A friend of mine reached out to me in despair after being dumped by his girlfriend of 7 years. Worried she was seeing someone else, his life suddenly went from successful world-famous dancer to “I want to quit everything and move far away.” He suddenly lost all focus on his upcoming dance competition and drank himself to oblivion every night for several months. His nights were filled with hatred and bitterness, suddenly painting an evil picture of the woman he had loved for so long. In his mind, she was a monster. Underneath all that pain and anger, we all knew, was sadness for the loss and pain from disappointment. He said it was easier to drink away his sadness than to deal with the pain of being left by the woman he loved so much. He called a few months later and said he realized he was an alcoholic and needed help. I suggested therapy and recommended an amazing AA group in the area. He went a few times, but he quit because the work it took to heal was exactly that- WORK. I do love my friend dearly, and sadly, sometimes inner work isn’t for everyone. He suffers even to this day. Drowning his sorrow in distractions, anger, and alcohol. This story is far too common, and it breaks my heart to see my loved ones suffer so much.
Flowing through hard times is hard, and the reason it is so hard is because our instinct is to run from pain. No one wants to feel pain. An angry tiger coming after us is certainly a realistic fear of possible pain. To not run from that would be insanity. But what does the pain from heartbreak feel like? Does it tear into our skin and make us bleed to death? Does it sever limbs from our body as we lie helplessly on the ground? While in a moment of emotional distress, we may be convinced that that is definitely what it feels like, in reality if we really took an honest inventory of the actual pain from heartbreak, it is (fortunately) much less physically painful than being torn to shreds by an angry tiger.
Unfortunately, however, our mind perceives heartbreak (or potential heartbreak) the same way it perceives a vicious lion attack: DANGEROUS!! We are so afraid that the feelings that come with heartbreak will literally KILL us that we run as quickly and as far away from it as possible (and sometimes we even turn around and attack those that we feel are breaking our heart). Instead of processing our feelings, we stuff, drown in addictive behaviors, deflect and deny all those feelings of sadness, loss, grief, and unrequited love, burying them deep inside a dark pocket called “unforgiveness” thinking that we have escaped the threat of pain. In reality, packed up inside our hearts, it slowly eats away at our hope, joy, trust, and inner peace. Whenever we sense those feelings of loss, sadness, or anger creeping up, we repeat the process: drown, deny, deflect. These unattended feelings and emotions end up making us weaker and less able to handle “hard times”, eventually killing us slowly over time. Instead of getting stronger, better, happier, we get weaker. To put it bluntly, it’s a self-inflicted wound.
Now, I can’t speak for everyone out there, but the thought of me being the main cause of my suffering is very unsettling. Who wakes up in the morning and says, “Ya know, today is a great day to suffer. I think I’ll make myself suffer just a little more today than yesterday!” But we all do it, and it comes so naturally, because to do the inner work it takes, to hold the pain and unwanted feelings from being hurt by another, is inconvenience, uncomfortable, and undesirable. It doesn’t give us the immediate satisfaction and sense of accomplishment like counterblaming, deflecting, or distraction. This is where delayed gratification is so important. We can either put off our immediate need to escape discomfort for the sake of obtaining inner peace and lasting joy, or we can take immediate gratification by pointing the blame and hating, but suffering long-term consequences, which typically include heavy emotional burdens and a negative energy that permeates your body and soul and follows you around in all your relationships (professional and personal). It’s all a choice.
So instead of thinking, “is this person deserving of my forgiveness?” think, “how do I want to demonstrate inner strength in handling my own life?” Think, “do I want to prove how resilient I am, demonstrating my skills in flowing through all kinds of life situations? Or do I want to allow all the worst parts of life to take up a large portion of my livelihood, clouding my sense of happiness and purpose in life, causing me much emotional baggage that will end up pouring over into all of my relationships?
The truth is, you can cope with a lot more than you think you can, so long as you resolve to. You have the capacity to handle all kinds of situations. Be brave. Someone once told me: “The degree to which you have forsaken your own drama is the degree to which you are available to others.” So be the change you so desperately want to see in this world. How is anyone going to learn how to overcome life struggles if no one is willing to model it?
So flow… it’s the best gift you can give yourself and others. It takes work, but it takes so much less work than the alternative.