A former client wrote me early this morning, reflecting on last weekend’s horrifying shooting at the synagogue outside of Pittsburgh, and said, “There is so much shared grief and disbelief — my personal experience seems unimportant. This is a time for community and for me to be calm and listen”.
Feeling my inner Buddha emerge, I wrote back, “Community is made up of individuals just like the ocean is make up of drops”. I thought that was pretty good for before 8am.
I was trying to make the point that his personal experience not only matters, but really in a way he is the community. His process is not separate from the whole. By paying attention to his own pain, I believe he can offer greater service to those around him than if he were to ignore his own process.
It’s easier said than done.
My inner caretaker is on high alert these days. The mayhem is everywhere. It’s hard to sit still and be with myself.
Another client wrote me around the same time this morning to cancel his upcoming session explaining that an elderly family member of his had been stabbed over the weekend and my client was making travel plans to see him so would need to miss his coaching session.
WTF. Pardon my non-Buddha like language. I was horrified. It was just too much. Especially before 8am.
I don’t have to look far to see violence these days. It’s rampant in the reports by my clients on top of the national news of nearly daily assaults. And unfortunately it recently struck my extended family in a gruesome way. We are shaken.
Reflecting on all that my family is going through amidst the national crises, my tough-as-nails Jewish aunt noted, “As you know there are fragile people who listen to this [our President’s rhetoric of hate towards others] and feel it is their job to take things in their own hands.”
And I think, my God, aren’t we all so fragile.
Every one of us has the capacity for violence. Every one of us has the capacity for compassion.
Here’s what I advise my clients, my friends and my own lonely soul late at night when my otherwise well-behaved demons come oozing out.
I will only be as useful to this world as I have the courage to face my own most overwhelming pain.
Put another way, if you — whoever you are, a man, a Jew (like me), a person of color, a queer (like me), a trans person, whoever you are — if you activate in me a pain that I have not yet faced myself, I am going to feel the overwhelming urge to blame you for my feelings.
It goes something like, “How dare you make me feel something I don’t want to feel”. And at its worst it sounds like, “I need to annihilate you because I am unwilling to feel this”.
I believe, and many agree with me, that hate crimes ensue from this dynamic.
So here’s the antidote: go find a therapist or a coach, like now. Or like yesterday. Get some skilled help to feel what you have been putting off because you are too busy, your kids need your attention, it happened so long ago it can’t still have an impact, therapy is for weak people, etc etc etc.
This is all the calculated bullshit messaging to keep you very small, very scared, very prone to failed marriages, highly susceptible to capitalistic predation and very easy to control.
Therapy is for people who are brave enough to look into our own shadow, flinch but eventually come back, and say, “Bring it. You — whatever you are — you are part of me. I’m not going to let my fear of you run my life anymore. Let’s sit down and have a heart-to-heart. I see you”.
Do you see a parallel here between our relationship to ourselves and our relationship to anyone in the world we might call, “other?”
So then, as I integrate these unwanted parts of me, I am better able to stay resourced and in my right mind when my child has a temper tantrum, my neighbor looks different than I do, my partner isn’t able to give me the attention I want or my community is suffering and I can barely stand it.
But I learn to do better than “stand it”. I can melt into this cosmic shuddering that is happening and say, “Bring it”.
I can meet pain around me with compassion. Because I can meet pain in me with compassion.
Vote. Do it early. Advocate for justice daily with clear, strong words. But don’t neglect the inner work. I believe the world needs us to feel the unbearable inside. So that as it gets unbearable outside, we have the resources and the courage to help.
Author’s Note: All quotes and references to personal material contained in this blog have been used with permission.