“We cannot selectively numb emotions. When we numb the painful emotions, we also numb the positive emotions.” ~ Brené Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are
To be alive is certainly a risky road of vulnerability and pain.
Numbing our experience of the less comfortable emotions blocks us from fully engaging in life with a sensation of joy, gratitude and grace.
I was recently reminded of these wise words by the author Brené Brown from her book, The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are, based on her research about shame and how we often try to avoid intense feelings.
Welcoming joy may be easy but allowing grief to run wild isn’t a particularly pleasant or pretty path to explore—it’s why many of us prefer to run away rather than run along with the painful emotions of our sorrows.
It is tempting to mute our aching echoes of broken dreams—to ignore the reverberations of tomorrows that will never come, to reject the shivering ghosts of any present grief.
When we try to control how and what we feel, it has a price. Aiming for a static emotional equilibrium is ironically not in balance with our nature.
Because our emotions never rest.
They tango timelessly, they dance delightfully, they are eternally in motion.
We can try to numb ourselves to grief, sorrow and pain, but not without also numbing ourselves to ecstasy, euphoria and joy. We cannot numb our emotions selectively, and that is why avoidance of emotions is such a trap; we never get to explore our lives with depth and intensity.
We risk getting stuck in a life of dullness instead.
What if our grief, pain and sorrows aren’t here to destroy our souls, but are here to give us a precious key to open up a treasure-box of sensations and connect us with the deepest feeling of being alive?
By allowing our sensations of discomfort, such as welcoming pain in a process of grief, we get to connect with the euphoric and grateful feelings of merely being alive as well.
That’s the treasure.
There are oceans of beauty to be explored and experienced in our lives; there is even such beauty, pleasure and intensity of life to be felt during a painful process of sorrow and loss.
By surrendering to whatever pain may be bleeding in our hearts—by allowing ourselves to connect with what we feel—we are ironically also blessed with the joyous emotions that motivate us to live, laugh and love. This happens even when our hearts, our minds and our worlds are aching, bleeding, perhaps even exploding into something that may feel like the very atoms of death, destruction and disastrous oblivion.
If we choose to experience every nuance of emotion, we will experience every particle of the energies in motion intensely.
The curse and the gift of embracing our variety of feelings will eternally go hand in hand.
Intense emotions like grief/joy and pleasure/pain aren’t necessarily either/or constructions. They’re not solo performers in two parallel worlds; they are dancing partners in the one and same time, space and universe of emotions where such dichotomies are but illusions.
Whenever I find my heart bleeding with Pain, I let her dance with Pleasure and all the other energies that she and I may meet in the process.
I like to imagine that I open a little window in my heart, not to kick or numb out the pain, but to let in each color from my rainbow of different emotions.
From my perfect palette of all energies in motion, I can add an elegant shine, as well as an existential shade to the beautiful painting of this marvelous tapestry of life.
If we perceived our emotions as a rainbow of feelings and welcomed any “unwanted” emotions (like we long for and welcome euphoria and joy), maybe we would learn that pain was never here to punish us, but to teach us how to live fully in ecstasy.
By never numbing or trying to avoid the many different emotional flavors, we accept and appreciate all the many and subtle nuances of life.
“The dark does not destroy the light; it defines it. It’s our fear of the dark that casts our joy into the shadows.” ~ Brené Brown
Author: Cecilia Vinkel
Apprentice Editor: Amanda Volponi/Editor: Toby Israel
Photo: Steve Snodgrass via Flickr