How do we deal as humans with our pain, uncertainty, fears – with all our vulnerabilities?
When we look at the war zones in the world, where people inflict tremendous pain onto each other, we are faced with the question: how come human beings would choose to harm each other? There are, no doubt, many Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland or Arabs and Jews in the Middle East that want peace and happiness in their lives. What keeps the war alive?
In essence: viewing each other as the enemy and believing when we get rid of the enemy, we would gain peace and happiness, when we don’t feel our pain, it would go away. One way we try to get rid of our pain is by blaming. We think that blaming will relieve us from our uncomfortable feelings. Yet, in the end, it deepens our sense of righteous indignation and feeds our anger and hatred which hurts us and others. Or, as Pema Chödrön says: “By making friends with yourself, you make friends with others. By hurting others, you hurt yourself.” (Start where you are, p. 104)
We can observe blame everywhere. It seems to be a normal part of our culture for fingers to be pointed. If blaming would work to effect positive change, how come we don’t overcome violence? There are plenty of things to be angry about, and blaming can give us a temporary relief. However, blaming is also an expression of our felt powerlessness. Is there something else we can do with our anger and frustration? Let’s start with looking at ourselves.
Next time you blame somebody begin to notice what it feels like. Does it make you feel better? Are you relieved? Does it last? What else do you feel? How do you feel underneath?
Consider: Is blaming’s main function to keep you from feeling your pain?
What’s good in developing a relationship with our pain? When we develop courage to be able to relate to the tender, shaky and fearful feelings in our hearts, then we become no longer afraid of those feelings, when they are triggered by the outside world. When we get to know our feelings and begin to befriend them, then we can recognize them in others and feel our kinship with human kind. We can recognize that what we all have in common is our wish to be happy, as the Dalai Lama points out. There are just different ways to go about it, some more effective than others.
“If someone comes along and shoots an arrow into your heart, it’s fruitless to stand there and yell at the person. It would be much better to turn your attention to the fact that there’s an arrow in your heart and to relate to that wound.” (Pema Chödrön, p. 32)
Not wanting to feel our wound doesn’t make it go away. We may distract ourselves and armour our hearts trying to prevent us from re-experiencing pain, yet the pain remains locked inside. The more armour we carry, the smaller our world becomes, the least we can see, know, trust or love ourselves or another.
Sometimes we need to crack up before we crack open. Those times of crises can be great opportunities for us to develop courage, honesty, patience and kindness in response to our feelings of pain. Since it is not easy to develop new behaviour patterns, the support of sensitive counselling can be of tremendous help. We do not have to carry it all by ourselves. As we learn to integrate our “disowned parts” and relate more deeply and fully to ourselves, including uncomfortable feelings, we become gradually more curious than afraid, more pro-active than reactive, more empowered than victimized. We develop the seed for more open and honest relationships with ourselves and others.
Copyright © 12/2000 by Rumijabu | Originally published in Integrative Dialogue #13, Dec2000