Get Over It
(This post is not addressing symptoms of PTSD, trauma or serious mental illness. Although mindfulness can be effective with these concerns, they require additional methods of support and intervention.)
We live in a culture that prizes productivity and achievement. “Moving forward,” and “making progress” is the acceptable place to be. It is not considered attractive or “spiritual” to struggle with difficult emotions or be in a funk for an extended period of time. There is a shelf life credited to experiencing pain and once you pass it, you might get some corrective or judgmental responses from others. Pressure from friends and loved ones to step up emotional healing are oftentimes more about their own discomfort with your pain rather than sage advice. These well-meaning (or not) “encouragements” can add to the struggle of getting and feeling better. But suffering increases exponentially, when we direct impatience or frustration at ourselves, “Why can't I put this behind me? It was years ago!”
When we re-live pain, to the point of debilitation, is not because we enjoy stewing in that difficult space, it is because emotions and experiences require validation—they need to be given the respect and attention we would give a valued friend. They need acceptance. Judging or pushing them away will only enhance their resolve to intrusively hang around. They must be heard and integrated – until they belong.
We have many sides to our personality, but there are parts of us we naturally like a lot better than others. It's not pleasant to embrace the hurting parts and our brains and nervous systems are programmed to avoid pain. One of the best tools I know to overcome the programming and lessen the intensity of pain is mindfulness.
Mindfulness is a practice which helps one pay attention to what is happening in the present moment without judgment. It is sometimes called meditation. I hesitate to use that word as some might construe it with religion. What I am referring to is the health practice, although one can experience spiritual benefits if that is one's wish. Mindfulness provides an opportunity to sit with and process difficult emotions so they can lessen in severity. Often the practitioner will gain enhanced clarity and creativity in the service of healing. These are just a few of the many benefits of mindfulness. You can find more at Mindful.org
In my own experience, mindfulness allows me the ability to view painful or unpleasant situations from a more expansive place. I am not trying to stuff down my feelings in an effort to do the right thing or be a nice person, rather, I am improving my capacity to hold space for all sides of my experience. In this practice, I have learned uncomfortable emotions possess truth and value. I have also experienced relief from demanding that someone who has hurt me respond in a remorseful way. Maybe they are not capable of this. Acceptance of, not agreement with their limitations frees my energy to be fully engaged with my purpose here.
A great place to get more information (and the way I was introduced to mindfulness) is the book, “Wherever You Go There You Are” by Jon Kabat-Zinn , who is an American professor emeritus of medicine, the creator of the Stress Reduction Clinic and the Center for Mindfulness at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. The book is easy to read and jargon-free. There are instructions on basic mindfulness practices as well as information about its many benefits. He also has some videos on YouTube.
Additionally, Insight Timer is a free app for PCs or smart phones. It provides thousands of guided mindfulness meditations or the option of a timer if you prefer silence. If you like the group experience you can try a Google Search using the phrase, “Mindfulness groups or classes” or search on Meetup.com. This website has a variety of special interest groups. Whatever method you choose to get started, it is important you feel comfortable and are in an environment that allows you to direct a kind or curious attention towards exploring your experience.
Constantly striving to get somewhere or towards a particular result is exhausting. Improved productivity and increased well being are experienced when we slow down, observe and become present. Practicing mindfulness may improve your relationships too, especially your relationship with yourself.