When Stockpiling Isn't Enough
We all know that we are exiting a time of unprecedented wealth, prosperity, and ease. We know deep down that we are experiencing the beginnings of a fundamental shift in lifestyle, priorities, and expectations. Where this shift is leading is not yet clear, but we know that it isn’t going to be good.
By “good,” I mean, we won’t have it nearly as easy as we’ve had. We will have to work harder and longer for everything. We will have to physically suffer more. If we boil it down to its essence, our suffering will ultimately be emotional. We are already feeling the fear. I am already feeling the fear.
Most resilience articles focus on physical survival and comfort. These things are obviously important, but I focus on our emotional, or spiritual, resilience. Because all suffering leads to, and comes from, emotional suffering, which is comprised of the negative emotions of fear, anger, and sadness.
These negative emotions are lurking beneath the surface of our consciousness all the time. We normally deal with them in one of three ways:
• Suppress them with self-soothing behaviors such as drinking, shopping, watching television, internet surfing, reading, eating, using prescription and recreational drugs, or shopping. And many others.
• Give them away to another by blaming him or her for our negative emotions and demanding or manipulating him or her into doing something about them.
• Fully feeling them by allowing the emotions to fully discharge through our body.
Recent generations have poo-poo’ed the raw display of emotions. While this is a noble goal in that it spares others from possible destructiveness of such a display, we have gone too far. Sparing others from witnessing our emotions keeps us separate from others; we are unable to connect on a human-to-human level where we all can identify with the emotions of another person.
Emotions are energy; they are designed to be felt in the present. If we suppress them, they will pop up again and again in an attempt to be discharged. We create for ourselves an endless cycle of unconscious suffering, which leads to suppression, which leads to suffering…. But fully feeling our negative emotions in private is cleansing and will often bring enlightening insight into the reasons behind them.
Because we do not feel like we have societal permission to fully feel our emotions, we turn to self-soothing. When times are good, the self-soothing opportunities are endless. We have the means and the availability to rely on any number of behaviors to “calm ourselves down,” to “get a good night’s sleep,” or to “find a little pick-me-up.” When times turn harder, these opportunities dwindle.
We will have to find other ways to deal with our suffering. We might even have to, “God forbid,” actually FEEL it.
An excellent first step in spiritual resilience is to develop the skill of allowing an emotion to fully run its course through the body.
• With anger, this means going off alone and yelling, cursing, and saying everything that you have always wanted to say. For more intense anger, I have great success with hitting things with a swimming pool noodle.
• With fear, this means going off alone and allowing your heart to beat fast and your breathing to be heavy for as long as your body wants. For more intense fear, I allow my body to tense up and shake until it cannot shake any more.
• With sadness, this means going off alone and admitting that which you have not wanted to admit. Play sad music. Allow your mind to think the thoughts that lead to grief. This can often lead to listlessness and sleepiness. For more intense sadness, I allow the tears to flow for as long as they need to.
You will feel such relief when the emotion is gone. Its dissipation will usually lead to insight, a knowing of the reason that it came in the first place, or a certainty about what to do about the situation. You will feel liberated, free, and confident. You will be able to think and reason more clearly. You will be able to see yourself, others, and the situation more clearly.
For example, a few months ago I heard something that made me believe that my own mother had betrayed me. I was furious! I stepped into my storage building, slammed the door, took the swimming pool noodle and began to hit things, all while railing and yelling and cursing at her. My voice grew hoarse from the strain. It took a good five to six minutes for it all to come out. Afterward, I was exhausted.
As a result of this discharge, I was able to forgive her. By forgive, I mean that I gave up all hope of ever being paid back. Eventually, I was able to set a boundary with her, firmly and compassionately. The next day she agreed to my boundary. We now have a closer relationship than ever. I don’t know if she actually did betray me or not and I don’t care. The anger, and therefore the desperate need for justice, has been gone since that discharge.
Allowing that anger to flow made room for forgiveness, for connection, and for a whole new start. These things would never have been possible if I had kept that anger inside.
Another example: I have been stalled with my podcast for awhile now. I knew that I was afraid. I decided to face my fears. I wrote about them in my journal. The act of writing brought into my conscious mind what I was only vaguely aware of fearing. I was afraid of censorship, of criticism, of false accusations. Then I imagined in my mind all of these things actually coming about. I said to myself, “What if these things will definitely come about? What if there is nothing I can do to stop them or mitigate them?” I allowed my heart to beat fast and my breathing to become short. It lasted only about two minutes.
In a day or two, I was able to accept that I will be criticized. I will be falsely accused. I will be lied about. And I will be kicked off Youtube eventually. Now what do I do? I knew what to do. I would create what I want to, regardless. I felt the freedom to create and to be me. I had already accepted the consequences. The discharge of that fear brought me freedom and joy!
I recently redecorated my home in order to make my husband feel more comfortable. I loved my decor: my live edge coffee table, my hair-on-hide leather club chairs, my damask braided trim comforter. I did not want to change anything. I allowed myself to grieve each item as I sold it. I said goodbye to it. I cried. It felt like I would never have it that good again.
As the new furniture and light fixtures came in, I was able to delight in them. I was able to appreciate the new and different feel that they brought to our home. After fully grieving my old stuff, I was able to feel comfortable with the new decor and to not feel resentment toward my husband for the loss of what I had. I was able to fully enjoy creating, appreciating, and sharing the new look with him.
There is a lot more detail about this spiritual skill, fully feeling emotion, that I discuss on my Z-Axis Life website and podcast. I also talk about other spiritual skills that will become imperative to survive - and thrive - in the difficult days ahead.