Monday, January 31, 2011

        I love that I can claim as part of my job description: Helping to Reveal Joy.  Unfortunately, the journey to joy is imperfect and often involves pain.  Much like the bright blue 'Joy" emblem at the top of this article, life can be tainted around the edges with the red, hot searing force of emotional pain.  We see it every day!

        The concept of clean pain and dirty pain comes up a lot when we work with clients at The Coleman Institute.  Since life involves inevitable suffering, it is appropriate to grieve and feel pain.  But, as Dr. Steven Hayes says, “Simple pain can become traumatic pain. And that is much harder to deal with.  Being willing to experience thoughts and emotions as they are (not as what they say they are) is what makes the difference between an experience that is painful and one that is traumatic,” says Hayes.  When we are willing to experience pure psychological pain without resistance, we learn that although it hurts, it won’t, in and of itself, do damage.  When we are unwilling to experience the pain, our unwillingness compounds it and creates traumatic pain.

        When people decide not to deal with the pain, patterns of avoidance emerge.  People choose to live in such a way as to avoid anything that might give any association with pain and consequently their world shrinks.  To make matters worse, their choices diminish to change their lives because of their adherence to the avoidance pattern.

        We recently completed an Accelerated Opiate Detox with a patient whose father had left the family after being married to his mom for 32 years.  Dad didn’t come to either of his sons’ weddings because he had ‘started a new life’.  He just left everyone and everything behind. 

        Our client is a delightful, smart, fun-loving guy.  Rather than process the anguish he felt at his father’s rejection he began to create avoidance systems.  He wasn’t conscious that he was doing this and, in fact, these actions protected him from feeling pain for a while.

        His strategies were rather simple, at first….dissing his dad, drinking beer, and losing himself in his work and play. Eventually, he had to have surgery and when he was prescribed opiate medications, he discovered how perfectly they fit in with the “Avoidance Plan”.  Opiates are great for numbing our most exquisite navigational tools: our emotions.
        I love what Dr. Martha Beck says about gratifying a false want, in this case, opiates. “If you gratify a false want over and over, ignoring the terrible feelings that accompany it, you’ll move far away from your destiny and into the worst kind of despair. But the false desire itself is not evil; it is simply the lost and wandering child of some true desire.”

        We are having lots of fun walking with and working with this guy as he taps back into his truth and reclaims his peace.  Learning to honor our true yearnings is an exciting process, albeit a little scary when one first begins to practice.

 Joan R. Shepherd, FNP

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