It’s been said that what you resist, persists. Unfortunately, one of the things we as humans tend to resist is pain, whether it be physical or emotional. Little do we know that by doing so, we’re actually making the pain worse!
I was sick most of March with a flare-up of what the gastroenterologist thinks is functional dyspepsia, though it could also be irritable bowel syndrome, or something else. We just don’t know. The worst part was the nausea. Actually, the worst part was having no control: the nausea just came and went at random. I tried to figure out why. I kept a food diary. I analyzed. I went to the doctor. I had blood tests done. I got mad. Doesn’t my stomach know I have work to do?! It’s not fair! Go away!
I ranted and raved, sometimes in my journal, sometimes to my husband, which is all fine and has its time and place. It’s great to get those feelings out and on paper. But here’s the thing about ranting: when we rant we are often stuck in self-pity and resisting. In other words, we are making things worse.
We can get so wrapped up in our pain that we lose ourselves; we become identified with the pain. We say, “I am sad”, as if sadness were our identity. What if we could say, “I am with sadness”? What if we could be a witness to our pain, rather than being identified with it? Would we feel better? I think so. At least, I did.
One night I’d had enough of ranting, resisting, and feeling sorry for myself. I finally let go of trying to figure out why and simply accepted that this was reality for the time being. I became a witness to the nausea. “Hello, stomach,” I said. “I see you. I’m sorry you’re not feeling well.” And would you believe it that as soon as I stopped resisting and just observed with compassion, the nausea decreased!
Writing can be a great way for witnessing our pain. Whether it’s memoir writing or journaling, we can take a step back and be the compassionate witness to our life. If we feel mired in emotions, we can write them down, thus witnessing them without resisting or identifying with them.
We are not our feelings! We are not our pain. I was not my nausea. When we witness our pain, we observe without judging or analyzing or trying to figure out why or how to make it go away. And as we notice our pain, we are filled with self-compassion. This is quite different from self-pity.
While ranting, analyzing, and taking action have their purpose, at some point its beneficial to come to a place of acceptance, a place of compassionate witnessing rather than resistance.