It's your problem.

It's your problem.

In my work as a clinical chaplain, I often hear people (patients and the family members of patients, primarily) make comments that go something like this: "I know so many people have bigger problems than I do;" or "I'm sure this sounds like a 'First World' problem;" or even "You have a lot of people to see today, so I don't want to take up your time." 

Since our society seems to favor "the power of positive thinking" (which can, at times, certainly be considered a healthy and admirable aspiration), many, myself included, have a tendency to diminish our suffering. I have allowed myself to change my behaviors, with a lot of practice, and I try to be honest about how I'm feeling and ask for help, if I'm struggling with a particular feeling or emotion, but it often remains challenging.

In addition, I've been guilty of trying to "fix" problems in an effort to alleviate one's suffering; I find that this is a common theme that relates to the message of staying positive and "looking on the bright side." It can be hurtful, though, to those who are reaching out for support; it can also prevent me from sharing my feelings because I'm not looking for a "fix," I'm looking for someone to offer empathy.

What I've discovered is that, no matter how big or small, if I refuse to acknowledge the emotions that I don't particularly like (sadness, anger, disappointment, shame), they will manifest themselves in other ways; this has certainly been the case when it comes to both my excessive control and complete lack of control with regard to food, but it has also lead to many other destructive behaviors. 

I love this quote from an article published a few years ago in Scientific American (given to me by one of my training supervisors):

Instead of backing away from negative emotions, accept them. Acknowledge how you are feeling without rushing to change your emotional state.

Even though it is not a comfortable feeling, I have learned so much more about myself in the practice of honoring painful emotions. As an act of self care, I encourage you to acknowledge your emotions (even the shitty ones), ask for support when you need it, and remember that, while it's your problem, it's no less important or significant than anyone else's problem. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Miss Mary

Miss Mary

Two for the Road

Two for the Road