emotions

Hate Management

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“There are only two ways: either we love–and love in action is service–or we put hatred into action and destroy.” —Mother Teresa

When I was a junior in high school, a classmate, Chuck Fuller, shot and killed five members of the Cox family who lived in a country house a little ways from town. All the victims were children ranging from ages 5 to 16. He had been dating Edna Cox at the time. The motive for Chuck’s tragic behavior was unknown. Some thought he was upset because Edna’s parents denied his request to marry her. Others thought it to be because Chuck believed that Edna’s parents demanded that she work too hard with domestic duties around the house. I suppose only Chuck knows for sure. A couple of summers after the tragedy I worked at a summer job with one of the surviving Cox children, Tim, who was my age. Of course, he was still reeling from the tragedy with grief, anger, and hate. 

Throughout my life, I have reflected upon the tragedies that seem to happen all around us every day. I have wondered how long a person should wallow in the extreme pain of grief and hate when faced with the sheer tragic results of loved ones killed from senseless mass murder, childhood sexual abuse, or any of a number of tragic endings of life.  I have often thought that religion and its emphasis upon a relationship with God would insure and insulate people from  extreme feelings like hate. Certainly, religious communities encourage people to avoid hate and in some cases to run from its presence. Christians admonish believers to forgive just like Jesus forgave. Yet, it doesn’t seem to work. Maybe, because you and I are not Jesus! All world religions encourage believers to quash and eradicate hate from their lives. However, who doesn’t hate? None of us would be so cruel to suggest to Tim Cox that he not hate the perpetrator of mass murder of his siblings. Be that as it may, what are you supposed to do with this bitter and biting experience of hate that at some level we all experience?

Here are a few suggestions to consider:

1. Lean into hate. I know it is counterintuitive to suggest that someone embrace hate. However, over the years I have learned better to embrace hate because for sure it will embrace you when you face senseless loss, deep disappointment, and dominating oppression. Hate is an energy that cannot be ignored or avoided when facing a serious crisis that alters your way of living. It is a powerful feeling that must be reckoned with. It is uncomfortable, even suffocating in its impact. 

I once met with a man who walked into his bedroom with his partner being sexual with two men he did not know. Everywhere he goes in his mind, the image of relational betrayal stalks him like bloodhound tracking dogs. He simply cannot get away from the vile hate he felt. I suggest that you make an about-face from running away to facing the reality that an awful experience has happened and that you need to embrace the actuality that you hate the person, the experience, and the results that exist. Don’t minimize or get lost in trying to explain away your feeling of hate.

2. Direct the hate to the person and the oppressive system that promoted the hurtful behavior. Many people are fearful and hesitant to admit what and who they hate. So they don’t. They walk through their lives with a chip on their shoulder, allowing the venom of hate to spew onto anyone and everyone they encounter. This approach to hate keeps you stuck in what hurts and leaves a venomous footprint of hate wherever you go. 

Some people live out the mantra  “don’t worry, be happy”. They live the life described by the late John Prine in his song the “The Other Side of Town” and “A clown puts his make-up on upside down—so he wears a smile even when he wears a frown”.  These people live a life of self-sabotage. No one really understands what their frown is about because they are always smiling, hiding what hurts. People and systems can be oppressive. Naming the hurtful person and the hurtful behavior is a must if hate is to be addressed. Further, you must identify and call out the oppressive system that allowed the hurtful behavior.

So, for the unfortunate client who walked in on his partner’s infidelity, he must name the infidelity and call out his partner who betrayed him. Further, he will need to draw critical attention to the dysfunctional system in the relationship that allowed for the oppressive behavior of infidelity to exist. At some point, he will need to unearth the way in which he embraced the improbable–the partner relationship is solid–and ignored the obvious–we are in deep trouble. You may need help to see where you were blind to the relational distance that was present and growing over time. Hate is an energy that enables you to address wrongful and hurtful behaviors perpetrated by others toward you.

3. Transfer the hate to what you love. There is a fine line between hate and love. You can only shift from hate to love when you become indelibly clear about what you hate. The experience of hate is an energy that requires responsible adult administration. If you become stuck with who or what you hate, bitterness and resentment will take over your existence. Martin Luther King once said that “hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”  Yet,  love is not operational by ignoring what is hate-worthy–unfair treatment, domination, and injustice. It requires an adult to transfer the energy of hate by embracing what you love.

Some people say they love others but have not addressed their own self-hate. There is an African saying, “Be careful when a naked person offers you a shirt.” Maya Angelou once said, “I do not trust people who don’t love themselves and yet tell me, ‘I love you.’ “ When you do not learn to transfer the energy of self-hate to self-love it becomes very difficult to overcome hate with loving acts. 

Why Tell the Story

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“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”— Maya Angelou

There is an interesting phenomenon when things happen that hurt. People don’t want to talk about it. When sexual abuse happens children become silent. It is common for a child to want to hide from the reality of abuse. They don’t tell anyone because they think the behavior is their fault. For many the story is not told for many years. For some, it is never told. 

When I disclosed to the church judicatory officials about the details of clergy sexual abuse perpetrated toward me and others, the church blamed my parents for being troublemakers. The judicatory official told my sister, through my dad, to keep her mouth shut after she had confronted another person, who had made inaccurate remarks about the abuse. My dad followed orders and my sister kept quiet. I learned only a few months ago about the inappropriate behavior to my sister from the church official. It has been over 50 years since the abuse took place! 

The tendency to remain silent when abuse and injustice takes place occurs at different levels of our society. For example, a recent 50-state survey of Millennials and Gen Z participants found that over 60% did not know 6 million Jews were killed. Approximately half (49%) of them have seen Holocaust denial or distortion posts on social media or elsewhere online (Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany). 

This troubling trend is assisted with a mentality of embracing the improbable and ignoring the obvious which exists in many dysfunctional families. If you don’t talk about it, somehow it doesn’t exist. It’s out of sight, out of mind. This thinking contributes to abusive behavior being passed from one generation to another. 

The reason to tell the story is to stop the abuse. Secrets carry the shame to the next generation. Shame influences the creation of abusive behavior that dominates others. Abuse hides in secrecy. 

Telling the story stops the crazy-making. When silence covers abuse, healing stops and reparations do not happen. It is imperative that the stories of abuse be told. This includes physical, sexual, religious, emotional, and intellectual abuses. To avoid the stories is to pass the mantle of shame to the next generation who will suffer the past generations’ unwillingness to speak to the issue. It likely recreates the abusive dynamics in their own day and time. It takes courage to stop an abusive and unhealthy legacy. Some day your children will thank you for doing so. 

The deepest truth is found by means of a simple story. To me, the greatest single tool for my personal healing has been my own story. Powerful stories of healing are housed in average everyday living. Contained within every life story is the truth that liberates. This is why Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) has been so powerful for so many for so long. Within the community of alcoholics, there are “shared stories.” Each unique story is tied together through shared weakness. Nothing changes until it becomes real. No one goes through childhood and avoids disappointment and other hurts. 

There are “Big T” and “Little T” traumas. All are significant. The accumulation of major/minor traumas creates a pool of pain that must be drained for personal healing to occur. That pool of pain encompasses the average everyday experiences of our childhood that were hurtful, whether major or minor. Understanding the impact of these “minor” traumas in average everyday living takes focused effort. 

Many of us sort of walk “around the dead dog” in the living room when it comes to recognizing unmet emotional needs from ordinary past experiences. It takes courage to tell our stories and deepen our awareness of what is real. We are often afraid to unravel the uneventful uncomfortable times of our past. We fear that if we do so, our notions of reality will disintegrate, and all that we have always thought to be true will crumble into nothingness. Yet, personal healing demands that we tell our story to uncover the meaningfulness that exists when we allow ourselves to lean into the pain. 

Carl Jung concluded that every person has a story. When derangement occurs, it is because the personal story has been denied or rejected. Healing and integration come when people discover or rediscover their personal stories. Voicing our story is that important! One author declared that stories are memory aids, instruction manuals, and moral compasses. Sue Monk in The Secret of Bees wrote that “stories have to be told or they die, and when they die, we can’t remember who we are or why we are here.” 

Collective and individual healing is dependent upon you and I telling our story.

Muddy Waters

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When I was in high school a group of us guys would go to a pond to swim. Many times the ponds were murky and stirred up before we arrived. We knew to wait for the pond to settle before we dove in. At one particular pond under the surface was an area of debris at the bottom. There was some concrete and re-barb that someone had dumped.  There were safe places to dive but we had to wait for the wind and the water to calm in order to see what was underneath the surface of the water. Once the water cleared and we could see, we dove in. Some of us swam to the bottom of the pond and swam between the debris once it was recognized. To just dive in without caution would have led to disaster.  

This story is an example of what many addicts do. Throwing caution to the wind, many addicts jump into the uncertain waters of relationships and experiences without waiting for the water to calm to see the hazards and difficulties present. Some falter in the high-risk situation and succumb to addiction relapse. The problem was they did not carefully survey the obstacles that were present underneath the surface before diving in. There are many examples of muddy water that should be avoided during recovery. Listed are a few that create hazards in recovery.

1. Mistaking intensity for intimacy. When your heart is broken and you feel desperately lonely in life, you are vulnerable to mistaking intensity for intimacy in relationships. Romantically, you meet someone who triggers a lot of chemistry. They are fun-loving, lighthearted, engaging. You are physically and emotionally drawn to this person. You like their personality. Your attraction magnet becomes super glued to him/her. Immediately you want to spend all your time in their presence. You begin to think about this person all the time. You can’t get them out of your mind. The intensity of the relationship becomes the muddy water that prevents you from evaluating and cultivating intimacy. All you see is attraction. No time to really sit with differences, challenges, or conflict. Regarding conflict, there is none at the intensity level. All you want to do is be consumed with the love and love-making in the relationship. When the intensity begins to wear off to a more realistic level, you are off to another relationship with more intensity that leaves behind a trail of emotional carnage. Slowing the pace of development in a relationship is an important step to staying out of the muddy waters that intensity often creates. The same can be said about the intensity of a working relationship. Before you sell your soul to the company store, moderate your long-term commitment to determine the feasibility of working with those who are around you. You can be honorable and productive without losing yourself in your work. The deeper level of healthy intimacy in a valued work environment takes time to cultivate and develop.

2. Making your sponsor, therapist, or anyone else your Guru. To be a guru means to be a teacher which we all are to each other. However, “parentalizing” others, making them your authority, gets in the way of being your own authentic self. You may think you need to see the best therapist in the land. However, if you overtly or subtly put them on a pedestal, you likely will remain stuck in your immature behavior. When you are stuck in shame you will tend to “pedestalize” others who you think represent what you want to be. This dynamic becomes muddy water that will prevent you from becoming your true assertive self. Be coachable while becoming your own guru. 

3. Greed, envy, resentment, bitterness. In the pursuit of achievement, these powerful emotions must be addressed in your recovery program. They are mud puddles that trigger recovery imbalance and if left unaddressed will derail you from fulfillment and satisfaction.  It is typical to want more. It is easy to compare where you are to where someone else is. The danger of comparison is in losing your sense of self. Comparison triggers envy about wanting what others have. You make up that others are more respected, more appreciated, or more loved than you are.  Eventually, this leads to resentment and bitterness that fuels mistaken beliefs that you are not enough and never have been or will be. Typically, these beliefs come from a family-of-origin experience. Each of these feelings represents muddy water that blurs sobriety, and obstructs serenity and deeper fulfillment in life. 

Muddy water is more than an isolated emotion. It’s a position, a posture, and attitude that poisons perspective. Don’t be careless about where you choose to swim. If you have quickly plunged into muddy water it is not too late to get out and wait for the water to settle. Are you willing to let the muddy waters clear and settle before you dive in? Recovery requires it. 

Your Feelings and Thoughts Do Make a Difference

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Addicts are vulnerable. They don’t know how to recognize or manage feelings, particularly strong and powerful ones. What they do know is to split off from their feelings and pretend they are just fine. Once I was sitting at a wedding reception and a clergy colleague who sat next to me began talking.   He had a close friend who was also clergy and was allegedly run out of his church because of a trouble-making family who accused him of sexual abuse. What he didn’t know is that the accusatory family was mine, and I was one of the family members that was abused. I wanted to kill him on the spot. But, I didn’t. What I did was smile and become quiet. I think I excused myself to go to the bathroom. 

Addicts are pretty good with these splits. When they are hurt, numbed with shame, seething with resentment, or dominated with anger or hate, they know how to compartmentalize their feelings and pretend they are not there. They use this ability to manage and control their environment that is unsafe. The problem is that inwardly they lose themselves by failing to recognize their effect. They drown in the feelings that were triggered or go to great lengths through maladaptive behavior to avoid their emotions. Addicts learn to avoid the obvious and embrace the improbable.

They live in a constant state of vulnerability not knowing how to recognize or manage the feelings that have been buried. They are unable to draw from their own internal resources because there aren’t any. They remain in constant need of self-regulation resources. They think the resources are external.  It’s a fantasy that is never realized. Since painful, rejecting, and shaming relationships are the cause of their deficits in self, they cannot turn to others to get what they need or have never received. With few other options addicts turn to their drug of choice. Why, because the dopamine rush delivers what it promises. To get away from the hell of the pain that slaps them around. Any reason is a good reason to use. 

Drugs of choice migrate.  Addicts might find a way to shut down their use of heroin, booze, crystal, molly, or blow.  They just migrate to the next fix. It can be anything including workaholism, exercise, food disorder, rage, and even caretaking. It is common for recovering addicts to create a new cocktail for their choice of drug. It will always be that way until they get to the root cause of needing a fix. Here are a few things to consider.

1. Understand your pain. Slow your life to a pace that you go inward and embrace what hurts. Dare to embrace average. Go inside to the common places of your life and face what you feel. None of us got through our childhood unscathed. There you will find the wounds that need to be scrubbed. It hurts but you are already in pain. Why not make your hurt a healing hurt rather than wallowing in pain that never stops looking for a fix that is never enough.  You must resolve the pain and stop pretending.

2. Learn to regulate your emotions. Practice recognizing what you feel, particularly the powerful feelings of shame, resentment, anger, and hate. Learn to sit with them and experience embracing unwanted emotions and notice that you can get through them without having to numb out. You will need help. Step outside yourself and ask for that help even though it feels awkward.

3. Utilize others for support. Finding your tribe for support is important. This is a long-term problem for addicts in recovery. When in crisis, addicts surrender to a 12-step fellowship. Often, they don’t go deep in a consistent manner to live in consultation with accountability about their feelings. You will need help holding your feet to the fire about relationship issues. Addicts often focus on the fundamentals of 12-step work in order to address their drug of choice. But many miss out by not using that same support to regulate their feelings in other aspects of living. It is important to utilize your community of support around the feelings that come up in your everyday relationship life.

4. Become an observer of what you think about your own thinking and learn how to reflect on the mind of another. Learning to manage your emotions is necessary to understand your thoughts about yourself and the world around you. People tend to be insular. Life becomes a mind-numbing hamster wheel in that we just do what we do. Take time to pause and observe what you feel. Utilize contemplation. Think about your thoughts. Learn to identify and give voice to the different parts of your mind that are contradictory to other parts. Learn to sift and sort by listening and recognizing the truth that is in each thought. Then practice integrating your thought discrepancies with your own wise mind. It is necessary to transform behavior. Emotional maturity and secure attachment are capacities to reflect on your own internal emotional experience and to make sense of it. It includes being able to observe and reflect on the mind of others and connect with them. The way you read others is important. It begins with learning to manage and make sense of your own affect and thoughts.  

Managing your feelings and thoughts creates self-agency. Developing emotional management is necessary in cultivating a true sense of self. When you don’t you foster a false sense of self which blinds your awareness of feelings and thoughts. It further darkens your understanding of ways in which your behavior hurts yourself and others. 

Oh! By the way, I did circle back with the insensitive clergy colleague and insist that he listen to the gory details of sexual molestation by his clergy friend toward me and my family. Though he was stunned with silence, he heard the other side of the story. I have since wondered if that did not change the way he shared the narrative with others.

Scrubbing the Wound

One of the most tortuous experiences of healing in life are stories told from those who have suffered with injuries that require their wounds to be scrubbed. Emergency room doctors have shared experiences of cases involving car accidents that have required scrubbing the road rash covering the back of a victim, triggering immense pain. Burn victims describe a healing process that demands cleaning and scrubbing the wounds every day. The pain from the necessary cleaning procedure is unbelievable, yet necessary. Without the cleaning process, infection takes over and provides a negative outcome, including death. As a child, I remember, my mom, washing a wound that I incurred on my knee with a washcloth. I recall the searing pain from the scrub and the application of merthiolate (that red stuff that was later banned) and crying out “Don’t touch it mom” and wanting her to blow on it as she did her cleaning work. No one wants to sign up for this much-needed task of scrubbing the wound. 

Since I have been an emotional healer, the analogy of scrubbing the wound is one that has made so much sense. It is one of the first things that is required for emotional wounds to heal. Forgiveness often doesn’t get traction unless the emotional wound is scrubbed and cleaned. The concept of “scrubbing an emotional wound” involves embracing the emotional pain rather than avoiding it. It always includes a deepened embrace of grieving the loss, injustice, despair, and disappointment. While wanting to lash out is a common human response, scrubbing the wound often means sitting with the pain in all of its severity. It suggests that you walk through the reality of violation, tragic loss, etc, and steel yourself with the support of caring others, without escape but with embrace. As a healer, I have observed that when people are willing to do this, the healing of devastation occurs more rapidly. When people choose strategies to avoid the pain through blame, and tactics to find an escape from pain through other relationships or endeavors, then the healing process becomes stalled and at times is never completed. 

During my healing journey, I am certain that going through the hell of losing 45 pounds in six weeks in major clinical depression and sitting with the painful reality of sexual, physical, and religious abuse was necessary to stop the destructive life of dysfunctional behavior that included addiction. Through 25 years as a counselor. I have observed that there is an inbred desire to seek instant relief from physical pain, emotional discomfort, and personal struggle. We tell ourselves that life would be better if we could just find that instant fix! Yet, most times there is no lightning in a bottle. Transformation and healing require that we scrub the emotional wound and drain the pool of emotional pain. 

It has been my conviction and belief that there is no magic bullet. Embracing emotional struggle and scrubbing the emotional wound is a counterintuitive measure that creates fulfillment in life and clarifies meaning and purpose in the presence of pain and discomfort in ways that are missed by those in search of a magic bullet. 

Here are a few practical considerations regarding scrubbing the wound.

  1. You will need a safe place to embrace all of your feelings. For me, it began in a psychiatric ward at Columbine Psychiatric Hospital. It later included Marilyn Murray’s studio office with a tennis racket wearing loose-fitting clothes that were conducive to expressing all of my emotions. Today, it includes my own homespun safe place with plenty of options to express sadness/anger/hate/shame, etc. You will want to be proactive to create your own safe place. 
  2. Scrubbing the wound requires a commitment to express all of your feelings around your hurt, unedited and without reservation of expression. Take time to write emotion-focused letters for your eyes only (or a therapist), saying whatever comes out about someone who hurt you without edit or protection. Emoting words of pain with explosive expression (hitting a pillow with a tennis racket, etc) in your safe space and doing it as many times or over a protracted season of time as is necessary will be important. Often, it is helpful to have an unbiased support person present to give “fair witness” to your scrubbing the wound.
  3. Scrubbing the wound will often require more than one healing session. Be willing to scrub your wound as often as needed. Remember, scrubbing the wound for a burn victim is a daily experience. Scrubbing resentment, hatred, and shame will need to be a daily ritual with more intense emphasis on some days and less on other days. It is a process of cleaning out the infection of toxic feelings and that is emotionally healing. Be willing to scrub for as long as is necessary. 
  4. Scrubbing the wound calls for you to cultivate the capacity to sit with the pain of your wound and tolerate discomfort. What happened to you was painful. The accompanying emotions hurt and will require conditioning and discipline to embrace. Sitting with the pain is a way of culturing wisdom. Angelina Jolie wrote ‘Without pain, there would be no suffering, without suffering we would never learn from our mistakes. To make it right, pain and suffering is the key to all windows, without it, there is no way of life.” Life becomes meaningful for those who learn to sit with the wound they have scrubbed. 
  5. There are many modalities that will help us scrub the wound but ultimately it will depend upon your willingness to go there. Seeking a sensational fix or searching for a magic bullet is a testament to attempts to avoid the scrub. Therapeutic modalities are abundant and new ones are being introduced all the time. Some individuals are great at knowing all the latest therapeutic interventions including all kinds of psychotropics to all sorts of experiential therapeutic modalities. Yet, the only ones that are really impactful are the ones that you have determined to embrace. When it is all said and done, you will have to decide that you are willing to embrace the pain and scrub your emotional wound. 
  6. After scrubbing, dress your emotional wound with loving kindness and positive affirmation. Emotional scrubbing is a difficult and vulnerable undertaking. It is an exercise that must be done at various times throughout a lifetime. Once an emotional scrub has been completed it is necessary to cultivate gentleness and bathe your emotional self with inspiring and positive affirmations affirming the reality that you are an unrepeatable miracle of the universe. The combination of scrubbing the wound and dressing it with positive affirmation is key to deep healing. 

Leaning into painful experiences, big and small in everyday living is a pathway to meaningfulness and discovery of the depths of human brilliance. 

Water and Ice—Two Symbols of Emotional Wisdom

Many 12-step groups allow for a feelings check, frequently at the beginning of a meeting. Many people struggle to identify and embrace feelings. Sometimes, a group member will struggle, and then share a thought while attempting to express a feeling. An example might be “I feel like I am in a pretty good place today”. We use phrases “I feel like” or “I feel that” to express our emotions, but that will keep us stuck in our heads. It is easy to gloss over an inward feelings check and instead move toward listening to others share or prepare your mind for what you want to say. However, the feelings check, based on what’s inside, is a crucial exercise in support groups. It creates an opportunity to settle in on what you are really feeling. It challenges you to sit and listen to what the feeling has to say to you. 

The spirituality of Step 2 asks that you humbly listen to the voice of God as you understand God. The concept of God is wide and varied within the framework of a 12-step community. It includes God as a personal entity, God as a No-God to those who do not believe in a God and yet seek to access their higher self, God as an unknown universal creativity energy, and others.

I have found help in accessing the phrase the “voice of God” as a metaphor toward connecting with higher power. Some people testify they have literally heard a voice from God. Some people feel moved with impressions when they read sacred literature. Others sense the direction of a kind of higher power in the collective wisdom that is accumulated in a support group. There are many sources of wisdom that people have experienced. 

One of the repeatedly overlooked sources of wisdom are revelations that come through the experience of feelings. Many world religions emphasize the value of feelings toward cultivating intimacy and gaining wisdom. It has been my experience that every emotion is leavened with insight, understanding, and enlightenment. The challenge is to slow down and lean into the message that each feeling brings. For example, I have experienced life-long depression, usually low-grade and chronic but at times it has spiked to a major part in my life. Rather than simply treat with an antidepressant, which at times was needed, I have learned to listen to the wisdom from the “voice of God” (a metaphor) in order to gain insight regarding what has been out of balance in my life, where to self-parent or reach out for help. Many times medication is needed to treat depression but often sitting with depression to gain its acumen is overlooked. 

Most addicts can be triggered to act out when disconnected from their feelings. This familiar practice becomes the breeding ground for incongruence and double-life living. Unwilling to sit with emotional discomfort, an addict can choose to say one thing and then do another. As a recovering addict, you have to teach yourself to stay with unwanted and uncomfortable feelings in order to meet the legitimate needs that exist underneath the craving for an addictive act out. In this way, an addict can learn to transform what seems to be a curse (the craving) into a blessing (awareness of legitimate need). It becomes an invitation to personal emotional intimacy in your life. The challenge is to stay with the feeling to gain crucial insight and understanding. The only way to open your heart when it is closed is to sit with the discomfort of an unwanted feeling. 

Pema Chodron describes this concept with the metaphor of water and ice. The metaphor of free-flowing water can be an analogy of open heart and open mind. On the other hand, ice is a metaphor of getting stuck with a closed heart and unwanted feelings. When stuck you can become over-reactive, out of control, even into a rage or rant, and overwhelmed by other powerful feelings like shame and fear. The way through to wisdom is to become very intimate with the ice. It is important to sit with it and to know it well so that you can gain insight and know what to do to care for yourself. It wouldn’t be helpful to throw the ice cube away. When you bring the warmth of open-mindedness, the ice begins to melt. 

To illustrate, take an ice cube and place it in the palm of one hand while covering it with the other. The human warmth of your body will melt the ice into flowing water until the ice is completely melted. This has been my experience with sitting with unwanted emotions. Sending kindness and warmth to myself has always been what I needed when facing emotional discomfort. It overcomes addictive craving. You will recognize that to do this you will need the help of your support community.

Here are four suggestions to make open-hearted kindness (flowing water) from unwanted feelings and difficult circumstances (ice):

1. Practice sitting with the discomfort of unwanted feelings. The only way to learn that you can get through a difficult experience is to stay the course and work through it. You may need to reach out to your support. In your recovery, it can be like teaching your dog to “stay” when it so much wants to chase the cat. You simply work to condition yourself to stay with the emotional discomfort. Gradually, you will increase your staying power and in time the wisdom of self-care will dawn in the horizon. 

2. Be your own best friend when you lean into unwanted feelings. In the midst of discomfort be kind, even gentle, with yourself. Befriend not just the good parts of who you are but your whole self, warts, addiction, and all. Treat yourself like your own child that you have always loved, even though at times their behavior is not lovely.

3. Integrate/Don’t segregate. Close-minded living segregates and isolates. It promotes intolerance, disrespect, and antagonism within self and toward others. Segregation advocates the desire to “ditch your addict”, even to hate that part of yourself. It expresses itself with self-criticism and judgmentalism toward others. Integration promotes acceptance of self, patience, forbearance, humility, and generosity. We learn to become unconditionally friendly toward ourselves. In the framework of that generosity, we learn to listen to our unwanted feelings and cravings. We learn to respond with healing self-care. 

4. Learning to cultivate wisdom from your feelings requires that you fuel perspective and vision for self and others. Cultivating skills to sleuth wisdom from unwanted feelings is a life-long pursuit. It challenges the systemic fantasy of “embracing the improbable and ignoring the obvious” that has been so ingrained in many of us from families of dysfunction. For most, the progression happens slowly and subtly. Yet, this valued skillset is not only for you but a legacy for the generations that come after you. At times, this journey may seem lost. Nonetheless, those who stay the course will transform intimacy disability into deep connection with self and others. Each time an addict listens to the wisdom imbued in an unwanted feeling, it opens the door to lessen the grip of addiction not only within but toward future progeny in the generations to come.