I was talking with a friend recently about an ongoing family issue that had been troubling her, when she paused in the middle of a lengthy narrative to say that it wasn’t feeling good in her heart to tell it.
This particular story felt unnecessary and uncomfortable and she preferred, instead, to let it go and sit quietly and acknowledge what she was feeling.
I could relate.
I have noticed, for myself and with others, that some stories seem heavy and tiresome when shared. They have a sense of “here we go again” that can drag us down into a quagmire of finger-pointing, negativity, and increased suffering. Instead, it can feel truer to look more deeply into what is going on below the surface, to shift our focus inward rather than outward.
This story behind the story is where the juice is. The frequently repeated surface story can merely be a front for a deeper one we may not have yet been able to give voice to. This deeper story feels fresh and alive, even if it is painful to face or leaves us feeling exposed and vulnerable.
It might be something we have held inside for years and never expressed to anyone. To finally share it, even just with ourselves, can be a tremendous unburdening, a cathartic release of long-held pain, allowing us to let go of our identification with it.
Feeling into what has not been expressed, and needs to be, is where the release and relief are found: the daily rant about how I hate my boss could just be a front for the anger at how helpless I feel; always complaining about how my sister has it better than me could be a cover for the pain of not feeling like I am loved; or feeling resentful toward my neighbor for how often he mows his lawn could be an expression of my feelings of being unsafe.
Most recently, for me, it was really diving into a sense of not being worth bothering with. It manifested as a feeling of heavy resignation that was so familiar that it was just a normal part of my inner landscape. Once really acknowledged, I could see how this story had been running my life for years, keeping me from really stepping out into the world and fully expressing myself as a writer.
The result of becoming free of this story was seeing that it was worth investing in myself to properly publish my most recent book by hiring an editor, cover designer, typesetter, coach, and even getting a professional headshot.
It was a revelation to realize that self-publishing didn’t mean that I had to do everything myself. That I didn’t have to just put my book out on Amazon and hope for the best, feeling like success was somehow meant for others and lamenting that I couldn’t ever get any traction in anything I did.
As I realized firsthand, so often we are not even aware of what we believe about ourselves and don’t understand why we continue to find ourselves in unhappy relationships or unfulfilling jobs, feeling stuck, and unable to open to other possibilities and ways of being, or are unable to control our self-defeating behavior. We can feel anxious, depressed, dissatisfied, have uncontrollable bursts of anger, or sometimes even feel physically ill.
We can try to distract ourselves from these more surface feelings with constant activity, entertainment, and/or addictions, but they still lurk under the surface no matter what we do. Looking outside of ourselves for that sense of wellness, peace, or contentment can offer only short-term relief, and true peace and contentment will continue to elude us.
It can be scary, even terrifying, to stop our running and to fully acknowledge and experience our fears, griefs, regrets, shame, rejections, anger, and even feelings of love. However, when these emotions are truly felt, even when it’s uncomfortable or scary to do so, they begin to lose their power and the accompanying surface stories begin to wind down.
Sometimes we can do this on our own and sometimes we can’t. At times, it can be helpful to have someone who is able to hold a nonjudgmental and safe space for us to deeply feel what we have been avoiding. Finding such a person may mean that we need to step out of our usual support system of friends and family. Even if they mean well, these people may not have the capacity to unflinchingly be with us and support us in our deepest pain, to mirror back to us that we are fundamentally just fine, despite what is showing up.
When we are able to open to the full range of our deeper emotions, the good and the bad, we see that it won’t kill us to acknowledge them. Our inner world starts to feel more benign and manageable, no matter what is appearing.
As a result, we begin to experience greater harmony in all aspects of our lives, having a different experience of ourselves, other people and our world, and even to find our energy freed up for deeper spiritual awakening.
This doesn’t happen overnight, but if we are committed to exploring how our suffering has been created, we can become free of it.