I’ve had a lot of questions lately about healthy ways to deal with emotions that feel all consuming. We FEEL. Emotions are a part of life and it’s certainly part of the process of healing. I have gotten through the hardest parts of my recovery but I still have triggers that can catch me off guard. For example: four months ago I had several days during which I had been very depressed and I realized from early on that it was triggered by a couple of trips to the dentist. I’m sure that many of you have similar struggles when it comes to the dentist and there is a lot of research that explains why – Click here to read about why childhood sexual abuse survivors tend to have significant dental fears.
From my journal – February 15, 2017 “I spent many days trying to push past the deep sadness without acknowledging the emotional root of those triggers and it didn’t work, until one afternoon, on my way home from work when I turned on my music playlist called “It’s okay to feel sad.” My tears began to fall and my heart opened to the gift of healing. As soon as I allowed myself to acknowledge my pain, I felt myself start to relax and let go and I felt more peaceful than I had in days.”
Allowing ourselves the right to feel validates our experiences and it gives us control over something that tends to make us feel very much out of control. Above and beyond this, the scriptures teach us the value of sorrow. In the most poignant scriptural example, we see how sorrow draws us closer to Christ.
In Isaiah 53:3-7 we read about Jesus Christ’s sorrow –
He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief…He hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows…..He was wounded…..He was oppressed, and He was afflicted
At one point, He even thought His sorrow would consume Him and even though He knew what was ahead of Him, the pain was enough for Him to ask God the Father to remove his suffering.
Then cometh Jesus with them unto a place called Gethsemane, and saith unto the disciples, Sit ye here, while I go and pray yonder.
And he took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be sorrowful and very heavy.
Then saith he unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with me.
And he went a little further, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.
And he cometh unto the disciples, and findeth them asleep, and saith unto Peter, What, could ye not watch with me one hour?
Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.
He went away again the second time, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done.
The Savior of the world was facing his toughest trial yet. He wanted help walking that path and so he asked for his friends to simply watch, so that he wasn’t so alone. Have you ever felt this way? While walking through your path of agony have you felt alone and wished that you weren’t?
I can clearly remember days, weeks and even months when I thought the pain and sorrow of my situation would consume/kill me. Days when I couldn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. At one point, on July 6, 2013, through the Spirit, I was given a brief vision of the years that lay ahead of me. The pain of that glimpse into my future took my breath away, causing me to cry out words similar to what our Savior cried out to our Heavenly Father. It was to be my own Gethsemane and that moment proved to be prophetic. The physical, emotional and psychological agony of the next two years was almost too much to bear. It was only through the grace of God that I came through the years previous and after this moment with my testimony intact. My refusal to let go of my determination to shield my children from the abuse that I grew up with propelled my family of origin to wage a war against me that I won with unseen armies by my side. Understandably, there are lingering moments of sadness that hit every so often.
So how do we handle the sadness of life’s most trying circumstances?
Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.
In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.
There are certain things that we can do to facilitate productivity when purging emotions:
- Start by identifying what it is you’re feeling and if possible, the reason you’re feeling it. I felt depressed because, like many CSA survivors, going to the dentist is an emotional trigger for me. (This applies to many trials in life. Just substitute your adverse situation here)
- Tell yourself that it’s okay to feel this way! It’s okay to feel sad.
- Decide on an amount of time to immerse yourself in that emotion and set a timer. I am giving myself an hour/afternoon/evening, etc.
- Make a plan for a different activity to follow my feeling time. I am going to make cookies for a friend, fold that mountain of laundry or make dinner. Later tonight I’m going to meditate for 30 minutes and practice mindfulness, or go to the temple, etc.
- During the previously decided length of time, practice healthy expressions of the emotion. I turned on my playlist titled “It’s okay to feel sad” and I am not going to feel guilty about feeling this way and taking this time for myself.
- Make prayer a part of the experience. Jesus Christ wants you to heal and will help make this time an effective use of your time and energy.
- When that timer goes off, stand up, take a big breath and focus on something that makes you happy while you do the activity you decided on. Look upwards and remember that Christ has walked this path alongside you.
This process is retroactive – for instance, I had been feeling very depressed for 10 days before I remembered to validate my own feelings by doing the above exercise. Obviously, 1 hour is much less than 10 days but those days spent in pain count towards our productive processing of emotions.
Let your pain in. Yes, you may drown in it, but that’s the point. Christ suffered all of our pains so that He would know how to comfort us, as we turn to Him, we become like Him. That’s how our sorrow strengthens us and that’s how our pain becomes a terrible blessing.
Above all else, remember that you’re not alone!