A lot of people say I’m hardcore. They don’t necessarily mean it as a compliment.
They don’t mean hardcore as in cool James Dean rebel without a cause hardcore. I have never really been cool (it’s fine I embrace my awkwardness), but hardcore as in intense. And I get it.
Having descended into some pretty dark places in my own psyche earlier in life, I tend to be drawn to the shadow of things. I often feel called to work with hardcore material, whether it’s severe post traumatic stress disorder, suicidal depression, or working with trafficking victims.
You may be reading this and rolling your eyes at what one would presume to be a thick cloak of self-righteousness I am flaunting about. Certainly the ego can find its way into philanthropic affairs. But, in truth, I don’t really pride myself on the nobility of the work, although I champion the causes.
I have always been somewhat baffled at why I was magnetized to suffering on an epic scale.
Growing up I was horrified but also compelled to study the holocaust at length. It is a life goal to work in Africa bringing psychological first aid to some of the frontlines of suffering.
Some might say I have a kind of morbid fascination, or a strong Thanatos drive, or that I am simply compensating for, and avoiding my own wounds, and desperately seeking existential meaning.
Some would say it’s all self serving, and on that point I would agree. Something happens when I open myself to the edge of despair.
As James Hillman says, you find there are more rooms in your house than you are living. When I stare naked, unabashed suffering in the eye my own life is thrown in stark relief. All at once it gets bigger and smaller.
My sense of the world expands, yet I am humbled and liberated in realizing how little my life is against the sky of the universe. My troubles are placed in immediate perspective. I become overwhelmed with gratitude for my endless blessings and profound luck. My heart agrees to break in order to hold more.
With a mindful meditation practice to stay grounded amidst the storm, I catch a glimpse of what Ken Wilber means when he writes, by participating joyfully in the sorrows of the world, the pain hurts you more, but bothers you less.
You don’t need to be a martyr, but in healing others, you can find healing yourself. It’s why service is such an essential component to any recovery program.
By tending to suffering, in whatever form calls you, hardcore or not, we free ourselves from the cage of our egos, and find greater connection to humanity at large.
In the words of Ram Dass:
The pain of the world will sear and break our hearts because we can no longer keep them closed. We’ve seen too much now. To some degree or other, we have surrendered into service and are willing to pay the price of compassion. But with it comes the joy of a single, caring act. With it comes the honor of participating in a generous process in which one rises each day and does what one can. With it comes the simple, singular grace of being an instrument of Love, in whatever form, to whatever end.
Meredith Hines is a Los Angeles based psychotherapist, yoga and meditation, activist, and proud puppy mama. She specializes in working with trauma, creativity, and spirituality. Therapist.firstname.lastname@example.org, Therapistmeredith.com