Recently, I sat with a woman in The Song Workshop, who was experiencing enormous trauma memories. These are the memories that get stored in your bones and when you least expect it, they show up. A song playing over the loud speaker at a gas station, a smile from a stranger on isle four at the grocery store, a whiff of rose and lilac perfume, whatever it is, it grabs you and takes you back. When the memory is a good one, that’s nice. I mean, who doesn’t want a good memory. However, when it hurts, when it’s pain, when it’s what you want to forget ever existed, the story is entirely different.
Listening to Pema Chodran today, I was reminded of what I witness in my work and what I, myself, have done in an attempt to not feel what hurts. We all want to be free from suffering, but ironically we go about it in a way that increases our suffering.
As it was with my client, the one experiencing the trauma memories, when I asked her what she needed she said, “I WANT IT TO STOP!” I could hear all of the resistance in her voice. I could see the discomfort in her body, moving in such a way that was reminiscent of Houdini trying to escape chains under water. All the while, the pain, was increasing.
FIGHT. FLIGHT. FREEZE. RESIST.
These do not work. Every time, they increase the pain.
LOVE. STAY. FEEL. ACCEPT.
That’s what works. Those are the only tools that have ever worked and the only ones that will ever.
A few examples:
One. A woman comes into my office and says, “I want my husband to be more loving to me. I want him to be attentive and to understand how much work I’m doing around this house. I feel like he just takes me for granted.”
“I see. What are you doing to change this dynamic between the two of you?” I ask.
The woman, “I tell him he doesn’t get it. I have let him know more than once how furious I am. I set boundaries, make rules, and assure him he can’t just do nothing around this house.”
Me, “when we first began, you said you wanted your husband to be more loving to you and yet, everything you have described to me is about FIGHTING, not LOVING. Let me ask you a question, ‘what do you do to be loving to yourself?'”
The woman, “Nothing. I don’t have time. I’m busy dealing with everybody else.”
Me, “So you do nothing to be loving to yourself and you fight to get love from your husband. What if we start with this:
First, you start being loving to yourself. Find five minutes a day to do something good and kind that is just for you, even if it’s nothing more than breathing in silence.
Second, rather than telling your husband how wrong he is (fighting), just love him as he is, finding something right about him, one thing, anything.
That tiny seed of love for yourself and for him, will bring an enormous return. It is the opposite of what you think. We don’t shame people into better behavior. We don’t bully people into better behavior. We don’t fight to create love. We love and therefore we experience love regardless of whatever else is going on. Make sense?”
Puzzled, she considers this approach. I consider it too. I’m just like her really. I resist pain. I attempt to use shame to change circumstances. I too have told it like it is (which by the way is about as helpful as a hole in the head). And sadly, I have wanted from another what I refused to give myself, love.
Suffering is a choice. We can carry on fighting all we want and thus we will remain engaged in a war, or we can lay down our arms. Fighting begets fighting. Suffering begets suffering. Acceptance brings freedom. Love begets love.
May you be blessed on your journey, Tyler
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