I heard another song on the radio today about a break-up. It was also about alcohol. It focused on alcohol being the only hope for coping with the break-up. I can’t count the number of songs about alcohol fixing the broken heart. It is everywhere. Alcohol is glorified as the proper numbing solution for those pesky emotions. It is normalized as a way to get through almost anything: a break-up, a bad day at work, motherhood. We only talk negatively about alcohol when it gets in the way of our manic functioning, our other major numbing tool. Only then is it a problem. Only then do we judge people for their alcohol use because we consider them too weak. There are only societal rewards for those who are able to properly numb out their emotions without letting their crazy daily schedule falter. Everyone else gets the stigma.
Alcohol or no alcohol, our society considers emotional numbing to be a strength. That is the truth. The less we feel, the more normal we are. And it is a massive problem. Running from our emotions causes most of what is wrong with the world today. All addictions are caused by emotional suppression. Most physical illnesses are caused by emotional suppression. Wars, hatred and the general drive for power over others are caused by emotional suppression. The huge discrepancy in lifestyle between the rich and the poor is caused by emotional suppression. The destruction of our planet is caused by emotional suppression. You get the idea. So why can’t we see this? Why can’t we wake up to something that sounds so simple? There’s an easy answer. We are terrified.
We are terrified of the emotions we hold. We are afraid they will kill us. We are afraid we will not be able to handle them in our body. We are afraid these emotions will bring unmanageable change. We are afraid of our vulnerability and what that might make us susceptible to. We are afraid. We learned to be afraid in childhood. Our defenders took on the brainwashing held by the rest of society. What started as a tiny human who was ready to flow with their emotions and body sensations became a rigid, “zombiefied”, floating head. The idea of going back where we came from, of sorting through all that unfelt muck feels like a death sentence. In other words, our defenders have traded our fear of death for a figurative death of not living life and a literal early death from the toll this takes on our bodies.
I know I am being blunt, but I believe it is the only way to get through. Our defenses are walls. They block the messages we need to hear from our internal worlds and our external worlds. So I will get a bit loud and blunt because without emotional expression, we will not heal. We will not heal our inner worlds. And we will not heal our external worlds. It just won’t happen. We can run. We can drink all the alcohol and take all the drugs. We can rise to the top of companies and organizations. We can buy the biggest houses. We can travel the entire world. And we will not heal. Life will not get better for us. We will not find peace. And I don’t want you to go through that kind of fruitless searching. So I will be blunt.
In my experience with healing myself and working with clients, the most difficult emotion for people to reach is grief. I am not referring to crying. Some survivors may find it easy to cry. They might even cry all day. But grieving is different. It is a deep letting go of what we cannot change. It often dances with anger. The more anger we express, the more access we have to grief. And the more grief we express, the more we ground into the anger we need to change our lives. You can’t have one without the other. But it is hard to reach. Our defenses go out of their way to shut it down and numb it out. And until we build awareness of these defenses and how they work, we won’t get past them.
But in my own recovery, it is the grief that has been life changing. And contrary to the defenders’ expectations, it has all been good. We have to let go of what we are holding on to so we must grieve it. We must grieve the lack of unconditional love. We must grieve the lost time we have spent looking for another way to fix the pain. We must grieve those who have come and gone from our lives as we have tried to get our needs met. We must grieve our missing selves as they have lied dormant waiting for us to come back. We must grieve the lost opportunities we could not see because we were not awake to see them. And we must grieve the actual deaths of people and pets, the deaths we could not grieve because we believed it would have opened up a tidal wave of grief we could not handle. We have to let ourselves wail and sob and heave in pain. We must not listen to the defenders who say this lead to annihilation. We must jump into this grief. We owe it to ourselves to do this. It is the ultimate self-care. In doing this, our lives will shift and change in amazing ways. It will seem almost magical although we will know it isn’t. People will ask what changed and we can answer them with one powerful phrase.
I let go.