A constant companion in my life has been a dark hole of despair.
This feeling is not unusual for people who have suffered the types of neglect, abuse or abandonment that I did as a child. In my case (and many others) it gave rise to compulsive avoidance behaviour with drugs (I include alcohol), sex, falling in love, work – in fact anything that would help me “escape” that empty sense of despair. The strangest aspect of all this was that I was not aware that I was trying to escape anything; I just felt a compulsive need to always be “doing something”. There were many days, during many years when I had to find a reason to simply go on living in the face overwhelming despair. This was private suffering as I was an expert in disguising this with a bright smile and a positve façade. They were dark days indeed. Looking back, I feel great compassion for the suffering of that young troubled man.
This started to change when, instead of running away from this awful feeling, I turned to face it. My mission became to know and integrate this feeling. It was not at all pleasant. At first, I wondered if I might lose my mind. As I began my exploration my heart would pound with fear; I would tremble and sometimes weep. I learnt to recognise and accept the urge to run away, without reacting. Instead, I would respond by observing, watching with open curiosity and a sense of kindness to myself. I learnt something very important: the fear of that feeling was in many ways worse than the feeling itself.
Years later the feeling is still with me. However, its intensity and power in my life is greatly reduced. Most of the time it feels quite distant, rather like a dog barking far away in the night. I recognise it for what it is. I acknowledge its presence without any need to change anything; it is simply there. However, when I need or want to experience it I can do that quite easily; I can bring it to the forefront of my attention. It has become a jewel of experience and wisdom. Interestingly, when I am talking to someone with similar experience I notice how this feeling resonates with the feeling in that person. It has become a source of empathy and compassion.
In each and every aspect of life, the chance to find the jewel of growth in what first seems a dung pile of experience is always there. All we need to do is notice without rushing to judgement, we do this with an attitude of willingness to learn from difficulty. When, instead of reacting by fighting or distracting ourselves, we see with eyes of wisdom, difficulties can become our good fortune.
We cannot reject that which is a part of us. I discovered that…
you do not fearthat which you understand.