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Why Goodness Can Hurt

dandelions for longing and good articleLast Monday I co-led a meeting with all the listener volunteers for our Sidewalk Talk project with my very inspiring colleague, Lily Sloane.   If you haven’t heard about Sidewalk Talk check it out – it is happening on May 7 here in the San Francisco.

Lily and I showed up to our first meeting, and there were already listeners eagerly waiting outside the meeting room door.  Enthusiasm pulsed through the room and community warmed my heart and left me in a state of pure delight.    I felt content and totally confident in my flawed humanness.  I felt privileged and inspired to be around this beautiful bouquet of faces and grateful for my reliable co-producer. I had nothing to prove, nothing I needed to get done only to be in community. My ego took back seat, and I felt liberated to notice more than I might otherwise.  So many people who want to do something edgy with me…with ME!

The meeting ended and I floated through Tuesday like the earth reduced its gravitational pull a few percentage points and everything was just easier, lighter and bubbly.  But then Wednesday rolled around, and my body and mind started to brace for the other shoe to drop – gravity now felt too heavy.  I wanted to go back to the buoyant good feeling of Monday and Tuesday but more than just grasping for the good to stay I was unconsciously inviting the bad to come in and take the good away.  Ever walked by a smell and it reminded you of something?  What I was feeling was like that.  I became entranced by the familiar scent of my “sinister thief of good feeling” and then I welcomed the thief right on in to take what they wanted.

Inviting the bad in happens to so many of us.  We experience intense moments of sweet connection with others or even with ourselves, but it passes pretty quickly.  The grief of that moment ending reminds us of other times in our life where similar sweetnesses have passed.  These transitions from one feeling to the next are part of the natural ebb and flow of energy but our psyches can attribute some pretty powerful meanings to this shift, and it can loom large and painful.  To be with good people and be with the goodness in ourselves we have to tolerate the good moments leaving with presence and learn our personal patterns around emotional transitions. For some people good is followed by intense not deserving.  Others feel terrified of being punished for feeling entitled to goodness.  And still others brace for rejection on the back end of good experiences and on and on the possibilities go.   What if good were followed with something else?  How about savoring, gratitude, empathy for the sadness we feel that this moment is over and sweet heart-opening longing?

My good friend and Psyched therapist, Tom Rhodes, reflected a more transpersonal view of my experience.  He said, “Oh you had an experience of the undivided self during your meeting and that experience is rare. Most of us try to cling anxiously to undivided states when they arrive in hopes they will remain forever.  That grasping for it to come back [to chase after happiness and good feeling] never brings it back.  What brings it back is opening to what longing feels like.”  What a wonderful insight.  Longing is an undervalued feeling, in my humble opinion.  We barely talk about it.  It lurks beneath so much of our psychological meaning making.  We long to feel seen, connected, safe, alive, loved, etc.  But when we aren’t any of those things we feel bad. I was reminded how much healing power and rich sweetness there is when we can just sit still and feel longing as a heart opening state. Instead of inviting the thief of good feeling in, invite longing in.  Sit still with the longing, breath it in and down through your throat, chest, belly and legs and out.  Do that again.  Focus your energy right in the center of your chest and open to your longing if it doesn’t feel too hard and notice it without judgment or thinking.  Don’t listen to your mind right now just let the sensations stretch your heart open.  Let longing soften you and open you.

As Tom suggested, truly feeling our longing in this way is the pathway back to the undivided, whole and authentic self that I felt in that beautiful training.  Staying with it and know that longing is good and sweet, rather than bad and to be avoided, is the key.  Once we master how to feel longing, good feelings can remain just that – good feelings that are now a memory we are grateful.

Traci Ruble

Traci Ruble

Traci is a therapist and the CEO of PSYCHED & Managing Director of Sidewalk Talk. Her therapy work is centered around working with couples and individuals working on their relationships. Her many years in corporate life make her a good match for executives and leaders.

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