How do we sit with our pain or uncomfortable feelings? What do we do with the void that doesn’t feel good?
Often times when we have feelings that are uncomfortable for us we want to divert our attention or run the other direction. When an issue comes up that’s uncomfortable normally we’re not encouraged to sit with it or be a witness to the pain. And when I say pain and uncomfortableness I’m talking about the emotional kind. Instead we’re offered detours. And sometime these detours are offered from our family and friends with good intentions. Shopping, going for a drink, taking a trip to get our mind of it, seeing a movie. How often do we offer to just sit with a friend in who might be in an emotionally uncomfortable space?
In the last 24 hours two incredibly simple examples came up for me. But they were powerful reminders of how something simple can show us how to sit still and be in discomfort.
The first example was last night when my husband was working late. I knew he wouldn’t be home until after I went to bed. I missed him. I missed our usual evening routine. Even though I did some of the same things we would normally do I still felt a void. A lonely space. And even though I was totally aware of this place I was in I was only slightly willing to sit with it.
I plugged into Netflix started one of my favorite shows. This help slightly but not enough. So I reached for the coconut granola that I had just made. It was so good and still warm. With cinnamon and vanilla and chocolate chips. And of course cinnamon and vanilla are the ultimate “I’m lonely,” comfort foods. It made me feel a little better for a second but I was still lonely. At that moment I wasn’t willing to just sit with my feelings. I went for a walk. I walked for 30 minutes being in the feeling of lonely. This was better for my overall well-being than sitting with Netflix and granola. After 30 minutes I felt better. I knew he’d be home soon. And I’ll tell you, most of the time when I have time to myself I soak it up like there’s no tomorrow. Last night I just wasn’t in that space.
The second example was today. I sat in an Infrared Sauna session as the temperature climbed to 130 degrees. It was all I could do to sit still. I had ants in my pants for almost 45 minutes. All of me wanted to jump out of the sauna because I was so uncomfortable. I was hot, sweating profusely, my heart was beating as if I were on a run. It was more challenging today than usual. But it reminded me I often have a hard time staying put in a place of uncomfortableness, however minor it is. My M.O. is usually to run.
These sound like such a simple examples but I know you can relate.
Learning how to sit with ourselves and each other and just be with the pain or uncomfortable places in our lives is a powerful tool. There is nothing more supportive than sitting with someone. When we allow the uncomfortable places to surface we can pass through them. When we give the gift of sitting with someone else in their uncomfortable place we create space for them to let go.
If we deny ourselves the opportunity of being in this place we’ll shove the feelings under the surface only to have them resurface again and again until we chose to finally look at them. As we keep stuffing our feelings further and further they tend to manifest themselves it all sorts of fun ways. They can look like random anger, jealousy, sadness, hatred, illness in the body…
Even a simple feeling of loneliness is often not something we’re willing to sit with. We may acknowledge it. We may know we’re lonely, yet we find a way to seemingly make the feeling go away.
It’s so much healthier to be with our feelings no matter what they are.
It’s a learned skill to sit with someone who is going through pain. Instinctually we all want to help our loved ones and get their minds off the pain. The healthier way is to experience the uncomfortable spaces and move through them whether it’s by ourselves or with others.
I invite you to sit still next time you’re inclined to detour. Be in your uncomfortable place. Even if it’s for five minutes. It might be five minutes more than before and next time you can move to ten minutes. Breath deeply and be with your feelings. Gift yourself the experience.