Dark Night of the Soul

We all face pain in life.  We all face challenges.  We all face disappointment.  Sometimes, we may wonder, why?  We may ask, “What have I done to deserve this?” We may imagine that our suffering is some form of discipline, when in reality so much of it is just that life isn’t always as smooth or as easy as we want.

Things happen. Life is complicated.  The world moves.  The world changes.  Things shift.  Obstacles appear.  People do stupid things.

And, maybe, just maybe, what is happening or has happened isn’t about you at all.  I know, it’s shocking.  How dare I suggest that the world doesn’t revolve around you!  How dare I suggest that it’s not your fault, really.

But if you look at it closely, isn’t there a bit of arrogance in self-pity, in “What have I done to deserve this?”  The whole assumption that situations have anything to do with what you have done or haven’t done is often false.  Not always, of course.  Life is complicated.  But, it’s a question worth asking, isn’t it?  “Am I assuming responsibility for something I had no control over?”

Or maybe, “Am I making things about me when they’re not?”

“Am I overthinking things and looking for a reason when the reason is simply that life plays by it’s own rules?”

“Is it better, maybe, to just accept that ‘something unpleasant happened’ and just move on?”

Of course, “let it go” and “just move on” are often much more easily said than done.  Sometimes, there can be a lot of tangled emotions to work through.  There can be a lot of pain and pain can be hard to block out.  Pain demands our attention as our nervous systems cry out for us to do something, to fix it, to make it stop.  Loss is tough to come to grips with  A big loss may mean that you have a lot of changes to make and it can be hard to find your equilibrium.

And really, that’s the core of it right there, pain is quite challenging enough to cope with without self-pity.  Life’s complications and challenges demand quite a lot from us to adapt to without the added burden of making things about us.

It takes maturity and wisdom to recognize that self-pity and self-compassion are different things.  “I’m hurting and I need to take time to rest and to heal.” is not self-pity.  “I need time to cry, to think, to pray, to meditate, in order to work through these painful emotions.” is not self-pity.  “I need to avoid painful triggers for a while until I’m calmer, until I feel stronger, until I have regained my sense of equilibrium” is not self-pity.

For many of us, by which I mean “for me and I’m assuming that I’m not all that special”, one of the biggest stumbling blocks to personal growth is mislabeling healthy self-care as self-pity.  For others, self-pity itself is the stumbling block.  My bet is that for most of us, as it is with me, it’s a mix of both and it’s a bitch to work out which one it is at any given time.

But, those answers will be apparent if you sit with the emotions, if you’re mindful and aware of the emotions, if you’re willing to think about your thinking and look deeper.  They’re your emotions.  You can figure out what you’re doing.  You can figure out whether you’re trapped in self-pity.  You can figure out if you’re mislabeling the need for self-compassion as self-pity.

For me, the best tool for working through my emotions is prayer.  I talk them out.  I have a conversation with God and I say whatever is on my mind.  In saying it, I think about it and I look at it and bit by bit I gain more objectivity on my feelings.  There may be some of you who are Atheists, and that’s cool.  Let me suggest that whether or not God is real, prayer is still a really effective tool for processing our emotions and gaining some perspective.  Maybe God is real and God guides us and provides us with insight and clarity when we pray.  Maybe its a conversation with an imaginary superbeing which still gives us the benefits of a conversation when there’s no one around to listen.  Either way.

I strongly suggest you not get hung up on questions of “what’s real and what’s not” and focus instead on the question of “what’s effective and healing”; but that’s your choice.

I’d love to hear from you dear readers.

Does anyone have a favorite emotional processing and release tip or process that they’d like to share?

Is there any particular author you love who has helped you in dealing with your dark times?

In love, always,

-Adelaine