MGU 14 | Coping With Emotional Struggles

 

When you are going through a tough time, are you someone who wants to talk to other people about it or someone who works through it on your own? In this episode, Jason Wrobel and Whitney Lauritsen reveal the ways they cope with their own emotional struggles and what our choices in dealing say about us. They weigh in between believing how we can find answers with us and trusting the help other people can provide as well. Extending to other topics, Jason and Whitney also discuss fighting mental illness and coming face to face with the presence of suffering. At the end of the day, no matter how we cope, experiencing emotional lows is part of the human experience. What is most important is we acknowledge that, find resilience amidst it all, and come out stronger on the other side.

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What Our Emotional Coping Mechanisms Say About Us

Jason, when you’re going through a tough time emotionally, are you someone that wants to talk to other people about it or would you rather try to work through it on your own?

Historically, I think that it’s been the latter because growing up as an only child, I felt like as a kid, there were a lot of moments where I was scared and confused and heartbroken, to be honest, as a child.

What do you mean by that?

I had a lot of confusion growing up in terms of the reason my dad wasn’t around and not being clear on that and not understanding why and being an only child, I felt like naturally I was alone a lot playing and I had the opportunity to learn to process my emotions on my own. My challenge as an adult has been to be more willing to ask for support and more willing to learn the art of processing emotionally with people. Because my tendency is to like isolate a little bit.

You said that you were learning the art of processing with other people. You said historically, does that differ from where you’re at now?

It does. I feel like I have become more confident with being vulnerable and more confident with telling other people that I’m not okay or telling other people that I’m struggling with depression or tell other people that I’m having a hard time right now. For me, my resistance in the past to that was this masculine conditioning in our society where like if you’re going through something, you suck it up and deal with it and keep going. There’s this scene in the movie Predator where Jesse Ventura’s character gets shot or cut or something, I can’t remember. He’s on the helicopter and one of his fellow guys is like, “You’re bleeding.” He looks at him and goes, “I don’t have time to bleed.” It was a funny moment and he delivered the line so seamlessly. I think it is an indicative thing of how and it’s not exclusively to men. A lot of people growing up this way was like, “Don’t cry. Suck it up.” This thing of like being discouraged to process our emotions or being discouraged to cry or that whole like, “You’re crying? I’ll give you something to cry about.” I’m not saying I experienced that, but there’s a reason that’s a cliché.

The fetishization of materialism has this idea that getting rich is magically going to wipe away our problems. Click To Tweet

That is a cliché?

Sometimes I’ll go out and I’ll observe parents in grocery stores or Costco or wherever. There have been times where I’ve seen how parents talk to their kids and it’s like, “Wow.”

You’ve heard parents say, “I’ll give you something to cry about?”

It is a thing. Going back to the original point, whether it was my illusion of adherence to like this masculine code of we don’t talk about our emotions and we process stuff internally. I find that being honest about what’s going on with me and not making my current state of being say anything about me, because I think that there was a hesitance in if I’m depressed or I’m sad or I’m in a challenging moment or confused or don’t know how to deal with something. That says something about the content of my character. That means that I’ve messed up or I fucked up. I’m a bad person because I’m going through this. I have no reason to go through this and look at all the goodness and making myself feel guilty for feeling that way. I’ve had to undo a lot and I’m still am unraveling a lot of that, especially with the depression as an example of this and feeling a deep sense shame around it.

Around what?

Feeling depressed or feeling not okay or feeling sad or feeling like who am I? A person with all of these blessings and advantages and privilege and all these things that I have in the world as a person, I’m like, “Who am I to feel this way?” I’m trying to talk myself out of processing necessary painful emotions, which I think is this weird conditioning of we’re not allowed to feel what we feel because you’ve got all this stuff. I’m going off on a little bit of a tangent because you asked a simple but very deep question. I was heartened to see how many celebrities and pro athletes were coming out and talking about their struggle with mental illness and depression. I remember one athlete in particular, he’s a basketball player. He right now plays for the San Antonio Spurs. His name is DeMar DeRozan and he was the second player in the NBA to come out talking about depression and mental illness.

MGU 14 | Coping With Emotional Struggles

Coping With Emotional Struggles: Another bizarre aspect of our culture is that people think just because you’re rich, you’re going to be happy forever and you’re never going to be sad and depressed.

 

Kevin Love, who plays for Cleveland Cavaliers, was the first one. He wrote an incredible article on The Players’ Tribune about how he’s been struggling with mental illness and panic attacks and the masculinity issue, “You’re rich. You’re not allowed to be sad if you’re rich.” DeMar DeRozan talked about that. He was tweeting about his depression and said some people have exclaimed to him, acquaintances or whatever, like, “What do you have to be sad about? You have all the money in the world.” He’s like, “It’s not about that. Just because I make $20 million a year as a pro athlete does not mean that I’m not allowed to be sad or have depression or mental illness.” I think that’s another bizarre aspect of our culture is that people think just because you’re rich, you’re going to be happy forever and you’re never going to be sad again and you’re never going to be depressed or you’re not allowed to be depressed because you’ve got all this money. The subtext of the comment he wrote on Twitter was so interesting because I interpreted as, “You’re rich. What problems do you have? We’ve got problems.”

That’s trivializing.

It’s also crazy because I think the fetishization of materialism and this idea that if we get rich, whatever that means to us, is magically going to wipe away our problems. I still think there’s an aspect of that in our culture, though. “I’m rich. Everything will be great.” You’ll have more freedom for sure, but to think that it takes away sadness, depression, heartbreak. All the money in the world isn’t going to delete those things from your life.

I think people associate money with comfort. It might be that you feel physically comfortable because you can buy whatever you want, but emotional comfort is a whole other thing. It’s the same with emotional security versus physical security. You might be able to buy a house and have all the money to pay the rent and buy food and get your basic needs met, but emotionally you could still feel incredibly insecure. I was thinking about this because I was reflecting on going through emotional struggles and my own processes with that and how I try to work through it and the obstacles and the insights that I get through noticing how I handle any emotional suffering. For me, I actually try not to talk to people about it because I have this feeling that people aren’t going to understand or they’re going to say something to me that isn’t helpful or that might be more hurtful.

For example, I’ll go through on my head. When I’m having a tough time, I’ll think about who could I talk to about this? Most of the time it’s you. Usually, you’re the one that I can count on most of the time. I think that’s because we’ve been so close for so many years, so you’re the first person on my mind and because you and I are constantly talking about the subject matters. I can trust that you’re going to give me advice that you’ve thought long and hard about. I’ll think about some of my other friends and have this fear that they’ll give me advice that doesn’t resonate with me. Why is that perplexing?

When you say advice that doesn’t resonate, is it that you feel they don’t have an understanding of you or the complex issue you’re facing or have they not lived enough life experience that you don’t feel confident in their answer? What does that mean to you?

All the money in the world isn't going to take away sadness, depression, and heartbreak from your life. Click To Tweet

I wouldn’t say that because that feels a little judgmental. I think it’s more that I’m afraid that they don’t understand me and what I’m going through. Maybe their perspectives on life are different than mine. While I may enjoy their company as a friend on maybe a little bit more of a surface level when it comes to like deep things, I fear that they look at life differently than me. I’m afraid that they won’t be able to help me. That’s basically what it is and that that can actually feel very lonely in it. I was thinking about that and feeling like, “I love these go through my head. Maybe could I talk to so-and-so about it.” I would list out all my close friends and feel like none of them would be people that I wanted to turn to for this particular issue.

It wasn’t like, “Maybe I need to get new friends.” It was more of being fascinated with that because I love each of these people and these people are very valuable in my life. It’s that maybe I don’t feel emotionally safe them or maybe it’s more about me and finding emotional safety and that vulnerability. Because of the times where I’m struggling, I definitely feel incredibly vulnerable. Whether you’re crying and you feel beside yourself or you’re feeling like you’re going through a funk or suffering or whatever emotions are coming up for you. It’s incredibly vulnerable, especially when you feel like you can’t control it or you can’t explain it or you can’t find a reason for it. For me, I process that as it’s getting very overwhelmed and lost and I feel very alone and it’s incredibly intense.

I was reflecting on how it’s rare for me to feel like I can open up to somebody about it. Because generally if I’m going to talk to somebody about something, I’m looking for some a solution or I’m looking to feel better. Meaning that I’m looking to be comforted. For me, because I’ve been studying wellness and spirituality and all of these consciousness topics for so long, I feel like I have so many tools that it’s maybe it’s like an ego perspective of like, “If I can’t work my way through this, how’s my friend?” It’s almost like I need somebody that’s wiser than me in a very particular way. I suppose sometimes I feel like because I trust my own wisdom so much that I think, “If I can’t figure this out, then who can?”

It’s funny because I don’t think I’ve said that out loud before. One person I think of is Jason has this great mentor. Michael in Jason’s life is this wise older man in your life and that I can think of. I don’t know if I have that type of person in my life, but I guess that’s who I want. I’d want someone that was 20, 30 years older than me. Someone that’s lived a long time and has wisdom but also is interested in the same topics. It’s almost as if I wish I could just find my future self and then also simultaneously be my current age and have a conversation. As funny as it sounds, in a way we can do that. We could like visualize that type of conversation. I do believe that we have most of the answers that we’re looking for within us. That’s part of what I mean, all jokes aside. I know that I already have the wisdom to work through whatever and we don’t need anyone. Seeking for something external outside of ourselves to solve our problems, they’re reflecting things back. Maybe I’m looking for somebody else who will reflect on what I will need to be reflected.

It’s also because the reason that we go to therapy, for instance, is that a lot of the times we need to talk to somebody and they’re going to prompt us in a certain way that we don’t know how to prompt. They’re going to give us perspectives that we can’t see because we’re in our own little bubble and we need an outside perspective. Somebody to maybe play the devil’s advocate or maybe to point out something that we haven’t even noticed. That’s why I think self-help is such a huge thing for us as humans. We want somebody that can help us with ourselves in addition to us helping ourselves. This also brought up this idea of one thing I’ve observed a lot about myself is I have this strong desire to improve, make things better and solve problems. It’s this drive to constantly be fixing. When I feel like I’m in a tough position emotionally, it’s hard for me because immediately, I am looking for solutions to it. It’s like, “Why am I feeling this way? Maybe if I get to the root of it, then I can get clear.”

There’s this drive to like understand why I’m feeling the way that I’m feeling in hopes that if I get to the bottom of it, then I’ll be able to resolve it. The other time, I was just wondering, “What if I will never actually get to the root of it and do I even need to improve it to resolve it?” This has been coming up so much for me in those moments where I feel very helpless and vulnerable and all these emotions that I was describing. There’s this strong desire to fix it and make it go away. I don’t want to feel this anymore. I want to get out of the discomfort. It’s like having a wound and I’m wanting to stitch it up and make it feel better and all of that.

MGU 14 | Coping With Emotional Struggles

Coping With Emotional Struggles: Self-help is such a huge thing for us as humans. We want somebody that can help us with ourselves in addition to us helping ourselves.

 

As I’ve talked before, another part of me thinks, “Do I need to resolve it? Can I possibly resolve this? Is there an answer to this? What if it is just a matter of waiting it out and being patient and surrendering and just being with the emotion?” That got me thinking in addition to me doing that for myself, I also started to think about how I do that for other people and how I’m always trying to help other people solve problems. It’s something that I’m very passionate about, but then taking a step back and thinking, “I feel confident in my abilities to resolve problems and to help people improve things.” Jason and I have this similar desire and drive to reduce suffering. I’ve even heard you say, Jason, that you want to remove suffering. I started thinking, “What if suffering is always necessary? What if it’s important? Why would it exist if it wasn’t important or necessary?”

Here is another question and I was thinking about this. The idea of suffering, is it a human-created concept? Because here’s the thing. In the natural world, you have storms, you have predators, you have carnivores and you have animals eating each other. You have the environment doing what it does. The natural world is devoid of a framework of ethics. That’s something humans created. Humans created philosophy. Humans created ethics. If suffering is a human idea, is suffering then also a human creation in the sense of, think about the deepest suffering that’s on the planet right now. I’ll put the environmental catastrophe aside for a second because that’s a much more complex issue. If you think about hunger, the fact that people are starving to death each day. The income inequality, healthcare the way that we take care of the elderly, the way we take care of inmates. There are so many humanistic issues aside from the environment.

I don’t mean this to be overly simplistic or pedantic and I don’t want to get political, but these are things that if humans decided to treat one another differently and have a different perspective, I firmly believe that there is enough food for everyone on the planet. I believe it’s a distribution issue, not an abundance issue with money and not enough. There’s plenty of money on the planet. It’s a distribution issue, not a lack of abundance. I think that the quantum shift on this planet that would change a ton of our issues is people shifting into generosity, people shifting into equality, people realizing that there is enough to go around. I’m not trying to say I’m a socialist, so I’m not going there.

To your point, Whitney, if we’re talking about suffering, I truly think a lot of the human-created suffering and maybe all of suffering humans created, because it’s our idea, could be solved by a shift in our behavior, our attitudes and how we treat one another. Truly, I believe that in my heart. It’s not to say that there wouldn’t be suffering. We would still lose loved ones, there would still be accidents, there would still be things we would label as tragedies, but averting the continued perpetuation of suffering that we are all contributing to is something we can stop if we chose to collectively.

A lot of the suffering in this space, in this world I truly, deeply believe is systematic suffering. If we change our attitudes and our beliefs and our ways of being or shift into a totally different system of how we distribute food, how we distribute wealth, how we treat one another, our political system, so much, so much suffering could be avoided, I think. To your point, it is what it is. We are where we are right now and we are in the system we’re in and we are in our current state of culture. To your point of is suffering necessary? I think that we must assign meaning to things in life, that life is inherently meaningless.

I believe Joseph Campbell’s attitude when he said life is meaningless. We bring the meaning to it, we assign the meaning. I think suffering without meaning is very devastating. Suffering without meaning, if we allow it to, hardens us, it makes us nihilistic. It makes us hateful toward the world. If suffering is necessary, what I think is more necessary is to find our meaning in the suffering. Because meaningless suffering to me feels useless. Suffering with meaning that we can see some value in it or see some purpose in it that we create for ourselves, that’s a different experience of suffering. I don’t mean to review our lives here, but if I think about the devastating moments in my life, I can see the meaning of them.

We have most of the answers that we're looking for within us. Click To Tweet

What are some of the meanings that you’ve found?

I think about the most devastating moment, which was probably my last big breakup. I think the meaning in that was to pay attention, slow down and trust your intuition on things. On the other side of it, the bolstering of feeling like you are so sad and so heartbroken, so depressed, you want to die. Healing from it and being on the other side of it. On a soul level, that’s very bolstering. It’s very emboldening for the spirit to go through a trial, go through deep suffering and emerge from it where you’ve healed your heart and you’re trusting again and you’re putting yourself out there again. There’s deep value in that. If I didn’t assign that meaning to it, to me it would feel like needless suffering. What was the point of this? To your point, maybe we don’t know at the moment. I believe it’s important for us, for our own cosmology, our own life story and our own sense of mental well-being, to assign meaning to very painful moments of suffering in our lives. I think it’s critical for us to do that, to find it in some way.

Many types of suffering come about without us having much of a choice for sure. That’s part of life is that things that are painful happen and we often do not have control over them. I think as a species, we have a desire to control things or predict things and to avoid any pain. We are wired to avoid pain. When something happens that we interpret as painful for whatever reason, whether it’s biological or cultural, I think that there is also that drive to have meaning because we don’t want to go through something painful without there being a point to it. I think that’s also the same reason that when you say we live in a meaningless world, that’s scary to people because of people. As human beings, we’re desperate to find some meaning and purpose. It’s interesting.

I have mixed feelings about that because what if suffering just is? You were talking about how other species don’t have ethics and all of that. It’s like, “How do they experience pain? Do they experience suffering or is it more black and white where this is just painful, this is uncomfortable? Do they consider it suffering?” It’s also interesting as human beings, when we have companion animals and we want to put them down, we make the choice at the end of our lives because we want to reduce their suffering. Also a lot of people will admit that most of the time they’re either keeping an animal alive or putting an animal down for themselves. It’s too painful to watch an animal feel like it looked like it’s in pain and we assign this idea that this animal is suffering, but are they actually suffering? They can’t tell us and we can’t fully understand them because our brains are different than them.

They definitely feel pain, but is pain necessarily the same as suffering or is it all about your mentality and your outlook on it? I don’t know. I think as compassionate human beings, especially from the vegan perspective, it is very much about reducing suffering. We don’t want to see animals suffer, human beings suffer and the planet suffer. We make choices that we feel like are going to lessen the suffering that’s happening. I also think that suffering, in terms of finding value in it, we can find clarity and suffering so much. It’s almost as if we were to escape it, which as we’ve talked about before, there’s a big tendency as human beings to try to escape it. We take medications to avoid suffering. We will drink alcohol or take drugs or engage in sex or look for any form of immense pleasure to escape suffering. If you think about it, when you do those things, you don’t actually get the reward of clarity that happens with suffering. It’s that place of avoidance.

You sparked something so interesting. When we think about the value in suffering and conversely how much people want to avoid pain and the processing and acknowledgement of it, we’re being in a dark night of the soul. In a moment you’re in such pain and you’re in such suffering that it almost cracks you open into a level of awareness that you previously didn’t have. We call it the dark night of the soul. That’s what it feels like. It feels like a cracking open of these layers that we’ve built up for ourselves. To your point about this conditioning of I feel like there are levels of the cultural conditioning of when we break up with something, we’re encouraged to like, “Get back out there and start dating right away.”

MGU 14 | Coping With Emotional Struggles

Coping With Emotional Struggles: It’s very emboldening for the spirit to go through a trial, go through deep suffering, and emerge from it where you’ve healed your heart.

 

If we get fired from a job, we go right to the bar and start drinking like, “Have one on me. Have a whiskey.” It’s like when something bad happens, I feel like there’s this automatic response from very well-intentioned people that love us that it’s like, “Screw him and move on right away. Let’s go out for a drink. Let’s get wasted, let’s get blitzed.” We’re avoiding the disappointment, the heartbreak, the sadness, our expectations not being met and our projections not being fulfilled. We’re missing the lessons. As you said, Whitney, you choose to numb out in those ways. I believe that pain and suffering can be teachers if we allow them to be. Intrinsically, you wound up in painful moments. It’s not like, “I got a paper cut. We’re not talking about that.” Although it might be a lesson for you to be more present with the bills you’re mailing. Who knows?

My point is pain is a teacher, suffering is a teacher. It’s almost like within the poison is the cure. Truly, I think if we train ourselves to not run from the suffering and I don’t mean unnecessary. This isn’t about like, “I’m going to stay in this and be miserable.” To understand that pain will find us. We’re not going to have a pain-free life. We’re not going to have a life that’s free of suffering. I think we can drastically reduce pain and suffering on this planet. As I mentioned, I believe so much of it is something we’ve created that we could stop. It doesn’t mean that life isn’t going to challenge us in other ways. To your point, losing people, disease, sickness, accidents and the emotional trauma we go through in relationships, all that stuff is pretty much guaranteed in some form or another being here in this human experience, but so much suffering can be drastically reduced. Life is challenging enough as it is.

I think you’re saying two separate things though. To go back to the point of what you do when you are suffering is part of my point is that I think that we have this desire to remove or reduce suffering, but we don’t always have control over it. Looking at it and thinking, “How can I find some positive result from this if I’m going to go through this, whether I want to or not?” Because sure, there are things that we have control over. We can make different choices, but there are so many times in our lives where we feel our own version of suffering, whatever that means for us in this specific time in our life.

One thing that comes up for me too, when you were talking about how we look for all these different ways to numb ourselves whenever we’re suffering, I think in a way it prolongs it. It’s like a medical perspective. You can either put a bandage over something or you can find the root cause so that it won’t continue to happen. It’s also, in my opinion, a big Western point of view is, “Don’t worry about it. We’ll find a temporary solution.” Something that Jason and I are passionate about is how about instead of finding something temporary, we find something that can help you in the long term?

Would you rather go through something that’s painful and challenging for a few days, a few weeks, few months, maybe a few years? Would you rather continue a form of suffering for your entire life and keep it as a minimal feeling of suffering because you’re trying numb yourself constantly? What happens when we decide not to numb ourselves when we lean more into suffering is we also become more resilient. In those periods of time where you feel so devastated and you’re going through these low periods and there doesn’t seem to be an answer. You don’t know how to resolve it. You don’t feel like it’s going to get better. You might see a light at the end of the tunnel, but you don’t know when you’re going to get there. That’s teaching you so much resilience. Actually that ends up helping you later on because the same situation can come up in a different form, but you might have already gone through it so you have more confidence to go through it again.

It’s similar to being in yoga class, for example. I’m saying this because yoga is a huge part of my life or any type of fitness. One of the biggest goals of mine is to work on my endurance. Because over the years, I’ve watched myself get stronger mentally with physical fitness. It’s incredible because there are times in class where we’re doing something, a move and it feels so physically painful that all I want to do is stop. I want to take a break. I want to get out of the posture or the move, whatever we’re doing. I don’t feel like I can do it. That happens to me in every single class. What I’ve noticed is if I can just continue doing a little bit longer before I want to give up, that actually builds upon my resilience, my endurance. Over time, I become stronger and stronger to the point where maybe a year or two later, I can do that exact same move for a long time because I’ve built up that endurance for it.

There's plenty of money on the planet. It's a distribution issue, not a lack of abundance. Click To Tweet

I think the same thing is true with mental pain. We need to learn coping mechanisms. We need to learn how to work through them or sit with them and be patient with them. These things that we learned through practices like meditation for example, are so incredibly powerful because they teach us how to sit with something as opposed to trying to escape it, to run away from it. When we choose to numb ourselves or to run away in whatever form that means for us, then we’re prolonging the fact that we’re going to have to face it again. We have another choice the next time we suffer. Do we continue to run away and numb or do we face it head on and go through it and build upon our resilience?

Knowing that we’re here, we’re going to suffer. There’s going to be a pain. There’s no getting around it. If that is the case and we know that we’re going to face it, then to your point, can we consciously build resilience and build our willpower and build our emotional fortitude to be able to handle those things? It’s important.

This is also true in terms of supporting other people. In terms of our communication with other people that are suffering is a lot of the time, I find myself looking for ways to reduce somebody’s suffering. I want to soothe people, but sometimes somebody wants you there to listen.

They don’t want you to take it away. That’s an important distinction.

As I was saying, maybe your perspective on their pain is different from their perspective and they don’t want to hear your perspective because it doesn’t feel helpful to them at that time. You know how most of us have experienced where we get frustrated because we want somebody to think the way that we think. We will be like, “If only they would do this, they wouldn’t be in that situation.” When we think that we know what’s good for them, that’s an ongoing thing. That’s behind so many forms of gossip as people judging one another for each other’s choices and thinking that that your way of doing things or thinking about things is better than theirs are better for them. “I know what’s good for you,” going back to parenting. The truth is we don’t necessarily know what’s good for somebody else. There’s so much shame that can be tied into all of this and our ways of communicating with each other. I’m actually feeling a strong desire to learn how to help people or be there for people. Maybe I need to take away the word help, but it’s about being there.

Some problems are more complicated. We don’t know somebody’s entire history and experiences and they might not even know how to express them to us so how could we understand what’s going on in their heads, as we’ve talked about? Our solutions might work for us, but they might not work for them or they may not work in this specific situation. It’s almost like we can be best supportive for people when we can respect whatever they’re going through and hold space for them. Even if we might disagree with the way they’re handling it, we might think that whatever they’re going towards is not what we want for them. That’s one of the best ways that we can love somebody. Being patient for them and celebrating the moments that they’re successful and listening on the times where they feel unsuccessful or they feel like they’re suffering.

MGU 14 | Coping With Emotional Struggles

Coping With Emotional Struggles: When we choose to numb ourselves or run away from suffering, then we’re just prolonging the fact that we’re going to have to face it again.

 

What that brings up for me is most of the time if I’m going through something challenging and I’ve reached out to you or other people that I deeply trust and there’s not many. There’s probably a handful literally of people. The great majority of the time when I’m not looking for an answer or a solution or like, “Give me a list of what I should do.” Honestly, I just want to feel not alone. I don’t want to feel isolated in my pain and I want someone to receive what my heart wants to express. It’s like their presence is a present. That’s enough. Having somebody be with me or even on the other end of the line or FaceTime or whatever it is, just being received and having somebody be present to witness my struggle is enough. That’s comforting enough most of the time for me. It doesn’t solve it, it doesn’t take it away, but there’s something about you’ve given me the love and the form of bearing witness to my suffering and hearing it and being a container for it and that in itself is all that I need.

Especially when you don’t feel like that person’s going to judge you or have a harsh response. Going back to what I was saying at the beginning, a lot of the times that I don’t talk to people, it’s because I’m afraid that they’re going to judge me for what I’m going through. Some of the deeper pains that I’m experiencing, maybe I’m feeling shame around them and so then I assume that other people are going to put shame onto me or judge me or whatever. It’s a big step in vulnerability when you can trust yourself and the person that you’re talking to take in the information without judging you, analyzing it, trying to solve it. I think that we could talk about a way to reduce suffering.

If we could practice that more with one another and being able to listen without interpreting or analyzing, solving, all of that, it could actually be powerful. I think that’s one of the reasons that people go to therapists because they trust that a therapist is going to listen to their problems without judging them and listen. Maybe give them some options. The great majority of the benefit in therapy is having somebody that is professional and committed to not judging you or shaming you. Whereas, we could do that as friends and family members. We just have to practice doing it and be mindful of it.

I think the impartiality of a therapist-client relationship is the distinction. There is no judgment. They’re not harshing you. If they’re good therapists, they are not telling you what to do. Whereas I find that even the most well-intentioned people that I deeply love in my life people that are on that handful of people I deeply trust, sometimes they will give their opinion or try to tell me what they think I ought to do. I have a trigger massively still around when people chime in about whatever it is, “I think you should do this with your career or don’t do that or that post didn’t feel right or maybe change that copy or you shouldn’t buy a motorcycle or we don’t think she’s a good girl for you,” or whatever. I could give a million different examples but at the core, I only want people’s opinions when I ask for it. Even people I love, it bothers me when they give an unsolicited opinion on something. Because the reality is, even if you don’t feel the thing is right, ultimately it’s my experience and it’s my choice. If you have something you feel uncertain about or like, “There are probably piranhas in that pool or there might be a croc, then it’ll be my leg to lose,” proverbially speaking here.

There are always those moments of saying to your friends, “Why didn’t you tell me?” We had a friend who was dating someone who was not our favorite person. There was a moment afterwards where she thought, “Why didn’t you tell me that you perceived him this way?” As friends, we are trying to be respectful. That’s where it’s a fine line. One of the things that we can do in those moments is ask if that person wants our advice or our opinion. If they don’t request it but we want to give it, then we should ask them.

“Are you open to feedback? Are you open to my opinion on this?” I think, Whitney, that qualifying question makes all the difference. For me, it does. If someone would be like, “I’ve got some feelings about this. Are you open to hearing them?” Absolutely or I get to say no and that’s okay too. The issue I have is when people just launch right into the advice without qualifying it. I’m like, “I love you and I didn’t ask.”

It’s just part of life that things that are painful happen and we often do not have control over them. Click To Tweet

This is all part of learning how to communicate with one another and then learning how to work through our reactions to other people and how to process our own pain. All of this ties into this desire to find some solution. Sometimes the solution needs to reveal itself or maybe there isn’t the type of solution that we’re looking for. It could be part of life is going through tough periods of time that don’t make any sense and don’t seem to have a resolution. It gives us an opportunity to get clearer, to build that resilience and to become more patient. To start to examine ourselves in a new way and learn something new about ourselves without being attached to a specific outcome.

If we can embrace pain as a teacher, confusion as a teacher, lack of clarity as a teacher and suffering as a teacher.

Maybe it’s not even the teacher because the whole point of teaching is to learn something. What if it’s experiencing life? Learning something that’s still an outcome. Even when we try to position something, “What can this teach me?” “I don’t know. Does everything in our lives teach us something?” I guess you could say yes to that.

It depends. To me, it goes back to the assignment of meaning. The overall takeaway, what I was trying to get to, and to your point, Whitney, there may not be an immediate lesson and everything. It may not be visible. We may never assign meaning to certain things. Why did that happen? Who the hell knows? I think it’s important that we stop collectively numbing, shoving it down, ignoring it, acting like it’s not there and acting like there’s a certain level of spiritual bypassing that happens of like, “High vibes only, high vibe tribe, it’s all good. I only want to be high vibes.” The problem I have with this attitude is that there’s a distinct lack of acknowledgement of the pain and the suffering and the shadow and the darkness that will visit us in this life. I’m not trying to be macabre or nihilistic or dark right now, but it’s for real. The issue that I have with a lot of these pseudo-spiritual practices is like, “You manifested it. You manifested the suffering.” I’m like, “Enough of the pseudo-spirituality.” Part of life is pain, part of life is suffering and it’s going to be inevitable. We are less prepared and less resilient. To your point, if we’re always, “High vibes only. I’m only manifesting the goodness.”

What you’re saying is it ties into this idea that we can control everything. There is a large part of me that believes in manifestation. Is everything manifested? Perhaps, but I think manifestation generally comes down to this idea that we have control. The only reason you’re suffering is because you manifest it. Meaning if you didn’t do something this way, then you could’ve controlled whether or not you experienced the suffering. I honestly do not know how true that is. That could be true sometimes. That could be true none of the times. Who knows?

We don’t know. My point with that was if people are saying like, “I manifested this pain. I manifested getting stabbed in the butt,” people can use it as a way to self-flagellate and beat themselves up, “What did I do to get like stabbed on the street? What did I do to get mugged? How did I manifest this?” I have observed in people that that is a closed loop and it leads nowhere but into more suffering. Oftentimes we use it as an excuse to beat ourselves up and like, “I don’t understand. I was vibing so high.”

That’s another form of a shame though. It is feeling shame that you brought this on yourself.

This perpetual question that has been with humanity for so long of why do “bad things” happen to “good people?” Bruce Lee has this amazing quote, and I’m going to butcher it a little bit, but the core of it is amazing. He was talking about parents and their children. He said, “Don’t wish for your children to live a life without struggle. Don’t wish for your children to live a life without pain. Wish for them to build the resilience to be able to endure the challenges that find them.” That was like, “Absolutely.” Can we teach each other? Can we teach not only our children, but each other how to build compassion and resilience and forgiveness on this planet? Because to me, we’re not running from the pain and the suffering and the confusion and why are we even here? The questions will always be there, but to hold ourselves in a space of, “It’s okay,” and to have that deep compassion for one another, it’s a deep medicine this planet needs massively right now.

With that said my dear friends, we hope that this was medicinal for you as it was for us. You can leave us a message at [email protected]. We check that inbox often. We always love hearing from you and you can follow us for more great, inspiring and deep content on all of our social platforms on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Whitney, this was good. This was a juicy one.

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