Wednesday, March 17, 2010


Why is it that when we feel a state of boredom, anger, frustration, sadness we turn to the biscuit jar, the television, internet, in some cases alcohol, sex or a cigarette? The obvious answer seems to be that these things are fun. Well, some of them are. But if we delve beneath the surface there seems to be a different darker reason. It's avoidance. In order not to feel anything vaguely negative we cover up that emotion or sensation by replacing it with another more pleasurable as quickly as feasibly possible. God forbid that I should feel sad! Why is this?

I noticed recently with my small daughter Nina that when she cries my immediate reaction to this is to distract her. I point something out to her, I show her a book, I offer her a toy and in extreme cases or when I'm depleted of energy or creativity I offer her a biscuit or a sweet or a dreaded cartoon. What message is my behavior giving her? That pain or discomfort is to be avoided. That pain and discomfort is something bad. WHich is a shame as I don't think it is intrinsically "bad" and definitely not to be avoided. Feeling anger or frustration or sadness is a normal part of ones daily mental make-up. And it's actually ok. The problem is not to avoid these sensations or try to suppress them (a recipe for disaster) but to deal with them.

My homework for you this week is when you feel mental anguish or discomfort to ride the wave. Stay with it without distracting yourself with another cigarette. Pay attention to how you feel and let that sensation wash over you. Like a wave it may hit hard and then will dissipate and disappear. As one of my students said "invite it in for a cup of tea". Be hospitable. Thereby accelerating acceptance of oneself with all your sharp edges because they too are (sometimes) part of who you are.

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