle of deep sorrow.
As we are healed, the operating space of our mind rotates clockwise in figure 1. On the other side, we move through pain to sorrow and happiness, and on the other side excitement and numbness decrease. Then we begin to let go of our shame, while still dealing with our fears. Excitement will be replaced with joy and pleasure, which are peaceful manifestations of feeling good - unlike excitement. Joy and pleasure and also manifestations of feeling good in the present moment. Excitement can also be due to something in the present moment - like driving a super deluxe Mercedes Benz Cabriolet at 170 km/h - but then also joy and happiness are present. For us, excitement usually was due to anticipation of the future relief, without joy or happiness. It was not a manifestation of feeling good in the present moment, but rather a manifestation of the desire to escape the pain of the present moment.
A healed mind does not feel pain, expect possibly for short periods. Pain is a result of fighting against ourselves and not listening to our internal messages. If a healed mind experiences loss, it feels sorrow instead of pain. Actually, after healing we will feel more sorrow than without healing, since we are connected to our feelings, but our sorrow will be healing sorrow that allows us to own our losses and to say goodbye to them. When my wife dropped a teapot and it broke into pieces, she cried like a little child. At first I though that her reaction was out of balance, but then I understood that she validated a loss of something dear - especially the quiet moments of enjoying tea in bed and pouring it from exactly that pot. She cried when I collected the pieces and presented them to her. After a while she smiled happily, and she was full of joy when we were shopping a new teapot. The one we bought became very dear to her at once. Through owning her sorrow, she was able to transform all of her beautiful memories to the new teapot. She understood that her lovely memories were not connected to a specific teapot, but to the moments she remembered. They were her property, which could not be taken away from her by taking away a physical thing that was a part of her memories. When she owned her loss, she could bind the new teapot in the beautiful moments she remembered. It is dear to me also, not because of being a specific teapot, but because it is dear to my wife. I handle it with great respect, and I am happy that we own it.
We enter the grieving process in a variety of ways. Sometimes we are overwhelmed by a feeling - panic, self-pity, resentment or fear. At times we feel a nagging restlessness within us. Sometimes a feeling or a memory asks for our permission to surface, and at times we call a feeling into existence. Sometimes we recognize a feeling in an unsafe circumstance, and we relive the feeling in a safe place. Our grieving can start with any of the following:
Eventually we are striving towards sorrow, and when we reach it, we cry away our losses. As we begin to have some experience on grieving, we will learn to think of our issues in terms of sorrow and loss. We will learn to recognize our internal messages, and our internal messages become clearer. We will learn that behind our fears of the future are our anticipated losses. We will learn that our anger is due to preventing a loss from occurring. The more we detach, the closer to sorrow we are moving.
I was in panic. For a long time I had tried to understand a person whose words and behavior did not match. If I tried to speak about my feelings, it was not allowed. I was being treated indirectly, and I was being led along a narrow path towards a goal I did not know. If I followed the plan, I was treated lovingly. If I failed to do so, I faced anger, and without explanation. I wanted to preserve the friendship, and I tried to understand what the other person wanted, but I only became crazy in trying to do so. After some time my thoughts were running wild only around this person. I tried to do what I thought would keep the friendship, but everything went only worse. I made stupid things that arose from my panic. I had hidden goals. I was not able to be open. Finally I decided to detach. I stopped reacting to all indirect communication, at the same time being open to direct discussion, which never took place. The detachment set me in peace, and I was able notice my codependent clinging to the other person, and my inherent desire to please people. I went though much pain in myself, in my loss, and in the ways I had contributed to the dysfunctional relationship. I began to own my responsibility, and I began to heal. The relationship was one of my best healing experiences, since I was able to learn much about myself through it, but only after I had detached.
When we are overwhelmed by a feeling, the feeling takes over and we can not stop feeling it. We may be desperate, terrified, we may feel hatred or fear, or we may be in panic. In these cases our first issue is that of detaching. We recognize that we have no power to control the actions, feelings and thoughts of other people. They do what they want to do, they feel what they feel, and they think what they think. They are completely their own issues, and we are powerless over them. We admit that what has happened, has happened, that what we have done, has been done, and what other people have done, has been done. There is no way to change it. We accept that the way the future will unfold is not in our control. We accept that we are not responsible to solve the problems of other people. We accept that others are not responsible for solving our problems. We admit our powerlessness over the issues of other people, and it may cause additional grieving, but it will set us free to deal with our own issues.
If our thoughts are focused on the events of life, or on the reactions of other people, our first issue is to detach from them. In doing so, we may experience additional terror, but it stops our minds from running in circles and trying to find solutions to problems. Eventually we might need to solve some problems, but if we are in panic, we will invent only poor solutions. However, our problem number one is our panic. When we detach and own our powerlessness, we become free to take care of ourselves. Other people will take care of themselves. At times, detaching is slow and painful, and it may take months or even years. At other times, detaching may follow immediately when we recognize it is what we should do. The more we heal, the easier detaching becomes, since we become less dependent on external circumstances. We learn to pray the Serenity Prayer sooner.
When we have detached, we can start feeling our own feelings. Detachment leaves us free to listen to our own feelings. Detachment may or may not make us feel better, but it is not the fruit of detachment. As long as our thoughts run wild trying to find solutions or regretting the past, we are not facing ourselves, and we are not healing. We let go of the events, of the people, and of the future. We stop asking "What do they think of me? Why did I do it? What should I do? Why did they do it? Why don't they do this or that?", and start asking "What did I lose? Why was it so important to me? In which ways have I tied my happiness to other people or external issues?" We do not try to solve problems. We try to understand ourselves without changing anything or anyone, including ourselves.
A beautiful woman smiled to me. A terrible sorrow emerged, and I almost broke into tears. With much willpower I was able to control myself, but I also recognized what had happened. I had an open wound within, and the event triggered the memory and the feelings related to it. I reacted to the feelings of the wound - and not to the present situation. I reacted to a situation of past. This is regression, and it is one of our most valuable tools of healing. Another example of regression is the book torn in two pieces, in chapter 3.
A couple of years earlier I had fallen in love with a long-standing and very enchanting friend. I did not want to fall in love, and I did not want to follow my desires. However, my life became crazy, since I could not break free of this love. After much despair, I chose to confess it to her, at the same telling I only wanted to break free of it. Our friendship ended almost for one year, but gradually we had begun to strive for restoration. I had not cried over all of my losses and sorrows related to this event. When the sorrow emerged, I noticed the smile that triggered it. It was not a safe situation to cry, and I decided to let myself cry later in a safe environment. That night I went for a long walk along the seashore, and let the sorrow rush in. I cried much, and for two reasons: firstly, because of the painful times of being in love that could not be realized, and secondly, because of the sorrow related to the fact that a warm smile made me cry. I had experienced two losses. One was the loss in my history, and the other one was the loss at the present moment, caused by my history. I cried over these losses for many nights, and finally I could smile. Now, when someone grants me a warm and loving smile, my whole heart smiles, and I am free to respond lovingly. When I bring these events to my mind, I smile and feel happiness because of the love given to me, although I was not able to receive it then. Both memories have gone to rest, and they have become beautiful experiences of life.
An insignificant event can trigger strong emotions within us. I, and many others, have learned that the triggering events can be stored in memory and re-experienced later. As we heal, we begin to be our own observers, observing how we react to different circumstances life sets in front of us. We begin to be aware of ourselves, not only when intense reactions take place, but also in everyday life. When we experience regression, we can tell ourselves that this is not a safe place to experience what we are experiencing, and we will experience it later. We should relive the situation as soon as possible, and in a safe place. We let our emotions take control of ourselves, without trying to understand anything else but the messages rising from our internal world. In doing so we respect our inner reality. We may feel shame, hatred, sorrow, self-pity or anything else. We try to strive towards the sorrow of the losses we had. We already have at least one loss - we were not able to live our life fully, since something within us took command of ourselves. The original loss may be hidden, and it may reveal itself slowly. It will reveal itself only when we respect the feelings it started to speak with. If it was anger, we feel our anger. If it was fear, we feel our fear. We try to call our feelings into existence, and we let them conquer us. In case of an old wound, we may never meet it, and it is not necessary to find rational explanations for our feelings. We release the feelings locked within, and in doing so we validate ourselves. In doing so we find contact to the child within whose emotions took control of the adult we are now. Regressions reveal that our child within, our true and non-pretending self, is alive. We respect him, and we listen to him. We will not tell him to shut up and be quiet. We will not shame him. We call him into existence, and we validate every single message we hear. After a large number of tears, he smiles again.
Sometimes we may experience a nagging awareness that things are not well. This unpleasant restlessness may emerge slowly, or after a specific event. It may make us feel uncomfortable in certain situations, or anywhere and all the time. Something within us being prepared for healing, but it emerges slowly. Sometimes our most significant wounds begin to heal in this way. Something within is asking for our permission to come into existence. Our child within has something to say, but he is not used to say it. He was not allowed to say it, and was not loved if he said it. He is asking for our love, and for our permission to be real. In these cases, we should never try to turn down the volume button. In doing so we would invalidate our own awareness that all is not well within us. It may be unpleasant to endure in such a state, but it is the best we can do for ourselves. We should learn to respect the weak and troubled voice of our inner child when he begins to ask: "Do you love me? Will you love me if I tell you something?".
In these times, we should say to ourselves: "My dear anxiety, I love you. You are beautiful, and I want to see more of you. You have no reason to hurry, but I would be delighted in meeting you". At times, we may try to call the feeling into existence by doing what we feel it calls us to do, preferably alone or with a safe person. We may discuss with a safe person who does not invalidate our feelings or try to name it too soon. We rest and endure, knowing that it will reveal itself, and there is nothing we can do to force our inner child to say something he does not dare to say. He will say it when he is ready, and not a moment before. He will say it at once when he is ready, and when he knows that we will listen to him with love and acceptance.
Sometimes it may be of help to know that behind every issue, behind every wound, is sorrow. We may try to get in touch with our sorrows, and we may try to think of our childhood or painful events in terms of sorrow and loss. We already experience one loss: the anxiety. Trying to get into contact with our anxiety in terms of sorrow may give us more compassion towards our inner child, and he may feel himself safer and loved. We may also try to look for signs of fear or shame. The issue may make itself known though terror, panic, fear, shame, or anything. We accept it, we listen to it, and we wait patiently.
Many times I have also experienced that the anxiety has gone away once I acknowledged it and allowed myself to experience it. I went for a walk (by now, you have noticed how much I walk alone) and let myself feel the anxiety to as great extent as possible. After a couple of walks it was gone, and I felt myself free and peaceful. It merely wanted to be acknowledged. When I accepted it as a real and important issue, I validated my feelings and my internal messages. I validated the speech of my inner child, and he was happy. It might have been an issue he had no words for, and it is not necessary to understand our feelings in 'rational' terms. We undermine our feelings if we try to analyze them without letting ourselves feel them. Feelings are to be felt and not to be analyzed. They are not thoughts. We can learn much about ourselves through feelings, but not by rationalizing them. We learn by feeling them. Feelings are not thoughts, and they can not be handled as thoughts. We can think of them, and we can understand them, but we can respect them only by feeling them.
At times a nagging anxiety may point towards an issue we should do something to. We may have wronged someone, and we should apologize. We may have a task we have not yet completed. In these cases the anxiety is not with us always, but only when we remember the issue, when we meet a person, or when we enter certain circumstances. Sometimes we may not feel ourselves ready to do the things that the anxiety points to. We may have detached from a person, and we may feel false guilt. In this case our responsibility is to heal ourselves first, and when we are ready, we feel it, too. Then we act - or we may decide to do nothing about an old issue that has gone to rest. In other cases, especially in case of a task we should do, we might make a decision to complete the task. However, we do not act out of fear or panic. The best we can do is to trust our intuition. We do not trust fear, shame or guilt. We trust our intuition. We handle our fears, shame or guilt separately, and first. We know what is best for us, and we learn to trust it.
Sometimes a nagging anxiety may be due to something around us. We may feel ourselves uncomfortable in certain situations, or with certain people. Some issues may make us feel uncomfortable. In these cases the anxiety may call us to detach. We may be participating in a dysfunctional system, and someone may be controlling us using guilt or shame. We may be dishonest and have hidden agendas. We may have committed ourselves to something we don't feel right for us. We are functioning against our feelings or against our true self. We may have to detach. It is safe to detach, since detaching does not have to be permanent. If we learn that our detaching was not the right thing to do, we come back. Detaching always works. When we detach, we have freedom to think of ourselves without external pressure, and we will find out what we really want.
Awareness of a Hidden Issue
I had felt a nagging anxiousness for some time. One evening I went for a walk, and I decided to try to experience the anxiousness to as great extent as possible. I invited it to take over me, assuring that it was good and lovable. I did so for some minutes, and a strange vision flashed in my eyes for a hundredth of a second: I was a small boy, almost a baby, I was laying on my back in a bathtub, and my mama pressed me under water. I was shocked. Two thoughts began to revolve in my head: "It can not be. If it is, what then?" My thoughts refused to think it over. My feelings refused to feel it. Anyway, the anxiety was gone. I have no idea what I thought or felt during the walk after the flash. It was a shocking view, but it died as soon as it appeared, leaving me with a strange awareness and with a number of questions.
Some months followed, and during them I reflected on the flash every now and then. I have a sister who is fifteen years younger than I, and I remembered that my mama lost her control many times when my sister was small. Sometimes, when my sister cried, my mama pressed her mouth with her hand to make her quiet. Sometimes she did so for a relatively long time, and when she removed her hand, my sister could only breathe deeply. Yet I was not able to recall my flash, or to determine whether it was true or false. At times I forgot it, but once in a while the memory of the flash returned. I was merely puzzled.
A few months after the flash, a woman communicated anger to me indirectly. It was not much, but I experienced a deep regression, and terror emerged from within. I was able to live through the day normally, but in the evening I again went for a walk along the seashore, wishing to relive the regression. The vision hit me with all of its force, and this time it was not a flash. I felt the touch of the warm water on my skin, and the hands of my mother on my shoulders. I felt the feelings of the little child, and they were not terror. They were merely helplessness in front of issues he could do nothing to. He had given up. I was not terrified. I was not shocked. I was sad. I felt compassion for the little boy. I cried for him, and for the events he had to endure. I wrote Regressions and Not My Fault. As I write this, tears come to my eyes, but they are tears of love and tears of healing sorrow. I can still remember the flashback, and I can still see the face of my mama through the water, but the memory has gone to rest. At times I still cry for it, but in doing so, I feel peaceful sorrow for the little boy.
As the nagging anxiety arose, my inner child called for my attention. He said: "I have something to tell you. Will you listen to me?" I said yes, and I began to listen to my anxiety. When the flash came, he said: "If I tell you this, will you listen to me and love me?" I said yes, and he began to prepare me. I began to reflect on my mother, and on the ways she treated my little sister. I was being prepared. When the memory finally came, I was ready, and I was able to comfort my little inner child. Had the memory come at once, I might have been frightened, and I would have left my little child alone in despair. He had already given up. I comforted him, and I understood him.
Within us is a protective system that gives us as much as we can handle. The tools for healing are all within us, and within every human being. Healing begins to take place when we find them within ourselves. We are wounded souls, and terrible issues may reside within us. We will find out why we are compulsive, and we will find terror. Our minds do not allow us to experience all memories at once, because it would be unsafe. We will become aware of them one issue at a time. At times, an issue may emerge slowly. At times they may appear suddenly, leaving us screaming in horror for a few days or weeks. They appear in ways that are good for us, in ways that lead us towards healing sorrow. The way to sorrow may go through anger, terror, fear or anything else, but eventually we will find our sorrow. We will feel compassion for ourselves. We will weep because of the love that was missing. We will cry because we received hatred or violence that did not belong to us. We will become healed, and we will find peace.
We have experienced many losses, the greatest of which are our isolation and our mistrust in ourselves. Before we became obsessive, we were isolated and felt ourselves shameful. We have much to grieve, and many reasons to be angry and resentful. We will own our grief by working through our anger. When we let go of our anger and resentments, we will become free of our history. Freedom awaits us. Peace awaits us. Joy and happiness await us. We will find them, and they will find us.
The way to healing is paved with tears - our tears.
Out of Pain