Only A Monster Could Love Me.

I teach a mindfulness class. Inevitably, after the first class a few people drop out because they  had some misconceptions about what mindfulness meditation was. Mindfulness is just partly  breathing in through the nose and out through the mouth.

The primary component is noticing how you are feeling and noticing the thoughts you are having in this moment. This is a practice that many people have spent their lives avoiding. A lot of people are out of touch with their thoughts and feelings. When I ask them to pay attention it literally scares them.

This is called back draft. Sometimes when we open our hearts to our thoughts and feelings they can feel overwhelming and frightening. This is because we are trained to follow the rules no matter how we feel and what we think. This conditioning is hard to break and for some potentially impossible. We just go through the motions of our lives never having really lived. This happens so much more than people realize.

Further, some people have their wires crossed. For some of us,  the people that were supposed to love us and keep us safe did not do the best job. This can lead to shutting off our emotions completely or thinking that love is unsafe. This means that when I try to extend love or compassion to you, you will literally be repulsed by me. It is how some people stayed safe. Some people literally feel unlovable. If you try to love them they will think something is wrong with you. “After all, only a monster could love a person like me,”  they think.

What also breaks my heart are the people that do not even realize that they were abused/traumatized as a child. I once asked a person if they had any history of abuse and they stated that they had not. Some time later the person recounted the violent psychological and physical abuse they had endured. When I questioned why they denied having been abused they reported “I thought I had a normal childhood” No, that is not normal and it certainly impacts a person’s ability to be present, vulnerable, and connected in their lives.

I write this in the midst of an opioid epidemic. When the pain is too much to bear, we find a way to make it bearable, even if that means slowly killing ourselves.

Love.

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Bad Mood Rising.

“I was stressed and scared and I had to hurry to be someone, become something, do something. I was running and talking and cursed myself when I wasted my time on things that wouldn’t get me anywhere. It was work and it was money and I was never where I was, always somewhere else in my head far, far away.”
Charlotte Eriksson, Empty Roads & Broken Bottles; in search for The Great Perhaps

I’m not sure how, where, or why but I caught some grouchy feelings today. Oh my.

What to do when you’re in a bad mood?

Let yourself be in a bad mood. If I try to talk myself out of it, it just feels worse and lasts longer.

So, don’t beat yourself up. I’m a human not a robot and that means I’m going to feel all kinds of ways (maybe all in the same day) and that’s fine. I’m not going to kick myself when I’m feeling down.

It’s okay to be in a bad mood but it’s not okay to be mean. Let the people you share time with know that you’re stuggling or they will be certain they’ve done something wrong and your mood is about them. Humans are particularly self-focused and we make things about us that have nothing to do with us. My current mood is mine to deal with and no one deserves to be a punching bag for me to manage my emotions. 

Listen to bad mood music. I’m feeling a little Ani Difranco. I might even listen to something sad to see if crying will help me move through this. We’ll see how it goes.

Take some space. This way you are less likely to burn someone with your mood. It’s best to treat our emotions as clues and my mood might be a clue that I’m overwhelmed, sad, scared, or tired. It’s time to get curious and some space is required.

Do something creative. For me, writing helps. For others painting, singing, photography, or drawing. It helps to get it out somehow.

Take a nap. Or, just rest a bit. When we’re in a bad mood our muscles tend to tighten. It’s good to take some deep breaths and relax your muscles.

Work out. Some light exercise always seems to help some.

Don’t try to fix it and don’t let anyone else try and fix it. It’s not necessary there is nothing broken. It’s okay to be in a bad mood and it’s best to let it pass through and/or get curious about what’s going on with you. It helps to have someone just listen if I feel like talking but please don’t offer suggestions or ideas (unless I ask).

“Writing is mostly a case of mood management. The emotion you have is not absolute, it is temporary. It may be useful, but it is not the truth. It is not you.”
Anne Enright

What Are You So Mad About?

“Anger, resentment and jealousy doesn’t change the heart of others– it only changes yours.”
Shannon L. Alder, 300 Questions to Ask Your Parents Before It’s Too Late

(note: writing/researching this post put me in a negative funk. that is the power of anger.)

Research suggests that we are more compassionate with others than we are with ourselves (Dr. Kristin Neff says so). If that’s the case, then we have a serious problem. If you look at any article online you will see that people are primed and ready to fight. We struggle to give anyone the benefit of the doubt or to extend compassion to the people we love the most.

For example, I picked an article on dropping pizza prices to review comments. A topic I thought we could all agree is a great thing, right? Nope. Here are some of the comments I found associated with the article:

Since neither of those qualify as “Pizza” anywhere where real food is available, they should change this headline.

I noted that you have to buy an overpriced side to get one deal.  You have to pay a couple bucks for a drink that costs them a few pennies to get the deal.  Or rather the rip off.

Bet on this…as the price goes down, so does the quality.  And whatever happened to one of the essential pizza ingredients, anchovies. Can’t find a pizza with anchovies anywhere.

If we can’t get behind deals on pizza, is there any hope for us? Seriously, we are so combative and defensive that we pick fights about anything and everything. I made the mistake of reading comments on a political article posted on social media. Apparently the gloves are off online. People cuss each other out, call each other names, make vile comments about groups of people. To what end?

You have to walk around in that skin holding onto those awful and angry thoughts. Those thoughts and feelings will rot you from the inside out. I’ve seen it happen. People come to me wondering why they are so lonely and sad. Then, I hear them call their partner an idiot. They say their son is a worthless piece of garbage. And, the world is going to hell (in a handbag).

Are you really asking me why you’re miserable? Because it sounds like you just answered your own question. 

I think the outrage around things like pizza prices stems from peoples’ unhappiness with their own lives. I think that a lot of people are unhappy at home with their family and they extend that anger and resentment to larger systems. There is a negative energy created when sitting around talking about “idiot republicans” or “idiot democrats.” For a moment, one may feel superior, like they somehow figured it all out. Of course, it is short lived because no one has any of this figured out.

We think it’s acceptable to call our partners “the old ball and chain” or “the nag” or “the worthless idiot.” I suppose if you have no problem calling the people you love names why would you have a problem calling someone online an asshole.

Naturally, I’d be lying if I said I did not participate in angry talk. But, I know it is ultimately a reflection of my own well-being as opposed to a constructive means to an end. The moment I express anger the other person gets defensive and stops listening. This turns the conversation into an argument and leads nowhere.

There is definitely a time and place for anger. If you are witness to the abuse of people or animals, this should make you angry. But, that anger needs to be channeled into action or it turns to rage. The lovely Una Henry once helped me understand the difference between anger and rage. She said anger is how anyone would react in the face of injustice and rage is what happens when the injustice continues without end. For many oppressed groups, the rage is justified. But, rage is like anger in that it will destroy you.

I suppose I’m asking you to consider what you are honestly so mad about. Is it the quality of pizza? Is it traffic? Is it the weather? Is politics? Or, is it that your life is not where you want it to be and it is easier to rage against pizza and politics than to examine your misery and do something about it?  Is it a helplessness? If so, maybe reach out for support or try to do something to right the injustices. Or, risk letting hate, anger, and rage ravage you and your life. It’s your choice.

“When we get angry, we suffer. If you really understand that, you also will be able to understand that when the other person is angry, it means that she is suffering. When someone insults you or behaves violently towards you, you have to be intelligent enough to see that the person suffers from his own violence and anger. But we tend to forget. We think that we are the only one that suffers, and the other person is our oppressor. This is enough to make anger arise, and to strengthen our desire to punish. We want to punish the other person because we suffer. Then, we have anger in us; we have violence in us, just as they do. When we see that our suffering and anger are no different from their suffering and anger, we will behave more compassionately. So understanding the other is understanding yourself, and understanding yourself is understanding the other person. Everything must begin with you.”
Thích Nhất Hạnh

Love.