How many of you write as a release? Write to get the ideas, thoughts, concerns, dreams, wishes, and hopes out of your head and into a format that you can read and reflect upon. Yes, no? Maybe?
For most of my life, I didn’t. I didn’t regularly write out any of the aforementioned. Not because I wouldn’t have found it beneficial, more because I didn’t really know how. Sounds funny. It is true though.
I would tinker with writing here and there, yet never really developed a system to do so. What I realize now is that having a systematic way you write, or enter into any creative process is, at least for me, very helpful.
It is how I can continue to do so. To write through my pain and heal.
I find that writing of any kind, on a whiteboard, in a journal, in a computer document, anything, is very therapeutic. Why? Because you can then study what you are thinking, instead of simply thinking about it.
There is an important distinction here.
If you only ever think about something, you don’t really do anything with it, with the exception of maybe obsessing over it or worrying about it. Which, in the end, does nothing to move you forward as a human being.
What are some of the writing strategies I use to work through my pain and heal?
I have several different ways that I get ideas out of myself and into the world. And, all of them work well. For, it is really less about the strategy, than that you develop the habit of writing through any situation or context that you find yourself in. From pain toward healing.
Here are some strategies I use daily.
Whiteboards – I have three at home, and many at work, which include a complete whiteboard wall in my office. Very helpful. And, yes, there is also pain and healing that happens at work. It’s not just in our personal life that we need a release for our pain, whether that is frustration or some other emotion we are working through. I actually think that it is in the writing, considering, and working through the pain that healing occurs.
Post-its – on the go, these work very well. I will typically then collect them on a piece of paper, or tape them to a larger 2’x3′ post-it, so that I can play with the ideas. See what’s there, and what possibilities I can see for moving forward.
Journaling – I don’t write in a journal as often today, yet it is still a strategy that I recommend. Especially if you are new to writing about your own pain.
Those are the top three I’ve used, and use daily. And, they all work well, and can be used in combination. Example.
I will also tape post-it’s to pieces of paper, and put them on my magnetic whiteboard. Good visual, and easy to move around, and play with.
Why write through your pain to heal?
Because we all need the release. When we hold all of our pain inside, we cannot heal. It will reside within us, and actually make us ill. Not helpful.
Moving forward from pain, especially deep pain, requires visiting that pain often. Understanding it, working on it, and eventually releasing it. Carrying it around is unnecessary, though many people live this way.
Writing opens us up, and is a safe way to get out that which resides within. There are many different ways to write about pain. You can simply write about the pain, or you can create poems, or other stories about the pain.
What matters more than the writing medium you use, is that you provide yourself the opportunity to heal. Very important.
Know also that it takes time to heal. You may write about something that is causing you pain, and not know healing from that pain for some time. For me, it also takes reflecting upon the pain in my writing.
When I can sit and contemplate that pain, I can see more, and have new insights. It is common for me to go back to something I’ve written several times before I can see a pathway to healing. Very normal.
How can you get started?
Start writing. Write on anything and at any time. Get your pain out of you and into the world so you can actually see it, and work on it. Important.
If you leave your pain inside of you, that is where it will always remain. Literally.
Choose times that work best for you, and create a habit of writing often. For it is in the healthy habit that you create to write about your pain often, that you have the best opportunity to know healing from that pain, and all pain.
Developing a healthy writing habit that is honest and reflective of the pain that lives inside of you creates a connection between your mind and your heart. And, it is inside of the connection between the two that all healing lives.
I’ve lived the majority of my life believing that crying was something I’m not supposed to do. See, when something is not modeled for you as a child, and you are actively told not to do that same thing, you don’t know how to do it. May sound funny. Not knowing how to cry, yet believe me when I tell you that many, many people do not know how to cry. What about you?
And, what does crying really have to do with our lives? I mean, are we missing something when we don’t allow ourselves the opportunity to cry? Or, is the idea of crying as beneficial, just more psychobabble? Not sure. I wasn’t either for 40 years. Yet, today, I have some ideas, so let’s take a look.
If we want to live a life of openness and possibility, then crying is something we must learn how to do. And, while crying during a sad movie is beneficial, especially for someone that doesn’t know how to really access their tears, when I refer to crying in this context, I am talking about getting in touch with pain that is deep within us. And, learning how to release it through our tears.
I’m talking about the kind of crying where we ache all over, shudder with pain, grief, remorse, anger, frustration, and sadness. The kind of cry that will bring you to your hands and knees in the middle of the night. That’s different. And, a very different experience.
For 40 years, I held all of my tears inside of me. They would leak out during a sad movie, or sad event, yet I could not just sit and cry. Nope. Was not possible for most of my life. And, what happens when you don’t know how to release those tears that you know are there?
For me, it created more anger, frustration, and deep pain. I was a mess. Really, I was. The slightest thing would “make” me angry, and then my emotions would erupt out of me. Why? Because I hadn’t learned how to let these emotions out in positive ways.
We hear all the time that young boys, especially in the US, learn, and are taught, that crying is not something that “men” are supposed to do. Social conditioning of this kind is so harmful. Very damaging.
And, while I knew this type of socialization was extremely damaging, I only really understood this intellectually. Really, just a theory for me at the time, yet I didn’t even know it. Why? Because to really know something you must have lived it, practiced it. The only real way. And, I had not done that with my emotions.
In essence I was the walking epitome of hyper-masculine socialization; even more so, because I actually talked about how much of a problem this is for young boys in the US. Yet, it was also myself I was speaking about. Totally unaware.
Then about 3 years ago I was shown a new way. A way that included the positive acknowledgement of my emotions, a way to handle them, and a way to release them. As you can imagine, dealing with my emotions one way for 40 years, and then living through them in a new way has been difficult, yet extremely empowering, insightful, and beneficial. And, I am still learning.
What are some of the health benefits of learning to cry?
I understand that the question above may seem silly, or even ridiculous to some, yet to me, it makes perfect sense. When you don’t know how to do something, you must learn. And, learning to cry, to release that which is, and always has been, inside of you, is no different.
Here are a few of the health benefits I’ve experienced from learning to cry.
The dissipation of anger and frustration – as you can imagine, living for such a long time without the ability to cry, means there was a lot of crying to do, and still is. And, with that release, the anger and frustration that seemed to plague me daily, has dissipated. It has dissipated a lot.
More overall well-being – with the release of the anger and pent up frustration, has come more overall well-being. Frustration and anger don’t really feel all that great. Not when they’ve been held onto for so long. Meaning that I feel lighter today. I’m not carrying so much of that anger and frustration around. I’ve gotten in touch with a lot of it, and released it.
Higher levels of patience – I used to always label myself as someone with little patience. Not a helpful strategy to begin with. And, how can one really be patient when they are holding onto their anger and frustration? Not possible. My patience has increased tremendously with my ability to cry as needed.
A better understanding of myself – when you get in touch with your emotions, really begin to understand them, and how they work, you also get the added benefit of understanding yourself better. Simple. You work on your emotions, and they work for you, instead of against you.
And, the biggest benefit of all, increased clarity.
One of the biggest benefits of learning to cry, and crying often, is that I have more clarity. Really. It actually makes perfect sense. When you are holding onto your emotions, not because you want to, but because you don’t know what else to do with them, you are carrying around years of baggage. How can you see clearly through all of that? You can’t.
However, when you get in touch with your emotions, and actively inquire into why you feel as you do, your clarity about yourself, and the world around you increases tremendously. Super helpful.
And, when you are more clear, your focus, and intuition bloom. You can see where you are stuck, and inquire into the root issue, and become unstuck. Sometimes it takes time to get to the root issue, however, if you stick with it, it will become clear.
For instance, I’ve learned over the past couple of years that one of the personas I’ve taken on in my life is that of the hero. Wanting to save everyone from everything. Not helpful. Why?
Because, when people don’t have the ability to fail, they don’t learn. Simple. Saving someone from failure is the worst thing you can do. People that identify with the hero, will be confused about this, which I understand. I was confused too.
However, through every failure, people learn a new skill, or have a new insight. These are important. They are the gems of being a human being. And, people need to experience them. Even when they are painful.
The insight I had about performing the hero was that it all stems from a desire I’ve had since I was little, which was a desire to save my dad from his pain and anguish. A stunning insight for me. Because I was unable to see the root of my own hero attachment, I always acted out the hero. Didn’t know any better.
Yet, by working on, and understanding my emotions, I can see that clearly. Very clearly. And, that branch of understanding is connected to many others that span my whole life. A wonderful thing to see and understand.
What can you do if you’ve not been taught to understand your emotions, and you are unable to cry?
You can start today. Start by making a choice to get in touch with your humanity, of which emotions are a very large part. Here are a few things you can do to get in touch with your emotions, which may assist you in learning how to cry.
See someone – as I’ve mentioned in other posts, I’ve been seeing someone regularly for 2.5 years now, and the insights that have come from these conversations have been life changing, and are irreplaceable. The techniques employed in these sessions are grounded in Eastern Spirituality, which I have found the most beneficial.
Find a quiet space – we all need our own space. And, to inquire into your emotions, and release them, you need space to do so. Find a way to create a space for yourself, and make it a requirement that you are not bothered during these times.
Inquire into your feelings – when emotions arise, ask questions about them, and see what happens. In my case, there are many layers of understanding associated with my emotions, so where I used to ask the questions, such as why am I angry at this moment? Today, the reason usually arises without the question. If you’ve never done anything like this before, start by questioning your feelings. You may find that what is bothering you is something simple, right on the surface, or it may be something deeper, which will require more investigation.
Write out how you feel – important. Writing down how you feel is a strategy I highly recommend. It has served me very well. I write my feelings down during my inquiry, so that I can see them. And, doing this has created even more insight for me. There is something about writing your feelings down that allows you to better connect with them, and understand them.
Let the cry happen – I can remember so many times when I desperately wanted to cry, to release that which was inside of me, yet there was always a barrier there. If you’ve lived this way, it will take some time to let those tears out. Yet, know that they will come in time. A little here, and there. And, eventually a flood. Remember, it is okay. Better language, it is wonderful.
Once you’ve worked on your emotions for a while, it does become easier. Like anything, it takes time. And, it is time well spent. Believe me.
Our emotions are needed and necessary. Yet, for many, being in touch with these emotions is out of reach. It’s a simple fact. And, it is a sad one. When you are in touch with your emotions, you learn to cry for yourself first. Then you will learn to cry for others. And, at some point you will learn to cry for all of humanity. Why?
For the pain and suffering that plagues human beings. The pain and suffering that comes from being detached from one’s emotions. And, it’s not because there is no other way to live. It is because most people don’t yet have access to an alternative way.
Yet, I have hope that there will be a day when people will have more access to their emotional selves, and the ability to release that which they’ve been holding onto for so long.
For, in understanding ourselves better, we can understand each other better. And, when we understand each other better, there is a greater likelihood of us showing more love and compassion for our fellow human beings. And, with more love and compassion will come more peace. More peace for each of us, and more peace on this planet.
Avoid much? We all do. However, some of us avoid more than others. Might that be you? It was me for a long time. Why do you imagine avoidance is an ineffective strategy? Not sure. Let’s take a look at three reasons why.
3 reasons why avoidance is an ineffective strategy
1. It is not healthy
When we avoid things, we are, in effect, continuing to hold those things within us. Continue to do that, and you will be carrying around a lot of unnecessary baggage. Tiring.
You would think that by avoiding things we are uncomfortable with, do not want to do, or face, that we are creating more space within us. However, that is not the way it works. It’s the idea of the situation we are faced with that will continue to haunt us. Especially, if we believe deep down that we should be doing that thing, or facing that situation.
Let me give you an example
For a long time, I did not pay attention to my calendar. Now, in the position I am currently in, that ineffective strategy will not work for long. At that time, I knew that I should be paying more attention to my calendar, working to schedule myself more effectively, however, I ignored it. Why?
I simply didn’t want to take the time needed to work through it. Simple. Instead, I avoided it at all costs. What happened? People began to ask why my calendar was such a mess. Nice. I love when those we trust inquire, and make us think. Helpful. As was digging into my calendar and making the necessary adjustments.
Before doing the work in my calendar, it bothered me every time I looked at it. However, by organizing and prioritizing my calendar, I traded a fixed amount of time to do the work, with a continuous mental distraction. More effective.
2. It keeps you stuck
When we spend our mental energy on avoiding things, we have less mental capacity to try and do new things. Essentially, we sacrifice some of our creative potential. How much is sacrificed? Depends on how much you avoid things. If you avoid often, then your creative potential will be severely impacted.
And, being stuck is no fun. Often, people are not even aware that they are stuck; nor do they recognize that they are avoiding things. The years I spent avoiding, I was aware of some of my avoidance, most I was not.
Here is another example
As I’ve written about in other posts, there was a time when I drank a lot. Too much. I knew that there was an issue, however, I made justifications and excuses for my behavior. Sort of a double burden. As my avoidance of the real issue, which at the time I was unaware of, was compounded by creating excuses and justifications. Exhausting. Really.
And, ultimately not helpful. Not physically, mentally, or spiritually. When living this way, you end up on the proverbial hamster wheel. Doing the same thing every day, knowing you are doing it, making excuses and justifications for doing so, all the while staying in place. No movement.
3. You cannot grow
When we are avoiding, we are not moving; and, if we are not moving, we are not growing. Simple.
Growth is such an important part of the human experience. Some growth just comes our way. We didn’t invite it, yet it shows up on our doorstep. Some growth we actively seek out. We look for the opportunity. Either way, having experiences that help us grow is one of the most wonderful things about being human.
Yet, when we spend large amounts of time avoiding things, we are limiting our ability to grow. Why? Because, when we spend that much time avoiding things, we have no capacity to seek out growth opportunities. We are too busy. Too busy avoiding, and making excuses and justifications for why we are avoidant.
When I was working in the private sector, I took on a new assignment with a new sales team, and within 6-months, I was exhausted, and heavily avoidant. I went from a top-performing team, to a team that was in need of development. As was I.
Instead of welcoming the growth opportunity, however, I avoided it, and actually ended up leaving the company within another 3 months. Why? I was exhausted. That is true. Yet, why I was exhausted had less to do with the work, and more to do with my mental attitude.
I was avoiding the opportunity to grow, and making excuses and justifications for why it wasn’t working. Well, the only thing that wasn’t working was my thinking. And, that is okay. It is not a judgement. It happens to people all the time.
The point is to become aware of these types of opportunities. Being aware of how we avoid things creates the opportunity to better understand ourselves, and all of those around us. It also provides us the opportunity to grow, if we choose to engage with ourselves, inquire into our avoidance, and do something about it.
What can you do?
Here are three strategies I use to get out of my avoidance, and into action.
Notice when you are avoiding something, and write it down – wiring it down creates more awareness about whatever it is that you are avoiding.
Create time to reflect and contemplate – create the time necessary to better understand why you are avoiding the task or situation. Until you really know why, you will probably not move forward in that area of your life.
Take an action – once you are clear on why you are avoiding something, take an action. Create a context to make some progress on the task or situation. It doesn’t mean that it will be complete, or solved, however, you will have moved forward.
When we are less avoidant, we have more time, more creative capacity, and more energy to do more things. Essentially, we can hold more. And, when we can hold more, and do more, we can be more.
Remember, we are all at times avoidant. Yet, if you find yourself more avoidant than you’d like to be, try some of the strategies outlined above, and get yourself moving again.
I love the ocean. Love. Growing up in Southern California meant that the ocean was never far away, and was, in some way, part of your life. I have tons of memories of going to the beach with my parents as a kid, as a teenager with friends, and less so as an adult, though I have many memories of the time I worked at the beach.
The smell of the salted sea is one of the most profound of those memories. I also always had an inner knowing that it would be there. Just to drive by and take it in, and in those moments, to live in awe and wonder.
As a kid, we took family trips to the beach often. We lived about 30 miles from the beach, which, at that time, was about a 45-minute drive. My sisters, parents, and I would set up in the sand, towels demarcating your space for the day. Then we would play, in the sand and, of course, in the water.
On the way home from the beach, we would always stop for “big sticks.” if you’ve not had a big stick, you are missing out. Well, at least the 7 year-old within me thinks so. These ice cream treats are made out of pineapple and orange, and are delicious on a hot sunny day. Just make sure to not forget them in the car when you get home. They are not so good once they’ve melted, though I’ve eaten many that way.
As I grew older my longing to be at the beach grew. I would often go with friends in the morning, afternoon, or early evening. The time of day mattered less than being there, though you get a different experience dependent on the time you go.
There is something so calming about looking out over the open sea. The vastness of the ocean, it’s size and depth, is hard to comprehend. However, just looking out over it, you, or at least I do, get a sense of the scope of your own self in relation to something that size. Humbling.
When I was a young adult, I used to drive to the beach just to take in the majesty of the open water. On days that were particularly difficult, seeing the ocean created a renewed perspective for me, reminding me that my immediate woes were temporary.
As I’ve mentioned, I also worked at the beach for a time, only blocks from the open water. Drives home during that time were particularly beautiful, taking in the ocean as the sun was beginning to dip behind the horizon. Beautiful, and breathtaking.
When our first child born was little we used to take him to the beach often. He would play in the sand, run around, make sand castles, and splash in the water and waves, just as I did when I was his age.
When our youngest was born, we decided to move from Southern California to Arizona, so our youngest son did not get to know the ocean as his brother, mother, and myself did. Though, he has since, and loves it as we all do.
I remember being in Arizona those first couple of months, being away from the ocean, with no real possibility of seeing or experiencing it. I have to say that that first year, I did have some increased anxiety about being away from the ocean. I felt as if I was boxed in, or in some way limited, without access to the ocean, which I had so come to cherish.
When we decided to move to Oregon, and I was looking into the local culture, I remember finding that the ocean was only 50 miles from where we were moving. Oh Joy! I was so excited. Going to the coast, which is what they call the beach in Oregon, was one of the first things we did, once we were settled.
We’ve take many trips to the Oregon Coast since then, and I do now know that I will, at some point, live, or have a place, at the beach or coast. This I know, like I know that I breathe.
On one of the last trips we made to the coast, sometime at the beginning of last year, I recognized something that I had not thought about, nor really heard in a long time. The sound of the ocean.
Do you remember being little, and picking up a cool seashell, and having someone say, “put it to your ear, and you can hear the ocean.” I remember the first time someone said that to me. I was perplexed, and very little. I did as they instructed, and sure enough, I could hear the ocean. Wow! How cool that was, and how could that be?
Knowing that the shell was capturing ambient noise, was not so important then, nor is it much important now, for it is the memory of the sound, which focused and drew my attention in. As I’ve written here, I’ve always been drawn to the ocean, and part of that draw is the majesty, the beauty, and the vastness. And, it is also the sound.
I love the sound of the ocean, the waves coming in, and going back out. Crashing on the beach head, and against other surf, splashing against the reef, and breakwater. Lovely.
On that trip last year, I also realized something else. The sound of those waves coming in and going back out, I realized were a mirror for our own breath. It sounds exactly like our breathing. Just like it. When I recognized this on that last trip, it was one of the most beautiful realizations I’ve ever had.
Maybe that is part of why I am drawn to the ocean. Because it lives and breathes just like we do. The waves come in and they go back out, in, and out. Just like our breath. It just happens.
I believe we are connected to everything around us. A tree, the sun and moon, the ocean, all of these things live outside of us, and they also live inside of us. All made of the same elements.
I’m so glad that I had that realization last year. It has taken my lifelong love of the ocean and amplified it. Though I don’t get to the coast or beach as often as I like, they are always with me, and within me. I know this to be true. And to be close to the ocean, all I have to do is pay attention to my breathing, and the ocean comes alive. Breathing in and out, just like the waves coming in and out. Again, and again.
What is it you want out of life? Most of us would answer something like: money, health, and happiness. The usual suspects. Funnily enough, many of the things we want are those things that are best attained outside of our comfort zones. We believe, however, that comfort is relative to having the aforementioned, yet that is a simple thinking error. Let’s take a look.
Regardless of how much money you make, to have money on hand takes a serious commitment to creating and sustaining a budget that is reasonable, which is uncomfortable. Yet budgeting your money in a reasonable way, even aggressive way, though uncomfortable, will give you that which you desire, more money on hand.
Taking on a promotion, or starting a new job, creates an unknown context, which can be very uncomfortable. However, that unknown context, if approached from an open mind, will create new growth opportunities, such as learning and developing new skill sets. And, having new skill sets will make you more adept in every context you work in.
Attaining a level of health you desire takes a commitment to developing healthy habits in relation to your physical, mental, and spiritual self. Regular exercise, healthy eating habits, and time to focus on your inner self take time, and allocating that time every day can feel uncomfortable. Yet, doing these things regularly will create the context for your health to improve, and sustaining these activities over time will create more future health.
In my estimation, the concept of happiness being attached to comfort is one of the largest thinking errors. Achieving happiness begins with a commitment to do those things in life that we often avoid, put off, deny, and disregard. Why?
Because taking the time to do those things is scary. What if I fail? Or what if it doesn’t work? Feelings of being uncomfortable in not knowing how our time investment will go is scary. Both of the aforementioned questions are common mantras for putting off those things that will stretch us most, which when committed to on a regular basis will increase our overall level of happiness.
The thinking error I’ve referred to in this post is that by not doing the things in life that will make us most uncomfortable we will find those attributes we want most, like money, health, and happiness.
Yet here is the reality. The exact opposite is true. Doing those things in life that make us the most unformattable are the exact actions that will create the attributes, like money, health, and happiness, we want most. An apparent paradox.
Yet not really. It actually makes total sense. Do things that stretch you, which include doing things that scare you, make you nervous, and for surely make you uncomfortable, and you will achieve those things you most desire.
Being comfortable never produced anything. Being uncomfortable, however, has produced many, many things. Think about any historical figure, pick any one you like, and I guarantee you their life was full of uncomfortable situations. Situations they actively created, and welcomed with open arms.
Now it’s your turn. The next time someone asks you to do something you’ve always wanted to do, yet were too scared or uncomfortable to do, do it. Give it a try, and see what you get back. You may be quite surprised.