MAY 2021-Addressing the Tension of Opposite Demands
Thought of the Month
Addressing the Tension of Opposite Demands
“Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it.
Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy - the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.”
- Brené Brown
Dr. James Chu, a long-time contributor to the study of Traumatic Stress Syndromes and the consequences, has said of therapy “The struggle is the therapy, and the therapy is the struggle”.
No place is this lesson more evident and poignant than our journey through grappling with the COVID-19 pandemic and its emerging challenges. In our daily lives we often feel a tension not only about the moment or the issue but a tension as to which direction to turn. Do we turn towards and engage the tension of our feelings, our emotions, our internal conflicts, or do we move away drawn by the pseudo magical, whimsical belief that we can avoid, evade, and bury these issues. There are many options of how we respond to this Tension of Opposite pulls and stresses and strains, but as a good colleague of mine has said, “When you stuff it, store it, bury it, or avoid it, eventually it comes out sideways”.
Often in my practice the range of worries and symptoms and conflicts and sleepless nights and many other psychological and psycho-social signs and symptoms in my opinion are the result of the sideways discharge. It begs the message about when we hold and ignore as to how long we could do that and what the consequences are. Whether we use drugs, sex, TV, or video games as an escape when we stuff and store we hinder versus heal.
So, my thought of the month is about developing small strategies where we can address the stuff that we are stuffing, the issues in our life we would wish to avoid or have go away, and a series of small but perhaps meaningful steps in the direction of moving towards actions and thoughts and behaviors which reflect our deepest values about who we want to live as creative, compassionate, human beings.
The first step is to teach yourself about your heart, your hurt, your pain, the when, the where, the why, but particularly the how. You need to find a place to tell your story, whether you write a letter to yourself, whether you share with a trusted confidant, whether you talk to God or the Universe. And then you need to trust to tap into the wisdom of your body versus the stories that your mind makes up about many things. And then we can take small steps, small dosages, so we can increase our ability to tolerate to sit with discomfort because it is our tendency and pattern in many situations of life and relationships to not learn how to tolerate discomfort and distress.
With that knowledge, hopefully we can take steps forward into a life of compassion, self-compassion, reward, creativity, and living our deepest values.