Two or three years ago, my boyfriend and I got into a horrible fight. The topic wasn’t new; the intensity, however, was extreme and he ended up leaving for the weekend with nothing resolved.
I was a mess. Conflict is extremely overwhelming for me. Fighting with the person I love over an issue that triggers feelings of not-enoughness, hurt, and intense insecurity – well, let’s just say, the horribleness was horrible.
I ended up spending some time over at a wise friend’s house that evening. It was there that I began to glimpse the Hardest Thing in the World.
And, no, it wasn’t fighting with my boyfriend (that’s actually pretty easy).
Here’s how the understanding unfolded:
Me: And then he said this and then I said that but then he did this and ….
Wise friend: Hmmm, ok Lara, it sounds as if he said a lot of things that hurt you.
Me: He did! And then …
Wise friend: Where do you feel that pain?
Me (in my head): What? I don’t have time for that. HE said …
Me (outloud): Um, in my chest, I guess. But, here’s what happened next …
Wise friend: Ok, yes, it sounds like an awful fight.
Me: It was!
Wise friend: I’m really interested in you, not so much in the fight. What are you feeling?
Me: Ok, well (inwardly groaning with impatience because there is soo much more to tell), I’m angry. And hurt. And, then he said this and I knew it wasn’t true and …
Wise friend: Lara, I hear that you are really hurt and that this is an ongoing fight between the two of you and that it’s very painful for you.
Me: Yes, it IS very painful! And, it’s all his fault. Wait until I tell you what happened next!
Wise friend: Again, I want to hear about you.
Me: I’m telling you about me! See, then I said this and then he said that and I couldn’t stop crying.
Wise friend: I want to know what you are feeling right now.
Me (understanding beginning to dawn in between all the stories and protests and the wanting to blame him for the pain I was feeling): Oh. Ok, there’s this gaping, aching hole in my chest and all I want to do is curl up and cry. Possibly forever.
Wise friend: That’s it, Lara. That’s what is important. That is what needs your attention and love right now, not the story.
All we can ever really know is our own reaction.
In this case, I wanted desperately to put all the focus and attention on HIM, on the things HE’d done wrong, on the ways HE had caused ME pain and suffering.
I wanted to lash out at him, to hurt him as badly as he’d hurt me.
It was the hardest thing in the world to shift my focus from him and back to myself.
Why? Because then I didn’t have the buffer of anger and blame to protect me from feeling all the pain, sadness and fear that were beneath the anger and blame.
The pain, sadness and fear that were mine.
The feelings that were, in that moment, completely overwhelming, unbearable and un-meetable on my own. (Luckily, I was in the presence of a wise, loving, understanding friend who was able to help me).
Claiming our own responses (or reactions) in any situation really *is* the Hardest Thing in the World.
It is so much easier to blame the other person or to get angry at BP (for instance) or other organizations that are threatening our environment or doing things we think are wrong or harmful.
It is very difficult to shift the focus back to ourselves especially when the issue at hand involves something or someone we deeply love or care about.
It is the Hardest Thing in the World to pry our attention and blame from the external world and to return to ourselves.
Again, anger and blame protect us. They protect us from having to feel the small, vulnerable parts of ourselves that feel so afraid and threatened.
Luckily, there are things that make it easier.
For instance, wise friends. 🙂
Also, things like:
- using some method to inquire into the situation (I personally love The Work of Byron Katie).
- movement! (walking, yoga, taiji, dancing…)
- using some energetic technique to reground and center yourself – whatever you happen to have in your toolkit (EFT, Reiki, Ortho-Bionomy, for example).
- Owl Eyes!
- Magical Listening – listening magically to the parts of you that are in so much pain in this case.
When the pain is too overwhelming for us to meet ourselves, it is important to have external resources to call.
Who are your external resources? Who do you trust to meet you when you are unable to meet yourself?
If you want, take a moment and make a list. Your list may include wise friends, bodyworkers, energectic healers, counselors, life coaches, etc.
A word of encouragement.
While bringing your attention back to yourself and your reactions may be the hardest thing in the world, it is also the most rewarding.
Meeting these small, fragile parts of ourselves that feel so afraid and alone feels so indescribably beautiful.
It’s like being a little kid, afraid and alone in the dark. The door opens and in walks that one person with whom you feel the most safe in the entire world. The relief and joy is astonishing. The tears freely flow.
Meeting these scared, wounded parts is you returning to yourself. It is you becoming more whole and less fragmented.
It is homecoming.
This is a difficult, potentially painful, subject. And, a subject that can bring up all sorts of resistance. I know it has (and still does) in me. Be gentle, please.
I’d love to hear your thoughts and/or experiences. Just saying ‘hello’ is lovely too! 🙂
Kelly Parkinson says
You have the wisest friend in the world. So grateful for this post. Thank you thank you thank you. I should know this stuff but I forget it, and this helped me remember why paying attention to the body and to feelings works.
Oh this post is so spot on.
I had a really challenging and totally exhausting week with my partner last week. After a good few months I somehow tripped myself up and responded to events in what felt like was the worse way possible. Rageful, hurt, acting, reactive.
On this occasion even though I used Owl Eyes and EFT which DID help, it was incredibly, incredibly hard for me to stay with the practise of noticing my own stuff for a sustained period of time. Another trigger would emerge and I was off raging again – it really was like a form of torment and totally unsatisfying!
But practise makes perfect – right? There is hope and progress has been made.
It’s reassuring to hear how you have struggled in the past in relation to your emotional pain and I can totally see that Owl Eyes might well be an excellent resource for couples!
With thanks and hugs,
Judy Murdoch says
This was such a wise article.
I chuckled in recognition more than a few times as I read the conversation because your inner dialog sounded so much like mine! In particular the impatience because I really want to unload about how awful the person/situation/etc is.
So thank you for helping me remember what is really important in this situation.
Love to you
Larisa, this is so moving and beautifully written and true. Claiming and feeling those feelings is so, so hard. I’m also glad that you had such a wise friend to help you come back to yourself.
Reading your questions about who I can turn to, it occurs to me that sometimes I have turned to bodywork and accidentally opened up the floodgates — gone for a chiro adjustment without understanding that it would unlock tears, crazy helpless feelings, all kinds of things that had been brewing under the surface. Making a practice of asking for help on purpose is challenging. I want to work more on this.
Thanks for making me think about this today 🙂
I’m so glad you had that wise friend to turn to.
Huh. I wonder if I do have external resources. I will ponder. I will occasionally see someone else for a Reiki treatment in these moments. But they are also the moments when I tend to turn to the internet to see if there is something new that I can try that might help, which makes me think that I am looking for an external resource because I don’t have one. (Not that I don’t have wise friends .. just that I am not so good at turning to them.)
Larisa Koehn says
Yes, I feel incredibly blessed to have her in my life. And, I’m thrilled to see you here. Thank *you*!
Hi sweetie! So sorry to hear you had a rough week with your partner. And yes, for me also, when things are so overwhelming and I’m in that easily triggered place, it is infuriatingly difficult to stay with my own reactions.
Sometimes, things are just too painful to bear alone – no matter how many awesome skills I have. Btw, I know you have awesome skills too. 🙂
Having real, live people to turn to can be incredibly relieving – to not have to face all the scary by yourself. And, you are right, it does get easier with practice. Much love to you.
Larisa Koehn says
You’re welcome! Lovely to see you here. 🙂
Hi! I love what you said about wanting to make it a practice to ask for help on purpose. That’s awesome. And, it’s something I want more of in my life as well. We are not islands. We don’t have to face everything alone.
Thank you! And, I think it takes a lot of vulnerability to ask for help – especially when in that really raw place. I know I didn’t ask for help for the longest time simply because I wasn’t willing to let another see me when I was so messy and in so much pain.
And yet, it’s such a gift when my clients or friends turn to me and trust me with their pain.
Oh thanks for the feedback!
I am looking forward to having a session with you some time soon to help me with my own process and thank you again for sharing this brave and brilliant post about your own processes!
Practise makes perfect then? Oh thank the lordie!
You can count me in. Life seems to be showing that I need the practise! Weeeeeee.
Oh, this is so nice, Larisa.
One of my own wise teachers reminded us, “The environment is friendly,” meaning that everything that happens “outside us” is gently pushing us towards beauty and goodness. We simply need to adjust ourselves to it, with an equally gentle hand.
Thank you for your beautifully-written reminder. xo