I seem to be someone who gets a lot of satisfaction hanging out with difficult emotions. Not that they are my all time favorites, just that I am most curious about them. I expect, maybe in a little while, I will get all curious about the experience of ecstasy. I look forward to that turning of the wheel. And maybe I am most interested in things that go bump in the night because my life has been one not only of extraordinary experiences and adventures, but also of ongoing strain trauma and a highly somatic response to stress. So I am uneasy around anything that sounds like a simple answer and have to work hard to not feel either judgmental or self-critical in the face of relentless positivity or easy answers. I expect I am also slightly or maybe even highly annoying about my commitment to balance between dark and light.
Two simple phrases have helped me keep my balance when my own internal voices seem restless or unrelentingly critical – or when someone not me infers that my full range of emotions is A Problem. I am not talking about acting out on them. I am talking about just allowing myself to experience them.
One is from Byron Katie. She inserts the sentence “Can I know this to be true?” into…well almost every thought. That has been a great practice for me, to break up my judgments, projections and transference – on you and on myself. It is highly irritating when I am sure I am right, but very useful to my friends and relations who would prefer I did not psychoanalyze them or decide what they are thinking and feeling.
The second seems incredibly simple and I have no idea who first introduced it to me, because I would have hated it passionately that first time — What if nothing is wrong? Originally I heard that as the ultimate spiritual by-pass: everything is fine and you are a wimp. But over time, I have grown to see the sentence as meaning “What if what I am feeling – dark, ugly, mean-spirited, or even ecstatic – is a pointing out instruction, leading me to where I need to look next for my own growth, for compassion towards myself and others, to create real balance? What if my system is a great self- flushing one, and my emotions are working just fine? This one is easiest to learn from a 7 year old whose scream of pure rage erupts when his little brother ruins his sand castle. What if nothing is wrong means….something is not okay, I am totally overloaded and my emotional backpack just exploded…that is actually exactly right.