Realizing We Secretly Want Our Suffering – A Process for Emotional Healing
Posted May 08 2009 6:04pm
There was something I discovered recently, something that sounds so absurd and yet so simple. As much as I want to be free of whatever I am suffering – there is a part of me that wants it.
Whatever I was facing – sorrow, anger, guilt, hatred, resentment, fear – I wanted it just as much as I hated it. This sounded insane to me, and I’m sure many readers will feel the same way when they think of their own lives. These emotions hurt, tremendously. Why would we want to be this way? Have not the past two years of my life revolved around freedom from suffering?
And it has. With all the work I’ve done in the past two years, things have shifted tremendously. But there are many times I have gotten stuck, when nothing changed no matter what I did. I’ve found this to be a major reason. Even if you don’t believe in this concept, I suggest you take a few minutes to try it for yourself, or at least keep it in mind. If you get stuck in the future, it might be exactly what you need.
This process builds on the usual emotional work of welcoming the emotion, or letting go of it. If you are not familiar with at least one of them, please pick one and read that article first. However, if you prefer working with thoughts instead of feelings, please read on.
An example might make the process easier to understand. There was a man I met in my teens, and he gave me my first experience of heavy racist abuse. Even now, certain events, people, and places would remind me of him, and bring up unresolved feelings of hatred, shock, and grief. Over the past years, I had done much emotional work on the issue, and while greatly reduced, a lot of it refused to budge.
One day, I realized that while I consciously wanted to be free of it, a denied and hidden part of me wanted to be hurt and angry. And a big part of healing was simply done by getting in touch with this want. I would sit down, close my eyes, and relive the abuse. And this time, when the emotions arose again, I didn’t begin emotional work.
This time, I said to myself – I want to feel this way. I WANT IT. The purpose of this is to shift your focus. This is not to get in touch with the feeling, but the part of you that wants it, the part that is behind the scenes, so to speak. For our current purposes, there really isn’t any need to analyze why it wants to feel this way.
Sometimes this will intensify the current feeling. Often, it will bring up a different feeling. Behind my anger, for instance, was a myriad of other emotions. Fear, abandonment, sorrow. Welcome that feeling. It has been hidden and denied for so long, and we need to get in touch with it. Bring it up; increase it; feel it completely and explore it.
Next, use your preferred emotional work on this new feeling – welcome it, or let it go. (While I refer to these as different approaches, as they were for me in the past, these days they’re really just the different ways of doing the same thing.)
I highly recommend, if this clicks with you, that you spend a few days working on this hidden want. Then, return to your original feeling and process that out. I think you’ll be surprised at how much easier you’ll be able to let go of your original feeling.
Working with Thoughts
In internal work, there are usually two types of people. One prefers the emotional approach and the other prefers working with thoughts. For the second group, one can also use The Work of Byron Katie on this.
You can try working with statements like: I want to hurt him, or I have to be angry at him. The 3rd and 4th questions, which examine cause and effect, would be particularly powerful in this regard.
I can’t help but feel that I have been unclear somewhere in this article, so I would just like to add this section to clear it up. This is for times when we can’t let go of our pain and suffering. As much as we consciously say that we want to, there is also a part that doesn’t. This process is to get in touch with that part, and work with it, before returning to the primary feeling. I’ve found that simply doing this process for a few days on all my long standing resentments and hatreds have allowed the primary suffering to dissolve really quickly.
For those of us who are suffering and consciously revel in it, this might be a good idea also. Do some work on the wanting to suffer, and then return to the primary suffering itself. Hope that clears a few things up.
The Standard Warning
As with all processes described in the blog, please remember that safety and respect for yourself and those around you should be a top priority. Welcoming our urges and emotions does not necessarily mean acting on them. Awareness is very often all that is needed.
What’s Next and Link Love
A shorter post today, because to go into the theory (Carl Jung’s shadow psychology) behind this would take an entire series, and I’m pretty sure one doesn’t need the theory to practice this. Let me know if I am wrong, though.
The first link goes to Marc and Angel, practical tips for productive living. One of the popular blogs out there, they cover all sorts of stuff, from productivity to relationships and happiness with a wonderful story-telling style. A recent post you might like: When Less Advice is the Best Advice.
The second goes to Roger from A Content Life. A strong focus on mental and physical health with a light-hearted touch, as you can see from the tagline: Staying happy and sane everyday. A recent post you might like: Meditation for Beginners.