My friend ended the year in a heap on the floor after a fall from a ladder. Ouch. She got word this week that she had torn a major ligament in her leg and would need physical therapy, and at some point, surgery.
Not the best start to the New Year. When she shared the news of what the MRI had revealed and the doctor’s diagnosis, she was still in shock. I listened as she spoke in animated tones about the diagnosis and how she felt about it.
She expressed a little trepidation about surgery in general, berated herself for her accident, and then quickly, almost seamlessly, moved to a stage of gratitude. “I’m just glad it wasn’t worse,” she shared.
And then she did what many of us women do, especially those who are used to being caretakers themselves. She began to minimize her situation. Hey, it’s not cancer. I’m lucky.
And she was right, of course. It could have been worse. And she was fortunate in that she would not need emergency surgery. She was not in any real pain and she could use physical therapy to keep her strong until she was ready for surgery.
Even better, it was outpatient surgery, with minimal time off. What’s to complain about, right?
And as she continued to minimize a situation that I could clearly see was upsetting to her, I reminded her that it was okay to feel upset. Frustrated. Scared even.
I told her I thought it was healthy to feel what she needed to feel for a bit before she pushed through to the “I’m really okay, I’m actually lucky,” side of the street. I see this a lot.
Many of us, particularly when we are afraid, try to push through our emotions or stuff them down so we don’t appear vulnerable or upset others. But when we don’t take the time to process what we are feeling, we end up burying the emotion and it lodges within us, and takes shape in a different form.
If we don’t give ourselves permission to express our fear, our worry, even for a few moments, we are actually telling ourselves, albeit unconsciously, that the world is an unsafe, fearful place. We are saying, it’s not safe to be myself, to have these emotions. And if we are not safe enough to express our authentic selves, our vulnerabilities, then how can we ever feel safe to fully show up in the world? Given this, how can we ever feel safe enough to fully express our creative selves, either?
Let me be clear. I am not an advocate of martyrdom. And I don’t like belabored victim stories much either. But there are times when we need to feel what we need to feel, no matter how inconvenient, scary ugly the emotions might be.
Once we process our feelings, then we are more capable of releasing the emotions behind them. That way they don’t stay lodged in our body as an unspoken word or inconvenient truth only to manifest later in another injurious manner.
In traditional Chinese medicine, emotions and health are closely connected. Practioners believe that unprocessed or repressed emotions cause blockages that create imbalance and physical problems in the body. So get that shit out. Don’t let undigested anger turn into colon troubles. Or grief into heart problems. Or stress into migraines.
So the next time you’re challenged, remember this. Process what you’re feeling and know you’re entitled to your emotions. Feel it. Express it. Then, release it so you can begin to move on and deal with your situation. It’s actually a brave move and a graceful way to walk in this world.
If you’re interested in more thoughts on integrity, compassion and grace–if you’re looking for exploratory questions to unearth pieces of your soul, check out my book Tao Flashes. Or visit me at http://www.facebook.com/taoflashes or on twitter @taoflashes