What do you do when you’re feeling hurt? Do you call a friend? Do you eat some chocolate? Do you say a prayer, read the Bible, go for a run? What is it that takes you from a place of pain to a place of joy?
I imagine the answer is different for everyone. I know at some point I’ve done all of those things to combat the feelings that come with being kicked on a bad day. But I’m reading Rising Strong, by Brené Brown and I’m hearing her say something that I’m not sure how to do. She talks about leaning into the hurt and the pain rather than shrinking from it. Being curious about why we’re feeling the way we are. Then she talks about really wrestling with how we feel and taking a hard look at the story we’re making up about our struggles.
She says people who rise strong after a fall are willing to rumble with their stories. And by “rumble” she means “…they get honest about the stories they’ve made up about their struggles and they are willing to revisit, challenge and reality-check these narratives as they dig into topics such as boundaries, shame, blame, resentment, heartbreak, generosity, and forgiveness.”
That’s a mouthful. But it’s interesting to me. Rather than hide from the feelings…or bury them, she says to feel them and then challenge them. How much of our frustrations are due to a narrative we’re telling ourselves that’s full of assumptions rather than facts?
For example, you walk into the store and down the aisle you notice someone you haven’t seen in a few years. Suddenly you feel a little sick to your stomach, remembering the last time you spoke had been a bit of a heated discussion and you never really resolved it. At one point, you notice this person look at you and then look away in disgust, turning her cart around and moving the opposite direction. Now you’re hurt and ticked off. She can’t even say hello? What is that?
You carry this with you all day, building a whole narrative in your head as to what she’s thinking and why she’s angry with you and how unjust it is. You snap at your kids because you’re rehearsing in your head what you will say to this woman next time you see her. You go to bed and toss and turn because you’re running your last conversation with her over and over in your head.
Now the same situation from the other woman’s perspective: She needed to get dinner supplies. She’s in the bread aisle when she realizes she forgot to grab the ground beef and it’s all the way on the other end of the store. She rolls her eyes at herself, whirls around, and heads back the way she’s just come to grab the ground beef.
That’s it. That’s what really happened. (Well, I mean, this is a fictional example so it didn’t really happen…but you get the idea.)
I guarantee this kind of thing happens all the time. We spend a lot of time assuming things that have little basis in fact. So I love that Brown challenges us to “revisit, challenge and reality-check these narratives…” We can build up a story in our minds to epic proportions, consuming so much energy on anger, hurt and frustration, leaving no energy left to actually deal with our reality. I’m so guilty of this. I never would have thought that I would be. I’m not the type to assume someone is mad at me, in general. But I can look back over the last several years and see times where I’ve built a whole narrative in my head around a situation that was way more rooted in my insecurities than it was in the actual facts of the situation.
However, that’s not to say there aren’t times when we are dealing with real stuff. When someone has intentionally or unintentionally hurt us and it’s painful. When someone kicks you, it hurts. Whether they meant to or not…makes little difference. And letting someone tell you not to feel the pain isn’t the answer. Brené Brown would say to lean into that pain. Be curious about why you feel the way you do and be deliberate in how you respond.
She says, “It doesn’t matter whether we are ready for an emotional adventure—hurt happens. And it happens to every single one of us. Without exception. The only decision we get to make is what role we’ll play in our lives. Do we want to write the story or do we want to hand that power over to someone else? Choosing to write our story means getting uncomfortable; it’s choosing courage over comfort.”
I’m still wrestling with how to do what she’s talking about. But that last paragraph really resonates with me. I don’t want others to write my story. I don’t want to be passive. I want to write the next page and the next, not hand the pen to someone else.
So I’m learning how to distinguish between a story I’ve built up around a non-event and the real pain of being mistreated. And I’m going to continue to work on rumbling with my feelings and not allowing myself to shut down or disengage. When you’ve held your hand out and it’s been slapped, the natural reaction is to stick your hands in your pockets and tell yourself the story that nothing good happens when you put your hand out. But if that’s where the story ends, you’ll never receive any of the gifts that people want to put in your hands either.
If you close yourself to the bad, you’ll close yourself to the good. Let’s choose courage over comfort. Continue to risk because without it, there is no reward. Continue to be open to pain so you can still feel joy. And of course, good friends; chocolate; prayer; a run…all those can help too.
*Quotes from Rising Strong by Brené Brown.
Danny Huizinga on Creative Commons