Why would I judge you for needing relief from the pain you feel inside?
(Terrence Real in I Don’t Want to Talk About It: Overcoming the Secret Legacy of Male Depression.
We do live in times of great pain and suffering—locally, nationally, and internationally. And with television and social media we can see and feel all of the world’s angst—often more than we can bear.
Some of us use chemicals to alter how we feel and become addicted. Others become dependent on sex, porn, food, power, money, status, gambling, video games, the Internet, “likes” on Face Book, our children’s successes, and scaling the corporate ladder. And most of us appear driven to consume the biomass of the planet as fast as we can despite the threat to humanity.
Anne Wilson Schaef and Diane Fassel wrote in The Addictive Organization, “An addiction is any process over which we are powerless. It takes control of us, causing us to do and think things that are inconsistent with our personal values and leading us to become progressively more compulsive and obsessive. A sure sign of an addiction is the sudden need to deceive ourselves and others, to lie, deny, and cover up.”
Addiction is not the way to end our inner angst nor is profound denial of reality. For those of us with addictions (most of us), we must first manage our dependencies. We see reality honestly and stop the compulsive behavior, we feel the pain within us that we avoid so strenuously and we set out to learn how to live and how to feel alive naturally. We embrace the support of others and we get right with ourselves. We embark on a lifelong journey of human and spiritual development. We become wiser and better people.
Change is hard.
We must fight against relapse (the failure to maintain our improvement) as we work to learn new ways to deal with emotional pain. Research shows that 90% of open-heart surgery patients fail to sustain lifestyle changes longer than 90 days. Diabetics relapse when they eat too many sweets. Most offenders fail to learn how to live and go back to prison. Alcoholics “slip.” Few organizational change efforts sustain themselves because people fall back into old habits when under stress.
Relapse happens to most of us in one way or another — chronic disease or not. How many times have we failed to live up to our commitments for change in our lives?
When we stumble, we get back up, learn our lessons and go back to work.
We want relief from the emotional pain we feel. But quick-fixes only deny reality, refuse new learning, make our pain worse and are never sustainable. We’ll live wiser, better and longer if we do the hard work to manage emotional pain in healthy ways. Some things to begin with: daily exercise, a healthy diet, acceptance of the things we can’t change, change the things we can, cultivate healthy relationships, gain the perspective of time, meditate to calm our minds and make room for new insights, learn to feel and express our feelings appropriately and detach from materialism and nurture the spirit within us. And sometimes we just have to feel the pain of life’s realities.
Colleague Myron Lowe, said, “I learned to live with pain and joy at the same time.” We live with the pain of greater awareness and deeper empathy for all that lives and continually transform that sorrow into even greater compassion for others. And we see the joy of moments of authenticity and glimpses of the potential that exists in each of us.
We may not change the world. But we will live true to the best within us and do what we can to stop the life-destroying ideas, lies and behaviors that destroy our spirits.
No one said life would be easy.