“Emotional upheavals touch every part of our lives. You don’t just lose a job, you don’t just get divorced. These things affect all aspects of who we are – our financial situation, our relationships with others, our views of ourselves, our issues of life and death. Writing helps us focus and organize the experience.” — James Pennebaker researcher at the University of Texas at Austin and author of Writing to Heal
This quote from Pennebaker has come at a very appropriate time for me as I commit to writing at least 3x’s per week during Lent. Some of this writing is posted and some is still in the “shitty first draft” (SFD) and may or may not make it to the blog. Regardless the writing process is definitely proving to be healing in many ways. I think the main is doing what Pennebaker calls making difficult moments in our lives more “graspable.”
It’s crazy how true that first sentence is by Pennebaker, “Emotional upheavals touch every part of our lives.” I’m just now seeing all the dots connected through the divorce. Healing has certainly occurred, but what I’m noticing now is the after shock and it’s connection to other parts of my life…mainly trust, not feeling good enough, and put very directly…feeling worthy of love. All of this I’m realizing is connected to other key moments in my story from the origins of my parents divorce, “What can I trust? Who can I trust? Does anything truly stand the test of time?”
The many voices fly chaotically through my mind often making me feel lost, insanely discouraged, and hopeless. Like a runaway train these stories gathered from the false self do a mind takeover and I’m lost in the despair of those difficult shadows that float about in my story.
My older brother Rance said it well over the holidays this past year, “Man you just have to be fiercely positive and hold those negative thoughts at bay.” I completely agree. The discipline to feed the positive and dispel the negative. I also believe strongly in the thriving of the true self and the eventual death of the false self. I’ve read much of Thomas Merton and Father Thomas Keating who reiterate these truths time and time again how we have these two selves wrestling within us, the self and stories we inherit from our families of origin, from the societies and social circles we grow up is our false self. It’s the default self. This self will almost automatically live rampantly through our days if not held in contrast to something even deeper…a greater self. This greater self is the true self or unadulterated self at our birth…the self God desires us to be. It is only through practices such as meditation, service, loving practices of self and others, surrounding yourself with a loving community that feeds this true self narrative that allows the true self to breathe, exercise itself and eventually thrive.
It’s crazy how difficult this practice is. There really is no easy way around it. I’ve been aware of the false self vs true self story for many years now, almost a decade, and damn if it isn’t just as difficult now as it was years ago! The good news is that you eventually gain momentum on your side. For example if I had not been in a trajectory towards the true self before the divorce I don’t know if I would be in the recovery process. I think I’d probably be totally spun out with debilitating thoughts of failure, loss and abandonment. However, due to the implementation of nurturing God’s presence within me and cultivating the higher self, the true self and living into that greater love empowers me beyond the painful reality and into the vision of life on the other side of the temporary pain. Don’t get me wrong there are days and weeks when I’m completely spun out into negative shit filled thoughts leaving me broken and lost. The good news is that these moments are not my consistent way of being.
We are all creatures of habit and most of our habits are formed by the stories we tell ourselves. When this divorce hit my life it connected to other stories of brokenness and failure that opened the flood gates of hopelessness. It was only through integrating the “other story” the “true story” into the pain that I’m slowly crawling, walking, running and eventually I believe soaring out of the despair and into something greater…and ultimately more true.