Friday, February 7, 2014

When the Gift Is Suffering

Over the Years, I have come to realize that the greatest trap in our life is not success, popularity or power but self-rejection.  Success, popularity and power can indeed present a great temptation, but their seductive quality often comes from the way they are a part of a much larger temptation to self-reject.  When we come to believe that the voices that call us worthless and unlovable, then success, popularity and power can easily be perceived as attractive solutions.  Self-rejection is the greatest enemy of the spiritual life because it contradicts the sacred voice that calls us the "Beloved."
-Brennan Manning, Abba's Child

Disclaimer: I placed photos of my daughter and I in this piece because parenting is a role in my life where I have to be mindful of my own areas of struggle and set backs in order to mold the hearts of my kids so that they too may grow to be mindful of their own tendencies..

Forewarning, I am sifting through all kinds of gray, merkey emotions as I write this. So, God only knows where this post is going to go.  Who knows if I am going to even publish this.   I went to see my counselor yesterday and that can mean that I go for days into this sort of exististential reality.  Anyway, however, after yesterday's session, I find myself hooked on the idea of sitting in the feeling of suffering.  For so long, anytime I would go into a low, I would make myself go into an automatic high, not truly letting myself truly feel my dark spaces.  Instead, I have chosen, in the past to run away from them and go into true hyperactivity, ignoring the dark and impuslively existing, making choices and being intentionally unaware.  This is the julie style of numbing. In my highs, I have the tendency to make impulsive choices (buying what I can't afford--and rationalizing for it). No, I am not bi-polar. This is the deep psychology and symptoms of ADHD.   See, I realize in the past, I have never truly let myself become a student of suffering--being an observer, not a participant to it is not something that comes naturally to me.  It's not that I ignore depressive feelings, its that I have conditioned myself to go into highs (as in hyperactivity) when I am in a low.  I have been classically conditioned and bought into the lie that the feeling of suffering was something to be avoided. Our culture always says "if you are feeling down start smiling," you will feel better."  Let me tell you that is a big fat lie!  The act of smiling does not cure my knee jerk reaction to self-reject.  In my experience in *some* (not all) Christian cultures, I was told to "pray away the dark feelings" or "have a stronger faith in God."  Those terms alone made me feel *even more rejected* like my faith today was not enough. Being told that something is wrong with me because I *feel* dark can kill a person's faith life. Being told to try harder to get out of your darkness is another great big lie that even our own faith communities tell people who are in deep, dark depression holes.  For the people like me, we cannot, nor should we, pray away the darkness.  There is nothing wrong with you.  
Then I remembered why I always end up reading Eastern philosophy books when I am feeling darkness, see Eastern philosophies teach on the prinicpals of seeing suffering as a gift to be explored, not ignored.  The Bible does as well.  The whole book of Job is about finding God in our suffering (that is just one example). But our culture runs from suffering, just as I do when I am being reactive and less mindful.  I remember other times in my life when I had to really "lean in to the discomfort" as Brene Brown says.  But this darkness I am experiencing, has nothing to do with external forces causing me to feel darkness--this is a choice I made after deciding to go back on my meds. I made the choice to examine my darkness and tendencies with the guidance of my mental health posse ( aka counselor, psychiatrist and trusted friends).  But  as I have made the choice to sit and study my own darkness, I had to examine why I choose to write outloud--on this blog--about suffering.  And the answer is S-H-A-M-E.  When I write about what I am experiencing, it takes the secrecy out of suffering--which then stifles any feelings of shame.  Shame is the root of self-rejection. And it's way too easy for me to forget that I am becoming an observer of my own tendencies and go begin the same self-rejecting tape that lives in my head. 

No, in this chapter, suffering is about finding the Beloved within the suffering and that's where I am learning to find pure joy.  

So, here's to "No B.S. 2014!l 

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