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Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Say yes to the mess

So what do you do when all your 'stuff' comes rising to the surface. You know the 'stuff' I'm talking about: the fears, irritations, resentments, grievances and assorted neuroses that tend to clog up the sink (the sink being our minds and psyche). What do you do when it all comes rising to the surface? We live in a culture that, for all its incredible technological sophistication, is almost completely emotionally retarded. We're simply not taught how to deal with our negative emotions and pain and the various mental/emotional disturbances that inevitably arise in the course of our lives. Is it any wonder so many people turn to what I like to call the weapons of mass distraction (a term originally from Tony Blair: he once accidentally referred to Iraq's supposed weapons of mass destruction as 'weapons of mass distraction' - a Freudian slip if ever there was! I liked the term and have kept it!) The weapons of mass distraction (basically the things we use to distract ourselves from our pain) are alcohol, drugs, television, internet/computers, mindless chatter and bitching. There are probably others, but those are among the main culprits. We use them to distract ourselves from what we're really feeling, to numb ourselves out. Not that any are necessarily inherently bad in themselves, but when we're using them to paper over the cracks rather than confronting the underlying problems, we become a society of mindless, lobotomised, emotionally deadened desensitised zombies. Harsh indictment, I know. But nonetheless I feel its true.

Our 'stuff' comes up, rises to the surface - all our blocks, fears and issues - in order to be dealt with and healed, not to be drowned out and suppressed by mindless aversion. Right now there's a lot of it going on - on individual and collective levels...it's a process of healing. We can no longer ignore what's happening or deny the issues that are coming up for us. we have to confront it. Accept it. Heal it. And let it go. And then be prepared, because just as you've gotten over one thing, another deluge of mental/emotional sludge will spew out! It ALL has to be dealt with - ALL OF IT! - and it takes as long as it takes.

Question is - HOW? You've acknowledged that all your fears and self-sabotaging beliefs are rising up to the light of consciousness. First of all, you just hold them in you awareness (awareness really is half the battle - because until you are aware and make this stuff conscious, you'll unconsciously be living it out and accepting all these toxic fears and beliefs as being 'real'). Then commit to working with it rather than distracting yourself from it.

The process of dealing with it is surprisingly simple (but that doesn't necessarily means it's 'easy' or comfortable). With the emotional stuff, you simply sit with it. Practise the art of mindfulness: just observe your emotion, allow yourself to fully FEEL it, without letting yourself get carried away by all the mental stories as to WHY you think you're feeling it ("he shouldn't have spoken to me like that"). Just accept it. Bring your full attention to it. Treat the emotion like you'd treat a crying baby - it's distressed, upset, so bring your nurturing attention to it. Eventually you'll find that, by bringing acceptance and loving attention to emotional pain, it will begin to dissolve and transmute. It might take a long time or it might only take 2 minutes. Stick with it. For more advice, I strongly recommend you read Eckhart Tolle's books 'The Power of Now' and 'A New Earth' (these books ought to be compulsory reading for EVERYONE). It's a cliche to say 'this book changed my life'...but it did for me and may well for you, too.

With the mental stuff, the negative thoughts or beliefs (which is basically ANY thought or belief that brings you or others suffering in any way)...you take them and QUESTION THEM. Stop taking your thoughts so Goddamn seriously! For this I strongly recommend you check out the Work of Byron Katie - a four step process of questioning your thoughts. Read her book 'Loving What Is' or simply check out her website (www.thework.com - it has all you need). It's the simplest, most powerful way I know of stripping away negative thoughts and beliefs. Above all, you've got to OWN your negative thoughts and emotions. Stop projecting onto the world. Resist the tendency to buy into the old illusion that "it's this person/situation that is causing me to feel bad". NO, IT'S NOT! It's YOUR THOUGHTS about this person/situation that is causing you to feel bad. Fact. The world is what it is. We can't really change it, at least not much. Thoughts, however, are as transient as clouds, even though they often appear real and solid. And they can be changed - more easily than you might think. Own your thoughts, fears, interpretations, beliefs - if they work for you, keep them. If they are causing you to suffer, it's time to seriously re-evaluate them...

In times when all kinds of 'bad stuff' comes exploding to the surface, I've learned that the very worst thing you can do is resist it, judge it or think it 'shouldn't' be happening. Resist nothing. Let it all happen. Let it be as it is. Accepting and loving the shadows - as well as examining them deeply and realising that they aren't real - eventually dispels them, or at least makes them seem so much less threatening.

I saw a quote in a book a while back that made me laugh. I find it quite relevant for these times; "say yes to the mess!"

I hope this is of some help to someone, somewhere, sometime. I've been having a fair deal of 'stuff' coming to the surface and this is how I deal with it. Weapons of mass distraction simply don't work for me, and I'm kind of glad. I'd rather face my 'stuff' head on and heal it. It's all gradually diminishing...sure, more always tends to come up, but I know how to deal with it. Hope this helps you too!

2 comments:

Weston Elliott said...

Wasn't it Happy Days where everyone used to say "Sit on it!" ? Maybe they were onto something.

I think there is something lacking in this world where we don't have to look someone in the face to talk to them about any given subject. We don't have to be genuine, heck we don't even have to be who we say we are in some cases. Something about that detracts from the personal experience of person to person contact. Although it is wonderful that I can talk to people thousands of miles away (and do on a regular basis) I still miss the touch, the reverberation in the same room as myself, the very feeling of another presence nearby.

Perhaps, instead of sitting on all these things that plague us, we ought to smother them with personal contact. I know that meeting in person with people who have the same goals as you (writing for us) is incredibly cathartic, and I honestly believe it is the contact, the nearness, of another living being.

Writers groups really are good things...

Rory said...

"sit on it"; i love it!! So much wisdom in that; not distract yourself from it or try to manipulate it away, but sit with it. When you turn your attention to your 'stuff' it has a way of shifting and melting away. least thats whats i've found in my practise.

I agree with your comments about us lacking something; although we're in a 'communication age', it seems we're more disconnected from each other than ever before, in spite of all these social networking sites. We're connected as never before and yet somehow more alone than ever. Maybe it's because when we do communicate we don't communicate anything worth communicating - you know the friends who meet and never actually discuss anything important, only stupid little trivialities no one really cares about.

Connected and yet disconnected - that's a great paradox. Maybe finding likeminded people and really opening up to each other is really a very healing and needed practise for us?