Sometimes, you can stare at things for a long time, and suddenly realize that some hidden image has been sitting patiently and waiting for you to notice it. Some of Salvadore Dali’s art is this way. And also lots of optical illusions. And they say that those annoying 3-d images, if you squint long enough, that a picture pops out of them eventually, too. (For the record, I am not sure I believe in that last one. It has never ever worked for me.)
My internal landscape is like this. Things sit and wait for me to discover them. Sometimes, it is a connection I never saw before. Other times it is a feeling I was busy pretending I didn’t have… Joy at something sad, sadness at something happy, guilt at something I earned.
I recently had this kind-of realization about my pain. I was quite shocked to discover that I was upset at others when they did not take responsibility for fixing my hurt. I told myself what I wanted was empathy from the people who love me. Because asking for empathy from the people who love me is a pretty reasonable request. In fact, if somebody didn’t have empathy for me, it would be fair to ask if they loved me at all.
In fact, what I have wanted is something much more. I wanted others to make it thier own mission to fix me. As I realized this, I realized something else, kind of interesting: apparently, to some part of me, a pain-free Jeff is a good Jeff… even a fixed Jeff.
As I came to this understanding, I realized something about my feelings. And also, I think, I realized something about your feelings. (Perhaps you’re a bit wiser than me and have already worked this out.)
It’s not pleasant to experience pain: sadness, mourning, depression. There is a reason that these are all connected with a condition they call the dark night of the soul.
Yet… they have a place.
They are guides. Emotions, perhaps especially the unpleasant ones, are direct lines to our inner landscape. There is no other way, I think, to get a status report from the very deepest part of us.
If others had some magic word that would take my pain away, they would be robbing me of something so important. As I spent all this time wishing the pain away, I could have been exploring it, and I think I would have been made better, and wiser because of it.
Today is Thanksgiving. And so I guess the thing I am saying is that I am going to work on thanfullness for the pain.
There is so much more that ought to be said here, and I think I will be posting some of that in the near future. But I feel like I ought to follow up with a caveat.
Sometimes depression, sadness, and mourning want to become the captain of the ship. These things don’t harm us directly; they are like an immune deficiency, that paves the way for other things which very much do hurt us. Prayer, Support from friends and professionals, and medication are incredibly important methods to recover this balance, at the times that feelings want to stage a mutiny and become the captain of our ship.