At least, this is true for me.
It is an important tool in the ‘heal thyself’ toolbox, for sure. But it shouldn’t be the only one. At least, not for me.
If I’m especially low, I may not have the energy or courage to face the blank page with all that I’m feeling. I may find the prospect of journaling (written or art) daunting. And sometimes, we use journaling to *escape* what we’re feeling – to do a quick ‘reframe’ of whatever it is that we’re feeling – write it out and then stick an affirmation on top in the hope that we will shut those feelings down.
I’ve done it. Often and with gusto. And it never fails. Those feelings, those emotions that I have *literally white washed* return with a fucking vengeance. And ok, maybe sometimes you need a break and painting something pretty while your insides are all churning shit and sorrow can be a good diversion, but if that’s all you’re doing? Not good. So not good.
It took me five years of art journaling to realize that sometimes my ‘go to’ tool for dealing with intense emotional pain is actually not an appropriate way to deal with intense emotional pain.
Journaling can divert you from being with your pain. It can provide a temporary easing of that pain, but if you run for the journal every time a hard feeling comes up, you are *not being with your pain* and pain that isn’t properly experienced can’t heal. Or at least, it takes a lot longer to heal.
I once heard that it’s helpful to give yourself permission to completely lose your shit for five minutes, and then you must pull yourself up by your boot straps, dust yourself off and get on with your life. I agree with the part where you let yourself lose your shit. I say lose your shit for as long as you need to, and while losing it, do not self-soothe with food or journaling or sex or shopping or a box of wine or a spliff or a pill. Be, In. Pain. Be with it. Allow it.
Which is the *exact opposite* of what we are all conditioned to do. We are all conditioned to stuff it, eat it, fuck it away (hello rebound), take up a new hobby, get shit faced drunk, get high and stay that way, slap platitudes on it and ignore it in the hopes that it will go away…
We may even say things to ourselves (or suffer others to say to us) that EVERYTHING HAPPENS FOR A REASON and that we are BEING MADE STRONGER and that we should be GRATEFUL FOR OUR SUFFERING SINCE IT WILL LEAD TO OUR JOY. Shut that voice down. Do not give it a moment of your time. Remind it that you have the right to your feelings – all of them – and that you aren’t going to let your internal censors rob you of an opportunity to genuinely heal your pain.
If anyone tells you to pull up your boot straps, don’t talk to them for a while. No one should pile guilt for feeling on top of feeling, and we shouldn’t let anyone do that to us, no matter how well-intentioned they are.
Bad things happen, and when they do, an immediate seeking out of (or the reminder that there is) a silver lining or a reason or a thing on the other side that we will eventually sing arias over actually dishonours us. It dishonours the part of ourselves that is experience the pain, the grief, the sorrow, the envy, the frustration, the anger. When we refuse to be with what we’re feeling, we’re abandoning ourselves. We’re neglecting ourselves.
Last night, I let it rain.
I wasn’t ready to talk about it when I blogged this morning because I am feeling particularly self-protective, I am trying to keep my business going while I undergo ENORMOUS transformation, and I was wary of my addiction to spilling my guts as a way to force myself to move on from intense emotional pain. I’m also aware that I tend to succumb (often, and with gusto) to the temptation to put on a shiny face – at least a shinier face than I might actually possess. A part of this is self-protective, and another part is not wanting to get my stuff all over you. We covered that in this post, though, and I have made a decision *not* to do that anymore. I let it rain, and I’m not ashamed to tell you that.
What did ‘letting it rain’ look like last night?
I *indulged* the pain. I fucking wooed it. I *wallowed*. I let it come up and crash over me. I sang a song that absolutely fucking *tortures* me. I sang it over and over again and I let it hurt so good. I looked myself in the eyes while I cried over what that song did to me as I sang it. I wiped my snotty nose on my sleeve. I snuggled my dog. I sang some more. I cried some more. I didn’t have any expectations that this would fix me. I had no agenda beyond *feeling my feels* as deeply as I could feel them. And when I was ready to stop, I stopped. I put on Glee on Netflix. I let myself fall asleep, curled around my dog like a big, tear-stained, snot encrusted question mark. There was zero journaling. I did not smoke a joint or even take a Tylenol. I didn’t break open a fresh box of wine. Life dealt it. I felt it.
And lo, it was very good.
I don’t mean that it felt good. Pain doesn’t feel good unless you are wired that way, and I am not wired that way. I mean good in the ‘it feels so good when I stop’ sense of the word, in the childbirth sense of the word. I was spent. I didn’t imagine for a second that I wouldn’t feel more later. I guarantee that I will, but I have told my whole self that feeling is allowed and that I will *witness it*. I will be present to it. I will not abandon myself in the throes of it. I will not medicate it. I will not ignore it and hope it goes away. I will honour the fuck out of it until it is gone.
Because bereavement deserves our attention.
While it might be more comfortable for the people around you if you dusted yourself off and moved on with your life with nary a complaint about how much it fucking hurts, it does NOT serve you at all in the long game. In the long game, your feels will sneak up and bite you when you least expect it and it will devastate you all over again.
Better to get it done, and by ‘get it done’, I mean ‘let it happen’. Let yourself be slain. Let yourself be crushed. Let yourself cry your tender heart out because *you are worthy of your own permission to fully feel what you are feeling*.
Me, too. I’m worthy of space to feel all the feels. Especially in my *own space* where no one has to stick around if they don’t want to. Even if my feels come as a direct result of my own choices. Maybe even ESPECIALLY when my feels come as a direct result of my own choices.
So, I am going to let it rain. Maybe you can hold an umbrella for me if you want. I’ll make tea, and we’ll hold hands.
Tissues would not be a bad idea before viewing this. The guy’s voice is heartbreaking, and I’m not so bad myself. xo