The other day I had two disappointments, both hurt for a while, and yet I did not drop into a funk of ‘unnecessary suffering’ after either of them like I usually do. I am in the process of learning how, and practicing, to be more emotionally resilient, to go with the flow, to not push the river. I am beginning to recognize more clearly within myself how often I shrink from experiences especially if they involve uncomfortable emotions like anger, fear, betrayal or disappointment.
I am learning to give my painful feelings names and to visualize them. This helps give me a bit of distance from them making it easier to cope with the feelings. For example, I was all set to go to my favourite Gulf Island. My best friend has a place there and we have been visiting it for about 20 years, mostly in the warmer months. I hadn’t been there since last September and I was really missing it so I was anxious to get there. We had already tried two weeks ago and when we got there, there was a power outage and there was no hot water, no phone, no internet and it was pouring rain. We returned to the city the same day leaving me very sad (I cried) and disappointed. So this week was another try. However .. the ferry broke down and sailings were cancelled for a few days. Which meant I didn’t get to go. Big disappointment again!
Okay. I was hurting a lot at this point. So I acknowledged I was in pain and I wanted to do something about it. That is what compassion is all about – acknowledging the pain and trying to alleviate any suffering. So I pictured what this pain looked like and I saw a wooden stake (don’t ask my why) piercing my solar plexus. I felt the acute pain of disappointment. I then recognized that I felt angry. At who? At the universe actually. At all the powers that be that have conspired against me to keep me from getting to the island. I shook my fist at the heavens and then laughed. I just suddenly saw myself and it was funny. That helped a lot.
Later that same day I experienced another disappointment. I won’t go into the details but I did visualize the wooden stake again, felt the acute pain of the disappointment, then just sat with it for a bit. Eventually it began to shift and I was able to think clearly about what to do next.
At the end of the day, I felt amazed and impressed with the whole process. I felt like I had been on a surfboard riding out the waves of my emotions. I hit some hard waves that day but I did not crash. I stayed ‘on board’. That is emotional resilience. When we can ‘bend’ with whatever is happening, with whatever we are feeling, and allow it to happen. Naming the pain and even visualizing it helps give some space from it.
I think that emotional resilience is the thing that can give us the most sense of control in our lives. Rather than trying to force things and ‘push the river’, we settle into acceptance and ‘going with the flow’. It’s easier in the long run and it’s powerful. It’s like mastering that surfboard and riding those huge waves of life.