Sometimes I play in my darkness—at least for a little while.
I feel that tightness in my throat, letting me know I’m not speaking my truth.
I feel that heaviness in my chest, letting me know I have things trapped there behind the wall around my heart.
I feel that sickness in the pit of my stomach, letting me know I am swallowing my emotions.
I need to do the things I know will change my state: music, laughter, writing, talks with friends. All of these things are readily accessible, but instead I pull inward and swim in the blackness of my suffering.
This is not a matter of allowing myself to feel emotions: anger, anxiety, jealousy, hopelessness, discouragement. This is about taking simple responses to fear and piling so much on top of them that they weigh down my spirit.
When I have a moment of clarity and awareness I ask myself, “What is the payoff here? Why would you choose to suffer?”
In the quiet, I answer:
I choose to suffer because the role of Victim is comfortable. She is an old friend who doesn’t help, but I know her well.
I choose to suffer because the courage it will take to say what I think, ask for what I want and believe I am worthy evades me. I let the desire for others to be happy take priority over what I want or need.
I choose to suffer because there is a perverse attraction to the intensity of the feelings. The wave of blackness is so big, so overpowering that I know the calm on the other side will be glorious. The more I steer into the storm the better the reward—if I do not lose myself.
I choose to suffer because it gives the warrior in me a chance to conquer something, a chance to overcome adversity, even if I created it.
Most of us choose to suffer from time to time for these reasons or others. Some like the attention directed their way when they are in the role of Victim. Some punish themselves for past wrongs, real or imagined. Many only choose to suffer passively. They take the actions but lack the awareness of the energy they are creating.
To all who choose to suffer, including myself:
1. There are other comfortable default roles we can create for ourselves besides Victim. We can choose to take our power back and realize we have the ability to step forward or backward, but the options are ours.
2. “Couraging” is a skill, not a personality trait. The more we reveal what we think, what we want, how we feel, the easier it gets. There is no reason to be unhappy so that someone else can be happy.
3. The addiction to the relief from the extreme emotional hangover can come with a high cost. There are plenty of intense feelings in the world without creating ones we can get lost in forever. The more we tell a story to ourselves, the harder it is to remember it is only a story.
4. Our lives do not have to be a battle that triggers that strong warrior to come out and fight. What if we thought of life like a puzzle? Sometimes the pieces are harder to find, but with enough time and effort, it all fits together.
5. Since fear is the energy behind most mental and emotional suffering, find some awareness of it. How does it feel in our body? What thoughts do we tell ourselves? What triggers it? What lessens it?
6. No matter the reason we choose to suffer, we can offer ourselves some compassion for our choices and learn from our experience. Choosing to beat ourselves up is choosing more suffering.
I wallowed in darkness for several days before I allowed the light back in, remembering the promises I made to myself and the people I care about.
I choose to pay attention to the cues from my body that fear is taking over. I choose to do the things I know will clear that negative energy. I choose to feel emotions and embrace their importance while letting curiosity uncover how exaggerated they may be.
I awoke this morning without yesterday’s emotional hangover, ready for all the joys the day has in store for me.
Author: Lisa Foreman
Photo: Larisa Birta/Unsplash
Editor: Toby Israel