Experiences can be painful. Such is life. When we were little, we ran to mommy and her kiss and cuddle fixed everything. Lying in her arms, there seemed not a worry in the world and the incident that had brought us running and howling was very soon a lonely cloud drifting in the far distance.
Now that we are older, we don’t run to mommy any more. But our experiences have not changed. In fact they have expanded to include a broader spectrum of pain, both physical and emotional, that hurts way deeper given that we know life so much better. Or do we really? Do we feel pain to a greater extent because we are somehow more aware of life’s workings or precisely because we are way less aware of the way we approach our experiences.
For the most part, experiences are quite neutral – barely a conspiracy theory against our wellbeing. It is often the intertwined tendrils of self-doubt, shame and unworthiness that cast a wide net reading ‘victim’ and desert us in our moments of need.
It is in those times that we need the warm embrace of our mother, the soft voice that oozed acceptance even as it guided and disciplined, the welcoming hearth that opened the door and gave us a soft place to land. Because it was from that place of love and compassion that we found the energy to pull ourselves together, the mental space to think with clarity and the courage to go out and do the right thing, what ever it was and whatever it took.
What if she had beaten down on us instead? What if she had stood over us and pointed out our faults and failings, criticized us for all we had done and shook her head at how irreparable the damage was. How ready would we have felt to look the world in the face again? How willing would we have been to go out and make things better? How able would we have felt of seeing things as they really were and knowing the next steps that would lead to a positive outcome?
And yet, isn’t that what we often do to ourselves when we undergo a painful experience? Do we not desert ourselves in our times of greatest need? “You should not have…”, “You will never…”, “It only you had…” “No one will ever…” – you can fill in the blanks and add your own until you exhaust your breath. Such is the human genetic code. Self-doubt is the voice of caution that protected us in the savannas and reminded us to beware of the dangers out in the world. Self-criticism is the voice that kept us in check lest we were left stranded outside of our vengeful tribes.
Are we then to surrender to this evolutionary guest that has stayed well past its welcome? Or are we to draw on evolution’s real gift to mankind – that of a level of consciousness that has achieved an amazing development in humans. Building self-awareness allows us to see our experiences for what they are, feel them for what they are meant to convey, and then to take the action that is required, in full conscience, even when it is difficult or painful.
Yes, life flows freely when we handle experiences as they are without adding our own judgment and resistance to them. Else, we become slaves to our impulses and allow the emotional layers to melt together and boil over like a lava that leaves little space for change. When we can see the pain for what it is while preparing a soft space for it to come home, we provide it with the internal space to be experienced and eventually changed.
Just like mother did.