“A human being is part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. We experience ourselves, our thoughts and feelings as something separate from the rest. A kind of optical delusion of consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from the prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.” -Albert Einstein
I toyed with the idea of titling this post “I’m Paying $155 per hour for Therapy* so that you don’t have to”. Besides the fact that it would have been entirely too long of a title, it also does not match the tone of my post today. I had to share it anyways, because I suppose it takes a certain level of carefree humor to find the courage to announce to anyone who stumbles across this blog that I am seeing a therapist.
I have to begin with last Tuesday, when I cried for approximately 80% of my therapy session (don’t worry – I’m a-ok, just prone to tears). We talked about everything from religion to my perfectionist tendencies to my drinking. I suppose it wasn’t too different from most of the sessions I’ve gone to, but nonetheless, a never-before-seen amount of tears cropped up. I think it’s because I have reached a point where I have realized that I have to actually let go of a lot of who I was in the past to achieve the emotional stability and independence I am striving for. Chipping away pieces of your personality, while completely beneficial in my situation, is terrifying and causes you to lose a sense of your own reality. I’m in the process of figuring out what parts I can hold on to and what parts I need to send on their way with a wave and a good cry. This brings me to where I landed this week regarding how I experience the ups and downs in my life.
There are things in this life that are going to make my soul sing with joy. There are other things in this life that are going to make me feel frustrated, exhaust me, and toss me into a state of suffering.
My reality is based entirely on my perception of the world around me. I have felt everything deeply my whole life, and for that reason I have been reluctant to give up feeling pain so deeply. It would make sense to believe that one who feels deeply in one extreme must therefore also feel deeply in the other extreme, and I do not want to give up feeling the joy or the empathy or the sense of meaning in order to forgo the pain.
It has been suggested to me that I might benefit from anxiety medication, but I have avoided it for that exact reason. I am scared that it would flat-line my emotions and I would permanently give up a part of who I am. I am a lover of logic, and must have a reasoned explanation of anything I undertake in my life. And this week, amidst my timidity and confusion, I finally got to the point where I can reason my way into an acceptable (much needed) solution for my feelings of pain, insecurity, and anxiety.
I have been halfway to this point for a while. Within the past few years, I came to a strong belief that pain has the purpose in life of providing a contrast to the joy, just as our mistakes have the purpose of helping us grow. We understand things through contrast: we wouldn’t really understand what “hot” feels like without understanding “cold”, just as feeling connected wouldn’t have any meaning without feeling loneliness. We conceptualize our happiness through our understanding and experience of our own unhappiness; your perception of what a 10 feels like on the happiness scale depends completely on what you have experienced as a 1.
Still, understanding this did not make feeling pain much easier. It helped bring me away from the feeling of being fully consumed by any unhappiness I stumbled upon each week, but it did not provide me with the ability to live very effectively through any unhappiness I experienced. But here I am, finally with a a strategy (an “Aha!” moment, if you will):
When experiencing joys and pleasures in my life, I will view them in the light that they have a deep meaning and I will let them encompass my entire soul in the moment. I will feel significant and present in these moments.
When I am confronted with pain, I will begin by viewing my suffering as existing in order to help me more fully appreciate the moments of my joy. But, I will take it a step further and I will take my moments of pain and view them through the lens of my insignificance in the overall realm of time and space. Carl Haub estimated in 2011 that 107 billion humans have lived on the earth. I constitute a total of 1 human. The earth has existed for approximately 4.5 billion years. Hopefully I will live 100 (or 86, according to a palm reader in New Orleans). The universe might be infinite, as far as anyone can prove. These are perception altering facts, for better or for worse. I am going to choose to take these concepts and embrace them in the best manner possible, by latching on to them when I am suffering. If in reality, my pain is the smallest blip imaginable in relation to overall existence, certainly I can train myself to experience it as minimal and simply an unavoidable part of my existence.
There is a small part of me that feels as if adopting this strategy is akin to tricking myself; I’m using two completely different lenses to view certain things in the way that I want to view them, simply because it will benefit me. But if my reality is really all about my perception of the world around me, I see no reason not to adopt this strategy. I guess at the end of the day, all this realization boils down to is a more thorough explanation of the saying “put things in perspective”. But my brain is like one really complicated math problem, so any further available clarity on what I already know is very helpful. I hope this reasoning strikes a chord with and provides some guidance for someone reading this.
*Can I call it life coaching so that it sounds less taboo?
This Week’s Highs
1. Stumbling across $1 Skyline Seats with some long-time friends at the Braves game on Wednesday. Also, having my first BBQ sandwich in a year (I told the woman at the checkout that I was going to enjoy the sandwich infinitely more than any of her customers).
2. Taking risks (nothing ventured, nothing gained) and allowing myself to be vulnerable; This one is paying off tenfold.
3. Listening to music, reading, and sipping on a glass of red wine
4. Enjoying some flowers on my night stand
5. Sunshine and good company in the form of a trip to the lake and an afternoon at the pool
This Week’s Lows
1. There were plenty, but I am running late to a comedy show at the Sweetwater Brewery* so I will not list them (but trust me, there were plenty)
*My therapist who reads this will be glad to know I’m doing great with the drinking thing… just kidding, I’m only having one beer so that I can drive 🙂