So, there's an area of my life that I have not been feeling very good about. Things aren't going how I wanted them to go. I have been pushed and pulled within myself to respond to this situation in different ways. Sometimes I want to quit completely, "let it go", and focus my energy on other things. Sometimes, I want to dig in and try to change the experience. I have alot of self judgement about this because it's a pattern that I've noticed repeating over my life. It wouldn't be a big deal, except it's about a topic that I care very much about.
So, I basically have done nothing at all, either way, for almost 10 months. And that doesn't help me to feel good about myself either.
It's particularly "up" for me right now because of some things that have happened recently (I'm sorry this is so vague, but it includes other people so I don't feel comfortable sharing more details than this.)
Since it's been more in my face lately, I decided to take some time this morning to look at it. Because I noticed this as a pattern I've experienced, I had a suspicion that there was an unconscious belief contributing to my experience. I wanted to find out what that was. I'm going to share that here so you can try it out too, if you want.
Last summer, I attended an NVC training taught by Yoram Mosenzon. I learned so much and enjoyed his teaching style so much that I signed up for his year long course which will be starting this fall!
There was one sentence that he said at one point that SO resonated with me that it has been repeating in my head for over a year now. He said "We need to break the habit of staying alone with our pain."
That struck me as so profound. And so accurate. Experiencing pain is not a unique thing that I and only I experience! And yet I'm hiding my pain, as if it doesn't exist, as if I were ashamed of it. As if when someone asks me "How are you?" they wouldn't want to hear the truth. And the tragic reality is, I was treating myself far worse than I would ever treat another. I would never ever tell even a stranger to hide their pain and sorrow, to struggle under the burden all on their own. I would always, every time, encourage reaching out or at the very least admitting their struggle. Humans are pack animals, I have often said. "Pull yourself up by your own bootstraps" is impossible, a dramatically damaging mythology. I would never ever counsel someone to do so and yet there I was, insisting that I struggle under my own emotional burdens alone.
Even though it was rolling around in my head for months and months, it wasn't until the past few weeks that I really started applying this. What does that look like? I've been honest when I'm in pain, I've been admitting when I'm sad or lonely, and I've been asking for connection. I've been taking people up on their offers of support. I've been open to linger for a moment when someone chats with me. I've been inviting people to my home for tea or out for coffee. I've been sending messages for long distance chats.... in short I haven't been hiding.
And I'm experiencing transformation. Just this past week alone, I've made friends with my downstairs neighbor, I've had several offers of support and connection, and even an invitation to collaborate on my work!
But what have I done differently?? Not much really. I'm not even asking myself to form a new habit, that somehow sounds impossible and scary. I'm only asking myself to break the habit I have had of staying alone with my pain. I'm asking myself to interrupt that habit with a new choice. And it can be any choice! Just something that is not in the flow of hiding and struggling alone.
This month I and members of my Developing Self Love Practice Group are taking on this as our monthly challenge. The challenge is just what I've shared above.
Interrupt the pattern of staying alone in your pain. Break the habit. Make a different choice, any different choice. Don't worry yet about making a new pattern or creating a new habit. For now... let's focus on interrupting and breaking our past pattern that keeps us alone.
I invite you to look at this in your own life as well.
Are you staying alone in your pain? Are you stuck in a habit of hiding your struggles?
Some ways you might explore this:
If you want support in addressing this challenge, come and join our practice group. In our practice group, we will all be working on this challenge in our lives, in solidarity and support of each other. We'll be welcome to post in the group what we are doing to break this habit and how it goes. We'll have opportunity to receive empathy if we need it. And, we'll encourage each other.
Comment below how it goes for you, I'd really love to hear examples from how this touches your lives and hearts.
Selene Aswell is a coach, facilitator and community living consultant.