A short while ago I wrote about my remarkable ability to cause myself needless suffering. It’s quite a talent I have and I’m not afraid to brag about it. Fortunately there are people who actually read what I write and they swooped in and rescued me with their kind words and advice. I’ve been meaning to compile some of the key insights into one post for not only my own benefit but for yours as well.
My habit of taking on other people’s pain and problems can cause me quite a bit of grief and I wanted to work on building up my armour without loosing my ability to empathize which, I think, is an important part of who I am. I also wanted to offer up this collection of wisdom as a thank you to all the people who contributed to my healing process. This way of being is far from over but at least now I have some more tools in my trusty, red tool box. (I actually do have a red, metal tool box and I love it).
First of all, I discovered there is a name for people like me – an Empath.
“…being an empath is a great thing to be – celebrate it, but put your own oxygen mask on first.” – Rob
Being able to name something has great power in it and that alone was a helpful discovery. Rob also nicely summed up an insight a number of other people shared, the importance of placing a high priority on our own emotional survival.
Coconutfarmer, currently living and working Cambodia, a place ripe with every kind of suffering, offered up his poetic philosophy on protecting one’s self:
“Be as soft as the world allows you to be and as hard as the world forces you to be.”
With self-care in mind I was able to shake the off the dew of suffering that had settled on my skin. Quite literally. I’ve noticed massage therapists shake their hands out after working on a tough spot, and it’s not just to relax their hands before digging into my stiff muscles. Shaking things off is the way many animals reset their systems after a moment of tension. I only wish I were as cute as a puppy shaking the lake water off my soft, damp coat but without the wet-dog smell.
There were a number of other tangible techniques I was offered in addition to shaking it off:
“One of the most accessible, natural ways to inject your own spirit with the energy and the kind of life you wish to live is through your breath.
Use intentional breath when you feel yourself beginning to take in something you don’t wish to own. You can still be there for someone, touching or listening, but breathing your own life into your body simultaneously. Deep, full, SLOW breaths that you can feel moving into your nose or mouth, down into your chest and your gut. And when you exhale, focus on breathing out the unwanted material.” or “…imagine wrapping your body or your heart in reflective, shiny material (like tin foil) to reflect off the energy you don’t want to absorb.” – Gina
Imagining things is a specialty of mine, sometimes to my detriment, but I think I could use this force for good as well. Tinfoil seems a little light-weight to me so I’m going to make my shield out of chain-mail to keep those painful arrows at bay. Maybe I’ve spent too much time watching Game of Thrones as of late?
Peter was also good enough to remind me that pain and suffering are not the same thing. He eloquently states:
“While we all experience pain from time to time, the amount of suffering we experience depends, I believe, on how much attention we’re willing to give the pain, and on our ability to relate to the pain with appropriate perspective.” – Peter
You’ve totally called me out on my crap, Peter. As a writer I was using the two interchangeably in order to liven up my post but there is a danger in mixing meanings when they are written down in a permanent way.
The next time I elevate pain to the realm of suffering I will remember some of the praise I received and read with a blush. Taking compliments does not come naturally to me but I will take them anyway, so thank you (and keep them coming).
“I am inspired by you as a person, by your courage to write what is true for you.” – Alicia
“I really appreciate your playful, super-honest, authentic, not-taking-myself-too-seriously style. I hope you never lose it.” – Peter
When all else fails there’s always plant-based therapy:
“When you’re feeling crushed go somewhere quiet and beautiful and open yourself to your surroundings…” and …”smoke a joint if you have to.” – Coconutfarmer
Good day and best wishes.
“You always have friends (realized and unrealized) to lean on so don’t hesitate to do so when you need to.”