We live in an anxious world. Whether this affects ourselves, our families, our communities, our world, we witness terror and pain on a daily basis. It’s unimaginable, but there it is. It’s difficult to know what to do sometimes, how to respond, how to fix it. Harder still, is to be with the pain. I experience people, myself included, needing to turn away from all that’s going on because it’s just too much. I see people needing to numb or comfort or soothe, like so many do, with various behaviors, substances, and sometimes even beliefs about themselves or others, offering an illusion of protection. I observe people being unable or unwilling to stay with the discomfort long enough to name it and then process it. We stay locked in anguish this way.
Sometimes it’s easier to look away and not engage in the pain. Of course it is. But the thing is—the pain doesn’t just disappear. It has to go somewhere. It begs for a voice, to be heard and understood in some way.
Many fear that if they start to feel the pain, the anger, the grief, it won’t go away. I’ve been in that place. I needed help from others to see that this is not the way it must be. I also needed to trust myself and have faith that all would be well. When the soul is suffering, the only way out is though. There is freedom on the other side of pain.
“The wound is the place where the Light enters you.” –Rumi
In the times we live in, we are called upon to be courageous every day. Part of this courage is to be with your discomfort and pain—to name it, hear what it has to say, share it with others who are willing and able to listen, and share their own pain with you. Trust that it will be ok, someday, somehow, perhaps in ways that you least expect.
Brené Brown, in Rising Strong says, “The rising strong reckoning has two deceptively simple parts: (1) engaging with our feelings, and (2) getting curious about the story behind the feelings—what emotions we’re experiencing and how they are connected to our thoughts and behaviors.”
I work with women who are doing just that. I work with courageous women who have used food to work through pain to find comfort, sometimes the pain of a lifetime. I work with courageous women who hold a hatred for their body that depletes them of energy and joy.
Anxiety is human. Unexpressed anxiety is suffering. In my little corner of the Universe, I work with women who are tired of being held back by their unexpressed stories. They are telling their stories, naming their pain, and standing knee-deep in the struggle to find the path out.
For some, who do not know this experience, against the backdrop of a suffering world, it may seem shallow and meaningless to have food and body image issues. “First world problems”, some might say. That sentiment would be to deeply misunderstand the meaning of these issues. This is where the unexpressed pain of family, community, and the world lives, for the women I work with. The courageous women I know find their way through, with every choice, every bite, and each reflection in the mirror. It’s important, sometimes excruciating, soul-nourishing work, learning how to be with discomfort. Each step–sacred.
The courageous women I work with desperately want to be free, so they can get on with changing the world.
Be gentle with yourself. Always. And know that you are loved.
For your reflection~
How do you express your pain? Journaling is one way to tell your story. Start wherever you are.