"Human emotions are a package deal. Repressing unpleasant feelings anesthetizes us, rendering us numb to joy as well as to pain. The only way out of numbness is to plow directly through the very emotional hell we hope to avoid. And if we can help one another through this process, our lives become infinitely richer in purpose, meaning, and peace."
~Martha Beck, O columnist and author
Isn't that pretty much why we're all here? To help each other through this process? And yet, I wonder how many of us use this site as a way of distracting themselves from their emotional hell. How many of us in the midst of a full-body collapse – sobbing, heaving, kick-in-the-gut agony – lurch to our computers, punch in a Google search and find themselves here or on another site. Reading, scrolling. Obsessively. Searching for a way out.
While it's wonderful (and indeed the whole point of this site) that women recognize themselves on the screen and – hallelujah! – realize they're not alone in their pain, there is an army of soul warriors waging war on the same foe, it's not a substitute for the battle itself. In other words, you've got company but you still have to show up to the battle. And by that I mean, feel those feelings. Those horrible awful nasty feelings. That "emotional hell", as Martha Beck puts it.
It is, indeed, hell. It's dark and ugly and angry and sad. It's thoughts like I'm worthless or nobody will ever love me or there's something wrong with me. It's fears like I'll always be alone, I'll be destitute, living in a refrigerator carton or my children will like the OW more than me. Even if those thoughts aren't fully articulated, they're there. Dancing at the edge of your clouded brain. Taunting you with their cruelty.
And so, who wouldn't want to distract themselves? To turn on the computer and read about others' pain instead of feeling your own? Post a few "chin up" comments or "I'm with you" remarks. All well and good and kind and thoughtful. Misery mitigated by company.
But it's no substitute for feeling your own feelings. For being engulfed by the pain until it gives way and you can spot joy in the distance.
I wish I had better news. I wish I could tell that if you just help enough other people, your own pain will dissipate (it helps...but isn't magic).
I wish I could point to a certain book or a certain exercise or a certain meditation as the panacea for dealing with betrayal. All those things help. They really do. Writing down your pain, walking through your pain, meditating through your pain, sharing your pain. But they help because they force you to focus on your pain. To feel all the feels, as the cool kids on social media put it. In the end, that is the key. Feeling your pain. Not going around it, or ducking under it, or numbing yourself to it. Feeling it. I know. Sucks, right?
But here's a secret: You're strong enough. You're smart enough. You're warrior enough. You can feel those horrible, awful, nasty feelings – you can withstand those thoughts so dark you can't even whisper them to another person.
And that darkness will give way to joy. Eventually. Not today, maybe not tomorrow. But eventually. And when you do, you'll carry that secret inside: That you're strong enough.