February 11, 2013

Don’t Hide from Emotional Rawness.

I’ve gained a little bit of insight into the American way.

(And, frankly, other cultures as well—but this is the most apparent to me.)

I’ve seen so much of this tendency toward self distraction.

There are many things that we all distract ourselves from. Humans in general, I’ve come to believe, are in some essence afraid of approaching the complexity, unpredictability and dark side of life head on.

The television has become a central feature for distraction from life. A person comes home from a long day at work, stressed out over the economy or employee dynamic, and is only eager for something that will draw his/her mind away from actually thinking about it. Think about holidays…so much of what people associate with holidays are endless hours with family members centered around a television, all muted and focused in on a particular sports event or some glammed-up program. Please don’t misunderstand, I’m a sucker for ABC.com and getting to watch free episodes, but as I always say…moderation.

It isn’t unhealthy to exercise opportunities to not think about the all consuming stress of the occupational world, but I believe that the manner in which Americans in general go about it is what’s detrimental.

Distraction also comes into play with the process of grieving. There’s that mentality of “just keep yourself busy,” when dealing with the sickness or loss of someone else. We’ve become so deeply conditioned to believe that keeping ourselves busy to get through something is the preferred method. I do believe that marinating it isn’t exactly the best approach ever, but I feel as though we’ve found ourselves on the far other end of the continuum, seeking out any opportunity to not have to think about the actual issues at hand.

I say give each its due. Be sad, allow yourself to not be busy and really understand and appreciate those moments of vulnerability. They aren’t as intimidating as we have made them out to be.

As Kahlil Gibran says,

“The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.”

I’ve always really resonated with this quote, because I used to live so much of my life afraid of what it meant to be anxious or depressed. But when I discovered that the more I actually lived those emotions and the lower I felt, the more joy I could contain in my own being. And I have lived both extremes. And his words are true.

I want to be the kind of person who doesn’t run away from issues at hand. Everybody needs a break, I’m a firm believer of that. But I don’t think that avoidance is the answer. I feel like having the courage to acknowledge the pain and suffering makes it less powerful in my life. If I’m able to really express and feel what I am scared of or anxious over, then those issues become surmountable.

So in the moments of emotional rawness, I recommend that we don’t distract ourselves from those feelings. Instead, we need to surround ourselves with people who look for and crave that authentic expression, for those emotions will always be there. When they’re hiding under the surface, it might feel like they’re gone but they will only return in due time.

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Ed: Lynn Hasselberger

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