In an earlier blog I quoted Rumi's Guesthouse poem in order to convey a radical approach to our difficulties in everyday life. He says:
This being human is a guest-house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
However, it's not always the difficult emotions we're trying to avoid. Sometimes there's a subtle, or not too subtle, aversion to the "positive" feelings like "love" or "joy" that come for life or success. Why might this be?
Well, one thing I've learned over time in my own life and as a psychologist is that emotions aren't so black and white. For example, anger doesn't just come with anger alone; at times it comes with sadness or other emotions. We just have these words to help us better define emotions as we do with other things.
In this same vein, when we're growing up we often have a natural love for our parents, but this can get mixed up with other uncomfortable emotions. If we grew up in a scary household perhaps love got mixed up with fear or if we grew up in a family of divorce, love may have been mixed with fear or the sadness or anger of separation or failure.
In other words, in order to feel love, we might also have to feel these uncomfortable emotions. So, acting in our best interest to avoid discomfort, some part of ourselves decided to keep the uncomfortable emotions at bay and at the same time keeps the love or joy at bay.
All kinds of tricks of the mind are deployed to have this work out. Perhaps we discount the positive and exaggerate the negative or maybe just go up in our heads and analyze over and over again to avoid the feelings.
Sometimes, in welcoming a difficult emotion as a guest in our house, we can approach and explore the feeling that's there with a kind attention. In doing this you may be amazed at what you find. It is in the act of embracing our wounds that we often find peace.
So today, as an experiment, notice your reactivity to discomfort and see if for a moment you can redefine that moment as a "choice point" where you can explore the feeling that is there. You may even choose to breathe into the physical feeling as if you were gently touching the wound as you might a wounded child or animal. Go ahead and serve it tea.
See what happens.
As always, please share your thoughts, stories and questions below. Your interaction provides a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.
Originally published on Mindfulness and Psychotherapy at Psychcentral.com. To read more of Elisha, visit his blog, Mindfulness and Psychotherapy at Psychcentral.com, or subscribe here. You may also find him at www.drsgoldstein.com.