Remember that scene in The Fugitive when Harrison Ford’s character, Dr. Richard Kimble, leaps into the fuming, foaming, rushing water of the dam rather than be taken alive?
Well, I’m not comparing myself to Harrison Ford here, if that’s where you thought I was going with this.
Nope, I’m comparing myself to the dude who had the tremendous power to stop the raging torrent of water over the dam so they could search for the body.
The turn of a key, the push of a button, and all goes from deluge to drip, drip.
That’s my superpower, too. Only it’s not with water.
I’m so very good at shutting feelings down.
If I had a dollar for every time a therapist promised I’d cleanse myself of some of my pain by allowing myself to actually FEEL IT, well…I’d be able to afford more therapy.
One strategy I employ is to intellectualize what I’m feeling. I jump out of my heart and go straight to my head, pseudo-psychologically analyzing every drop of blood out of my feelings until they’re a weak tea I can finally swallow.
Though my most common method for disabling the pain lever is: I use.
I use food, shopping, social media, sex, alcohol, and busyness.
There are costs to my pain-avoidance vices but they’ve been costs I was always willing to bear so as not to bear the discomfort of BIG SCARY FEELINGS.
When you’re younger, there’s more padding in your metaphorical “account” to get away with using those tactics to skirt the pain-debt-collector.
But what you don’t know or want to believe as a whippersnapper is that the bill always comes due. The pain will come to collect. It will find you. And what you got away with before suddenly tips the scales in midlife in such a way that causes you more pain.
At the outset, this sounds bad but it’s not. It’s the recognition that in order to be truly happy, I have to quit sweeping my feelings under the rug. People are starting to wonder what that big mound is anyway. What am I hiding? Do I have dead bodies under there? It’s getting weird.
We’re gonna need a bigger rug.
Or I could stop chickening out and honor that I’m just a human with my own unique tapestry of hurts and history and own all of it. I could appreciate the story of me, FEEL every drop, (because despite my long-standing belief: my feelings won’t actually kill me) and finally move past my past both wiser and freer.
I won’t always do this right. I’ll scurry to patch holes in the dam sometimes. But from now on, I’ll do my best to let the water flow.