I’ve blogged before about my belief that all emotions serve a purpose—even the bad ones. I came across this poem by Rumi recently, which served to reinforce my thinking. I love when Rumi and I agree =)
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
Some momentary awareness comes
As an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and attend them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
Who violently sweep your house
Empty of its furniture.
Still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out for some new delight.
Treating Each Emotion Honorably – What an abstract yet wonderful and somehow awful concept. What could it mean? My thoughts:
Don’t Numb the Pain – A glass of wine is fine—good for the heart even! And I’m not opposed to my friends indulging marijuana for entirely non-medical reasons. (I honestly don’t because it doesn’t agree with me. Strange yet true). But I urge you to pay attention to how often and in what frame of mind you turn to these things. In the moment, they might alleviate sadness, but that also means you won’t be able to feel happiness—in all her glory—later. There are other ways, aside from chemical substances, to numb pain. It can be with social activities, with food, promiscuity. Anything that offers quick fix. Anything that distracts. Anything that drowns out the sound of a persistent emotion knocking on the door. Emotions are like credit card companies. Ignore them, and they will not back down until you let them in. Give them the attention they ask for, and they will leave you alone. At least until this time next month.
The emotions most tempting to numb are sadness, disappointment, and failure. Yet by trying to do away with these dudes you can screw up your relationship with their counterparts—happiness, pleasure, and success. As the grandmother on Dawson’s Creek once said, “I know it hurts, but don’t be afraid to feel it.”
Don’t Blame – My cousin Ruth and I were discussing this over lunch a few weeks back—how much more in control of our lives we felt when we stopped blaming others for the mistakes we’ve made. The stupendous thing that happens when you say, “It was my fault,” is that you can fix it—whatever it may be. You can meet the challenge of solving the problem you’ve created. Or—if it’s inalterable—you can apologize. You can heed the lesson. You can make sure to never do it again. You can make an effort to change.
If you get in the habit of blaming others, then your life is out of your hands. It’s up to everyone else, and why leave your life up to other people?
The easiest emotions to blame on others are jealousy, embarrassment, and anger. These are trigger emotions. It appears as though the presence or action of another person has caused your reaction, when really another person has simply alerted you to something you were already feeling. Perhaps it’s an insecurity you haven’t dealt with or an old wound that hasn’t healed. Nine times out of ten your emotions are telling you something. They rarely tell anyone else anything.
Tea for Two – Treating each emotion honorably means sitting with it. Alone. You and it at the coffee table. Ask her (jealousy) why she’s here, or ask him (anger) why he stopped by unannounced. Listen to what they have to say—even if you don’t like it. They are constructive critics. They have come to edit your papers so you can get the best possible grade. (Anticipate many revisions).
If you listen to them long enough, eventually they’ll say, “I’ll be on my way now. Happiness and joy are coming. They’re arriving on the noon train tomorrow. I came to tell you so could clean the house today and have dinner ready tonight. Now when they arrive you can spend all of your time with them.”
Note: I don’t mean to disrespect those who are clinically depressed. A sadness that will not leave is tragic. It is a much greater challenge to overcome, but I believe it can be overcome. I’ve seen it! When you’ve done all you can and a negative emotion will not go away, don’t be afraid to ask for help. A therapist or other professional is not going to fix your problem, they are simply going to let you in on the healing powers you already have.