Sitting with Difficult Emotions

The more difficult the emotion, the harder it is to sit with it.   We don’t want to feel the things that hurt us, quite naturally, and we have sophisticated, if often not very subtle, means of not feeling them.   One of the most striking is the method described by Dr. John Sarno [1], who died recently at an advanced age.  Sarno cured crippling back pain in countless patients by having them understand that immobilizing spinal pain, which the mind causes by making the body clench, constricting blood/oxygen flow to crucial muscles and nerves, is more palatable to the psyche than feeling the threatening primal rage that causes it.  Understanding that, and feeling a hint of the emotion behind the physical manifestation, appears to be a big step to feeling better.   Spine surgeons hated Sarno, as did other medical experts.  Bad for business was fucking John Sarno.

I’ve never tested Sarno’s theory, not having suffered from what the good doctor called TMS, Tension Myoneural Syndrome.   But I have often sat with anger, which is a motherfucker to sit with.  Much easier to do virtually anything else, I’d have to say.  Blaming others for your anger is a great alternative, I think you will agree.  No shortage of asshole provocateurs in this world.  Hah!  Done and done.  Nothing a hearty “fuck you!” won’t cure, repeat as needed.  If people weren’t often such merciless pricks, you wouldn’t have to get angry at all.   Anodyne as all get out, no?

In a quiet moment you will realize that blaming and venting didn’t quite work, you’re still angry.  There is a cure for that too!  Endure no quiet moments!   There is so much noise available, sought or not, that we can keep ourselves from moments that will… well, you get the idea.   Stay busy, my friends, and you need never feel things that will cut you too deeply.  Work hard, play hard, pass out, repeat.   It works for many people, I don’t knock it, really (though I also do knock it, clearly).  

 Some consider pondering things like your own anger a form of masochism.  That would be true if you used your anger against yourself, blamed and excoriated yourself for feeling something so ugly.   I don’t advocate self-harm in any form, though you might not know it from my lifestyle, which involves, I suppose, a certain amount of it.  To my mind, and my spine, there is a good benefit to sitting in a comfortable chair with difficult emotions, or taking them for a leisurely stroll.   For one thing, these terrible emotions lose some of their power.  When you sit next to a monster intimately tied to your life you will tend to feel more comfortable with, and less terrified by, the monster after a while.    

Go down the list of the seven deadly sins [2] as an exercise.   Take a fearless moral inventory, if you like.   Note how the seven deadlies overlap.   Do you regularly experience, say, jealousy?   Deal with your feelings of envy by understanding where they come from.  Your fucking older brother got all the credit while you got none, never, not once.  Mom and dad beat the shit out of me, while my siblings got away with murder.  My brother and sister literally murdered and dismembered people, in front of mom and dad, and my parents just laughed and gave them lavish gifts.  If I set the table wrong, the salad fork on the wrong side of the entree fork, I’d catch a beating.  A beating and not so much as a stick of gum, ever.  You wonder why I’m fucking envious of the spoiled bastards all around me everywhere?

I’m not actually recommending anything.  There is nothing to recommend.   We all do what we need to do, constantly.   Me, I need to draw, write, play music.  Can’t help it, don’t sell any of it, even as all three things are done at an increasingly high level, a professional level, one might say.   My problem, when phrased that way, is my stubborn lifelong refusal to even try to monetize any of several highly honed skills.   On another note (accompanied by a lovely, old-timey minor 6th chord), I don’t give a fuck about this world of noise and strife when I am doing what I love.

Not to say that I love sitting with difficult emotions, but the obligation to sit with the stinking bastards comes with being sentient, as far as I can see.   I’d have it no other way.

 

[1] I have written a bit about Sarno, you can read it here and follow the links for more information about Sarno’s radical, medically disparaged but true sounding, theories.

[2] Anger, jealousy, pride, lust, greed, gluttony, sloth.

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