Something strange is happening in Seattle. Mother nature appears to have gotten the memo, albeit a month later than the rest of the country, that Spring has arrived.
As I’m writing this, it’s a balmy 74 degrees outside, the gardens are in full bloom. Like earthworms after a good soaking, Seattleites are creeping out in droves from their bookstores and coffee shops to pay tribute to the one thing we all yearn for but cannot control: the sun.
Closet mainstays of Gortex and fleece have been temporarily exchanged for tank tops and shorts. The Greenlake lawn is smattered with blankets and picnic baskets. Translucent limbs gently tip toward the golden orb that forsakes them for two-thirds of the year.
Fellow park goers pass one another with chins held a little higher, smiles a little wider, freely spouting weather-related pleasantries, exchanging gleeful, knowing glances. It is as if everyone in the city is holding the same winning lottery ticket.
While out walking today, I started thinking about why Seattleites go nuts when the weather is nice. A story came to mind about a man who immigrated to the United States from a poor, rural part of India. Upon his first trip to an American grocery store, the man fell to his knees and wept. When his companion asked why the man was crying, he replied, “Such abundance! How is one to appreciate anything?”
Indeed, the first sunny day in Seattle nicely exemplifies how scarcity can beget tremendous gratitude. The city's residents savor every moment of sunshine because we know it won’t be long before it disappears. We resent the rain, yet we also know it is the prerequisite for the flowers and fruit trees that dazzle us come springtime.
Life is the same way. When we are experiencing a long stretch of suffering or scarcity for which there is no scheduled ending, it is easy to get mired in dark emotions. Every human emotion comes with its own, unique script. Most commonly, when we are suffering, we feel hopeless which, for most of us, sounds like “I am trapped in a hole that is too steep to climb. I will be here forever.” These thoughts are pretty convincing. They seem real, but they are not true. Hopelessness is just like any other emotion, free to come and go, once fully permitted to exist.
It is normal to resist suffering out of fear of being carried away by its undertow. In lieu of curious examination of our feelings, we often shame or judge ourselves for having them.
Allowing space for dark emotions is not synonymous with succumbing to them. The opposite is true. The more we resist what we are feeling, the more likely our feelings will manifest in ways that don’t serve us (e.g., explosive rage, drinking or drug use, shopping, gambling, etc). In other words, we are fated to act out our feelings until we are ready to learn from them.
Life is fraught with suffering. We cannot sidestep it altogether; we must go through it. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you inch your way forward:
Sometimes the lessons we are meant to learn from suffering require additional resources, such as a licensed psychologist, therapist, or counselor. If everything you’ve tried on your own doesn’t seem to be working for you, widen your circle to include a trusted professional. Your mental health is worth the investment!
Have you found an effective way out of suffering? Tell us all about it in the comments section below!
Dr. Jill Gross is a licensed psychologist, therapist, and counselor. She offers grief therapy, divorce support, and other counseling services in the Phinney Greenwood area of Seattle, WA. Scarcity got you down? Schedule a free consultation to find out how therapy or counseling can help you lead the life of abundance you deserve!
A friend and I were chatting the other day about relationships. After a season of self-prescribed abstinence from the online dating community, this friend (a bright, vibrant forty-something) decided to jump back in the game.
My comrade had recently met an attractive individual with similar interests, goals, and values. She had assumed, were this to happen, that she would be awash with positive emotion. She assumed incorrectly.
Instead of bunnies, rainbows, and Oprah moments, my dear friend was wracking her brain for the myriad of ways something could go wrong in the relationship. Perhaps her date would see aspects of her life that are still under construction. Perhaps her affection for this prospective partner would be unreciprocated. Perhaps the whole thing would crash to the earth in a magnificent fireball. In other words, the very thing my friend thought would fulfill her was now the source of considerable discomfort.
My friend’s experience is actually quite common. On the verge of accomplishing our goals, it is common for many of us to feel restless or agitated. Why does this happen? The answer is somewhat complex.
Longing is an unconscious manifestation of scarcity, the pervasive belief that we are not enough and/or that we do not have enough. Scarcity is fueled by fear and self-doubt. These feelings come with a dialogue that usually begins with “what if” and ends in loss or catastrophe. These stories can feel so real sometimes, we start responding to them as if they are true.
They are not. They are merely representations of emotions that are meant to come and go.
When we are anxious or fearful, our bodies and brains are compelled to seek—sometimes obsessively—for the people, places, or things we think will deliver us from scarcity. We are seduced by the notion that the perfect partner, job, house, will be our one-way ticket out of painful feelings.
The greater our fear, the more urgently we seek to quell it. The wiser mind knows this is a fool’s errand, but fear is an irresistible salesman.
Seduced by the idea that deliverance is just one person, place, or thing away, we become consumed by thoughts of the future. In so doing, lose touch with what we are feeling in the present moment. I like to call this “the seeking trance.” When we find what we are looking for, the trance is broken, our love affair with “someday” abruptly ends, we are catapulted into the present moment, and the feelings we were attempting to avoid come rushing into consciousness. Suddenly, the object of our craving becomes someone or something we don’t trust.
Online dating can be a sticky wicket for precisely this reason. Each profile is carefully crafted by an individual who has his or her own unique relationship with fear and scarcity. The result is a collective mass of fear-based energy that manifests in unanswered messages by individuals who proclaimed interest, promising first dates who mysteriously disappear, salacious electronic threads that never yield an in-person meeting.
(Sidebar: no wonder my friend was feeling overwhelmed by fear—online dating is a veritable roller coaster of hope and disappointment!)
The next time you sense urgency in the absence emergency, this is a cue to pause and inquire. Ask yourself what you are afraid of. When we give a voice to fear, we deflate its power. Name your fear(s) out loud. If a child experiencing the same fear approached you for reassurance, how would you respond? Would you judge or criticize this child or would you surround him or her with loving grace? I suspect you would do the latter, so offer this gift to yourself. Repeat this process as often as needed.
Remember that fear and desire are opposite sides of the same continuum. To move from one end, we must lovingly attend to the other. When we really listen to our fear, when we respond to self-doubt with loving kindness, we inch closer to desire.
Just as fear begets scarcity, desire beget abundance. When we act from a fearful place, our energetic field constricts, practically guaranteeing we will not find what we are seeking. When we act from a place of authentic desire, we make room for the things want to find us and, when they do, we are more likely to value them.
Dr. Jill Gross is a licensed psychologist, therapist, and counselor. She offers grief therapy, divorce support, dating consultation and other counseling services in the Phinney Greenwood area of Seattle, WA. Want to have a richer, more satisfying online dating experience? Schedule a free consultation now!
In the checkout line at the grocery store a woman was speaking loudly into her cell phone. "Wish me luck," she bellowed, "Lord knows I need it. I'm broke. And I don't mean financially. I mean emotionally, spiritually broken!"
Instantly, my mind traveled to the slips of paper in the front pocket of my purse.
Earlier this year, I attended a party, the purpose of which was to manufacture and spread positivity into world. Each guest was asked to craft personalized poems, memes, and messages of hope, kindness, and encouragement. Our missives were to be distributed throughout the community at random. Unexpected pockets of pleasantry for those who could use it. Upon hearing the shopper's plight, I planned to stealthily slip one of the handmade notes into her grocery bag.
Ah...the best laid plans.
Either I moved too slowly or she moved too quickly because, when I looked up from the check stand, the stranger was headed for the cart corral. I followed her and tried to put the note in her bag before she could see me. But she busted me--red-handed! Tongue-tied and sweaty-palmed I extended the note in her direction. "Here...I've got something for you."
I was shocked by what happened next.
The woman who, just moments earlier declared her brokenness to the world (okay, not the world, but at least a dozen other shoppers in the checkout line) recoiled in disgust. It was as if I was handing her a soiled diaper. Or an envelope filled with anthrax. Clearly, the stranger wanted nothing to do the note or its messenger.
"Nope. No. NO!" she shouted, with a sweeping motion of her hands, shooing me away like flies off potato salad. "What IS THIS?!" she demanded to know, eyes suspiciously fixed on the anthrax diaper.
I told the woman the envelope contained words of encouragement that were written with just this kind of occasion in mind. "Well I don't need it," she protested, "my life is just FINE!" With that, she placed the note on the window ledge of the cart corral and gingerly backed away, lest it spontaneously combust into a toxic cloud of bio-hazardous dust.
She must have had a an instant change of heart because she pivoted back and asked, with a heavy dose of side-eye, "Is this some kind of religious thing? Because I am NOT interested in THAT!"
"No," I replied, "it's just a little poem I wrote. I thought it might brighten your day. But there is no obligation to accept it."
With an air of annoyance, she snatched the note off the sill and escorted her groceries to the car. I"m quite certain the unopened envelope immediately took up residence next to the empty latte cups and wadded grocery lists in the parking lot rubbish bin.
I walked away flummoxed.
Despite numerous attempts to forget about the incident, I kept ruminating about it. Despite its spectacular awkwardness, the exchange felt oddly meaningful. Perhaps there was something to learn here.
After giving it some thought, I realized what I heard in that woman's voice was desperation.
Desperation is fear that joins forces with hopelessness, self-doubt, and loneliness. It is an occasional part of any well-lived life.
Most of us long to be noticed. To be loved. To be accepted. These longings are most pronounced when we are desperate, yet we are often so ashamed of our vulnerability, we come undone when it is acknowledged by another. We push love away, either by gripping it too tightly (lest it disappear) or by lashing out to throw others off its scent.
We cannot be any kinder to anyone than we are to ourselves when we are desperate.
The stranger in the grocery store likely responded to me the same way she responds to herself when she is vulnerable--the same way any one of us under the same circumstances might have responded.
Desperation can make a powerful argument for urgency: we must make that phone call, take that drink, offer ourselves to that unworthy recipient, or tell that strange lady in the grocery store to bugger off now! Alas, when we are desperate, the best option is to stay put, do nothing, breathe, and let the feeling run its course. Like all moments, desperate moments are designed to pass. It's just hard to remember this when desperate fear wants to take the wheel.
When desperation arrives on the scene, shame soon follows. The voice of shame tries to convince us we are weak, pathetic, or unlovable. Shame tells lies; don't believe them.
Desperation is not pathetic. It is the cosmic backhoe that exposes us to the rawest, most honest parts of ourselves. There is beauty in this honesty.
Even though we may believe we are undeserving of love when we are desperate, this is the time we most need it. Sometimes the love we crave can come from someone else. More often, however, we must reach inward to find it.
Your house is one with many rooms. Even when it is barricaded by desperation, the room of self-love still exists somewhere deep inside of you. Trust that it is there. Take a blind leap of faith that you will find. You will!
Dr. Jill Gross is a licensed psychologist, therapist, and counselor. She offers grief therapy, divorce support, and other counseling services in the Phinney Greenwood area of Seattle, WA. Feeling desperate? Schedule a free consultation to find out how therapy or counseling can help you!
Dr. Jill Gross is a licensed psychologist, grief counselor, and dating coach. Her coaching and therapy practice is located in the Phinney - Greenwood area of North Seattle in Washington.