When was the last time… you felt so low… that you didn’t feel like anything any more? That it didn’t matter if the world would stop spinning or not. Feeling like there is no possible way out of this trap, no matter what you try. Emotional pain is sometimes considered to be less damaging or destructive than physical pain. However…
“For physical pain and emotional pain, the suffering is experienced in the same part of the brain. So when people suffer emotional rejection, the same part of the brain will light up as if you stuck them with a knife. “ – Dr. Gabor Maté
I’ve had these moments plentiful over the last 3 months, with the peak of total devastation (wanting to die) during the last Vipassana 10 day meditation retreat. They were really old patterns, of which I didn’t think they would resurface. You see, as a teenager, I was severely depressed. I didn’t see light at the end of the tunnel. I could not understand this world. I could not believe that anybody would ever love me, see me for who I was. The only way to survive, was to pretend as if it was me against the world. Black metal music, black clothes with gruesome pictures on it, all kinds of coloured hair. I tried everything to not fit in, anything to stand out from the crowd. At a young age I discovered marijuana and smoked it vigorously, to not have to be myself, to not have to be with my pain.
The pain that I felt during the meditation retreat, was a reactivation of this old pain, from my teenage years. Every time over the last decade, whenever I fell in love with a girl and it was unanswered, the pain was unbearable. Again, I thought nobody would ever really love me. If only I knew then, what I know now. How important it is to be with your pain, and most importantly, HOW to be with your pain. It is easier said than done. There IS a beauty in this pain…
Although it may feel as if others inflict emotional pain on us, we are the gatekeepers of our own feelings and emotions. That’s where the beauty starts. You see, others can only push some buttons, they are never the cause. They can only push the button inside of us on the sore spots, those parts of us that are not yet whole. They are never the real cause. No matter how difficult this sometimes seems to be, that their actions cause you to feel unbearable emotions, it is not them doing it TO us. Emotions are generated inside of our own bodies, we can take back our power! The more we grow, the more we become aware, the more we learn to be with our pain and the more we heal, the more whole we become and the less others will be able to push those buttons. In the end, it is all up to us, whether you like it or not.
When I was not aware of this concept and felt as if the world was happening to me, not by me, I used whatever I could to escape my pain. Many of us do this through a variety of addictions, through work, shopping, sex, drugs, eating, television, social media etc. Be with your pain, really be with your pain, don’t run away from your pain. We are lost in a society of instant gratification, where we all need to be perfect, to know what we want, where choices are more limitless than ever before. What a trap… cause with endless choices and the mission to always be happy, distress can only follow.
Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones said: “All the contortions we go through just not to be ourselves for some time.” Why would we not want to be ourselves? Because we are in too much distress. “Whatever you do, don’t try to escape from your pain, but be with it. Because the attempt to escape from is pain, is what creates more pain.” – Tibetan Book of Living and Dying
How?? Only when compassion is present, will people allow themselves to see the truth. You have to be with your pain, but you have to have some support. Our society is about instant relief, quick satisfaction. It is becoming increasingly difficult for individuals to be with their pain, but in the end that is what it is about. Find a buddy, find compassion, because that is what we really need. Find the courage to share your difficulties with your loved ones. Get support from institutions if you are alone. Do whatever you can to be with your pain, stop running away from it.
I’ve learned to be with pain through a variety of techniques. The first time that I opened up emotionally in years, was during a training of Amethyst Developing people in Amersfoort. A 9 day personal development training. Vipassana meditation taught me to observe the reality as it is, to not run away from it anymore. To become balanced in the mind, through unlearning reactions to craving and aversion. The mastermind peer groups taught me that I was not alone. Multiple members of the group were suffering from addictions, from escapism of deeper pain. At the time we were not aware of these mechanisms. Another powerful tool was the bonding therapy. There you are invited, in a safe and guided setting while being close with another human being, to consciously go into buried emotions. Because of the intimate connection with another person, safety can be felt at a childlike level, so that one can uncover deep buried traumas and process them.
Most effective and transformative for me have been the sacred plants, in a safe and protected environment. The latter is essential for venturing into these explorations of the self.. Certain plants can hyper activate the parts of the brain where emotional trauma is believed to be stored, in order to relive your pain and go through it. See it fully for what it is, show yourself completely to yourself. Not only did it rid some of my addictions, it plugged me into a state of awareness never felt before. I was not alone, I was not separate. I am part of a much bigger intelligence, a bigger network of evolution. I am not born into this world, I come out of this world. The plants mostly helped me express anger, rage and frustration. Showing me that whatever I resist, persists. Running into a dead end road, over and over again, until I learned to surrender. Surrender to what is. Not trying to change it, sedate it, change it or run away from it. Just be with it, supported with an unprecedented feeling of unconditional love, as never felt before.