Wednesday, July 06, 2011


Storm, Edvard Munsch, photo of the Original at MOMA, 
If you look straight into the middle of the sun, you're left with dark spots floating before your eyes. Too much light is blinding. Temporarily. Too much reality is blinding as well. Temporarily. Both shock your system leaving a sense of discomfort you want to flee. What happens to your body if the shocking light stays on and on and on?

Palpitating heartbeats
Racing thoughts
Shallow breaths
Electric impulses
Sensory overload
Rushing adrenaline........over and over and over......
If you walk into a theatre after the lights have been turned off.....just before the movie is about to begin, your hands automatically go up in front of you as your grope around for something solid to grasp onto. Darkness disables our sight. Temporarily. "Coping" with our own reality, by repressing, supressing or pushing it off into a recessed corner disables our sight as well. Temporarily. What happens if you continue to live in the absence of light?
Palpitating heartbeats
Racing thoughts
Shallow breaths
Sensory overload
Anxiety time and again...
Numbness, numbness......dulling the pain......

We try to do everything in our power to avoid the extremes.....those deer caught in the headlight moments and those dank dark tunnel times.....especially if they lurk too often. They make us feel completely discombobulated....incapable and weak. Survival mode kicks in and we put up the shell of self absorption, or try to turn our attention on someone else possibly even overreacting to their drama because its a place to put our own anxieties. We turn into helpers, rescuers, lifesavers....or this is how we see ourselves. Others may see it very differently.

Quite often, because we are so determined to avoid our own house of horrors, we overdo our "helping" and get in the way of someone else's growth and learning. I have been guilty of this. Because of some circumstances where I have tried to "help" or to "rescue," I have neglected my own shadowy demons to a point where I realized the light was TOO bright and I completely backed away. Another time that comes to mind as I write this, I pushed too hard to help and drove the person away. I think its called smothering.....or perhaps "s'mothering" is more apt! Not that I did it out of anything but kindness....but I did it for the wrong avoid my own shadows. Not good for either side of the equation. It wore me out rather than energized me and it impacted a friendship.

There are times when I wish I had a magic wand to take away someone else's pain. I wish I had a magic wand to take away my own when it comes to visit. But, I don't. No one does. Pain, which is the offshoot of anxiety and depression, gets a very bad rap. It HURTS! But, it is also a necessity for survival and for personal growth. It is essential and according to Paul Brand is "the gift nobody wants." When we FEEL pain, whether its physical or emotional....whether its a great big dark crevasse spiritually.... we must learn to recognize it for what it is.... a beacon, a signal in need of attention.

We never have to go it alone, though it is an option offered to us. Isolation rarely heals because of its massive potential for internal cyclical ruminations which eventually leads to a sense of believing there is no exit from the darkened theatre. But, being rescued is no better as it never allows for new learning from the experience... (and can I just add here that this is THE worst thing a parent can do for their child is to continue to rescue them..... how the heck will they ever learn to personally deal with life???).

Too much light....not enough light......signals we are in crisis. The very best thing you could do for me and the very best thing I could do for you? NOT to go into rescue mode...not to take on someone else's suffering...... Just to quietly sit beside one another right in the middle of the mess. Tough to do, to sit in someone else's suffering, or to allow someone else into your own, but if we can't do that as human beings for one another, then we've completely missed the point of why we are here on this planet taking part in God's creation of humanity aren't we??? This is compassion. Sitting in the suffering.
Interestingly, temporary blindness has the capacity to lead to new sight...."insight..."

So how do we get there? How do seek out that beacon, where the light is just right?? How do we adjust the light so it isn't so darn blinding?? All it takes to make this happen is for one of us to utter three very important a friend, a doctor, a minister, a psychologist, a psychiatrist, a stranger .... someone you can trust....

"Please help me....."

Why is it that we choke on these words so often? Why do we dredge the suffering on by denying we need help?  I think it has to do with internal readiness to allow another to see your flaws.  May we strive to understand that transformation is a life long pursuit fraught with difficult personal admissions.  May we accept the wisdom of Father O'Donohue's words... that beauty derives from the "slow work of integrating the flaw..."   The worst thing we can do is abandon our nasty bits.  However, sometimes it takes a long time to acknowledge then to let light in to flood our flaws with kind goodness. 


Selma said...

Boy, did I need to read this today. Are you reading my mind or something, Dana?

I would like a magic wand to take away the pain of others but I also need to admit that on occasion I need to use that wand on myself. It is very hard for me to ask for help and I must start doing that otherwise it is going to get more difficult to get back into the light. Thank you for this fantastic post!

awareness said...

Hey Selma! Glad you connected to this! I wrote it a couple of years ago, and decided to re-post it. It seemed like a good one to share again.

I'm presently revisiting my blog posts....very excited and a little overwhelmed by the amount.... the first steps to seeing if I can find the right combination to send to a publishers. :) Lots of work ahead, but very hopeful.

Marja said...

A very inspiratonal piece and a lot of food for thought. I have been rescuing my kids and they are so brave now to tell me that they don't want to be rescued anymore. It's hard though to see them learning their lessons.
Asking for help is hard. Although showing your flaws might be part of it I think also that you don't want to be a burden

Robert said...

Hi Dana- I echo selmas comments!! I don't find it hard to share or admit my flaws per se, I do have a problem accepting them internally within myself. I let fear and pain become a deadend so often and just want them to go away instead of engaging them so often, although I want to take action. I just get stuck inside my thoughts/feelings. Really like all your thoughts and wisdom here Dana

theMuddledMarketPlace said...

choosing to sit in the present reality and neither go into fix-it mode, nor project our own so vital...and so tough

sigh....i do love it when another can do that for me tho....

Neo said...

The only way you can deal with pain is to own it. Only your own, just as anybody else needs to own up to their own as well.

The "owning," starts with acceptance of a simple truth. No more excuses, no more distraction from the very thing that brings in too much light, or too little light. That is the balance, the place where you control equal amounts of both.

It isn't your job to save anyone but you. Yes, you can be someone's guide, but only if they know where it is they want to go.

Because each and every person has expectations, and not all of us agree on those terms. What is right and important to you, may be low and insignificant in another persons perspective and expectations.

Sometimes this requires a bit of selfishness on our parts, and you can't use both hands to help someone up while you're only holding on with one hand of your own.


- N

Rachel said...

You are right. That's all I can say. You are absolutely right. I have been there - I think most of us have - so I can say of myself that you've captured these emotions beautifully. The contrast between the light and darkness, both being a hardship if taken at extremes... perfect.
I especially love what you said about pain. I have heard it said that although pain is difficult to bear, it is necessary for the healing process. So it's actually a good thing to recognize pain - because it means you are starting to heal.
Thank you for your amazing thoughts! I love reading your work. You really taught me something about myself today - and isn't that what writing is meant to do to begin with?

Marja said...

Hi Dana Hope you're all right Arohanui