The TOOLS: Tool #2 - The Path of Tears
Why Can't I Cry?
How Resistance, Avoidance and Acting Out
Thwart the Emotional Healing Process
Sometimes in the course of this work you find yourself up against a seemingly impenetrable barrier with your feelings/pain on the other side, unreachable. Since your intent is to heal your pain and honor your emotions, this may seem baffling. Isn't intent enough to draw the feelings in? Unfortunately, no.
Remember that you have layers and layers of conditioning and imprinting to overcome. And the resistance comes from more than one source.
There is the resistance in your conscious self, from your mind. Mind fears the chaos of emotions, and especially when the emotions begin to come forward and try to have life (expression), and are all clamoring for a place at the front. Mind experiences this as a pushing, a pressure, and responds usually by pushing back. Mind also fears being overwhelmed by the sheer volume of emotion that it (secretly) knows is lurking just on the other side of that closed door. To mind it feels as if opening the door one little crack will cause a giant tsunami to come crashing down, resulting in chaos and madness. Knowing how mind perceives emotions will help, because mind needs reassurance for its fears.
There is resistance that comes from years and years of conditioning or training, from living in our current society with it's commonly accepted norms and misunderstandings about crying. It will be somewhat easier for women to overcome these barriers, but only a little. Don't underestimate the power of the collective unconscious, the belief system our cultural agreements hold in place. It is binding at a deeply subconscious level, and breaking through it takes time, huge effort, and lots of emotional healing.
- Then there is the resistance of the gap itself. The gap is the dark place, the blind spot between you and your fragmented self, the blank place between the light and the dark, between conscious and unconscious. This dark place is populated with energies that feed off your denied emotional essence. These energies have great intent to survive, and their survival depends on you never reconnecting with and moving with your feelings. If you reclaim your denied feelings, you remove their food source! They will lie to you, they will provoke your terror of moving your feelings, they will tell you all this is a lie, they will do anything they can to prevent you from crying your pain and reclaiming your power. Don't underestimate these foes, but know that they have no real power once the feelings are moving and your Soul is vibrating.
- Lastly, and saddest of all, there is resistance from the feelings themselves. These feelings, sitting on the other side of the closed door in the dark, without love or light, have taken on a life of their own, and in a horrible twist of denial, a part of them believes that you are their enemy. They resist coming forward. They resist trusting you, and sometimes resist the very movement that is their only salvation. They have been judged by mind and spirit and the world. They have been tortured and maimed and killed any time they moved toward expression. They have been made to believe that any movement will bring down the wrath of God once again. And their fears are real. Give them as much reassurance as you can when you call to them, as much gentleness as you can.
The Many Faces of Resistance
At first you may not be able to tell where the resistance is coming from. At first you may not recognize it within yourself. So, your first task is merely to notice. Pay attention to your emotional and physical responses to things. Watch your body. Don't try, at first, to overcome the resistance. This first task is just to see what it looks and feels like, if you can.
For instance, resistance may show as a sudden complete detachment from a feeling that was there just a moment ago. You were triggered and angry, and -- suddenly the anger just evaporated. Trust me, it didn't go away or magically heal itself. It just stepped across the barrier and out of your conscious awareness. Unless you continue to push it away from you, it will be back. Your intent to heal will draw it back to you.
It may show in your body, in a slow clenching of one part of your body or another. Do you have chronic back pain? Difficulty breathing at times? Problems with digestion? These may be places where your body is holding suppressed emotional pain from surfacing to your awareness. Know that at some time in the long ago past, you required your body to hold this pain, your survival depended on the feelings not being felt or known or showing. But things are different now, and body must be given permission, and encouraged to let go of the feelings and let them express. Body will probably be terrified by this, having usually experienced plenty of painful recriminations for showing feelings.
Resistance may cleverly try to disguise a painful feeling as another feeling. For instance, fear may try to hide behind or mask itself as rage, or vice versa.
It may take the form of a gremlin. Gremlins are thoughts and impulses that keep you spinning in your mind and away from your feelings. They most often use your own self-hate against you in order to keep you separate from your healing. The gremlin may tell you "That feeling is stupid ... insignificant... not worth bothering over... petty... wrong... bad..." etc., etc., etc.
If you find your mind spinning down strange memory pathways, remembering things you did or said (something bad or wrong or stupid) or feel bad about; if you find your mind spinning in recreating arguments you had with someone or imagining scenarios where you tell somebody off, for instance, but no tears come, you can bet you're victim to a gremlin. You need to stop the thoughts and let yourself cry if you can.
One of the most visible (and twisted) manifestations of resistance is called acting out. All kinds of feelings act themselves out.
Rage is the most commonly acted out feeling. Rage does need acceptance and expression. But being so misunderstood and heavily judged against, it has been easily twisted and turned around, used as a means for resistance and denial to continue instead of coming to healing. Consider for a moment that when rage stops acting out and begins to cry (yes, rage cries -- if you find this hard to believe, spend some time around an angry infant) it becomes vulnerable. Rage hates feeling vulnerable worst of all, and will avoid such weakness at all cost. Acting out is one of its favorite ways to avoid feeling vulnerable.
Fear/terror manifests avoidance behaviors by acting out also. One very common avoidance behavior is manipulation/control. Fear believes that if it can manage/control it's environment and everybody in it, it will be safe. It has never been able to cry and find relief, so it resorts to trying to stop everybody from doing whatever it is that feels unsafe. Contain the danger. Fear will often try to play on other people's fears or guilt to get them to behave and get into line.
Another of terror's avoidance behavior is acting out the victim role. Just like the dog who shows his subservience by cowering and lying down, terror will often act small and obsequious in order to stay safe.
Self-hate acts out both covertly and overtly. Self-destructive behaviors, such as compulsions, addictions, "accidents", all help to keep the real feelings from surfacing. And self-hate is some of the most difficult pain to cry -- often laced with real shame, and sometimes accompanied by physical pains, especially when the self-hate has been hate of one's own body. When self-hate can't get you to act out on yourself, it will often find someone else to do it. This acting out runs the full range from very subtle guilt, to verbal abuse, all the way to the extreme, such as victims of physical abuse. Getting the real self-hate moving will help you be able to extricate yourself from abusive situations, and draw to you more positive reflections.
Psychology has delved into these acting out behaviors and has tried to "manage" them in a variety of ways. I tell you, the only way to stop the acting out is to cry the real pain underneath.
And sometimes, the only way to get to the pain underneath, is to stop the acting out. When acting out is a part of your resistance behaviors, and you're not getting to ignition, then you need to stop all the behaviors that you're doing. The rule of thumb is, if you're not getting to ignition, then whatever you're doing isn't working, isn't healing, and is probably some form of resistance.
Getting Past the Roadblocks
For some, getting in touch with feelings and buried memories is easy. For these lucky few, merely noticing the resistance will be enough to overcome it. It will be simply a process of seeing the wall and walking around it or over it or through it. For others, for most of us, it's not that easy. The vast majority of us have childhood programming and societal restrictions to overcome, and the gap we experience between our consciousness and our feelings is a door that is not only shut, but 6 feet thick, made of concrete, and securely locked.
I've become aware over the years that my resistance is slippery. A tactic I used yesterday may not work today. My resistance has become expert at avoiding me and real release. But I have become expert at watching for and finding where my resistance is holding my real pain hostage. Be creative, be flexible, and most of all, be persistant. You cannot fail if your true intent is to bring in and heal all of yourself.
Here is a list of some techniques that have been helpful in getting through that locked door:
Ways of Overcoming Resistance
This list is not rigid or by any means finished. The wonder of our creative abilities is that no matter what we are faced with, we can come up with new and creative ways to overcome the challenges. This list is merely offered as things you can try. A place to begin, if you are having trouble getting to ignition.
Primarily, I use this as a guideline: take it to the mat. Let the pain cry first, and don't let it interact verbally with other people. As much as possible, bring the feelings to a safe and private healing place, with someone you trust or alone, with a pillow and a box of kleenex. Any interaction with others -- except for those within the release arena, such as role playing -- will probably come from your resistance, avoidance, and/or acting out. Until you've cried the pain and can feel the relief of healing, you need to treat yourself and others carefully. Know that everyone is doing the very best they can at any given moment, but we are all operating out of our pain. Each person is trustworthy only as far as they have themselves healed and are not in denial.
And if you find yourself jumping into the fray of a fight, don't beat yourself up about it. It may be that you need some radical explosions to get your stuff triggered. Of course, it may be rage wanting to act out, but as long as you let it cry, it will all get sorted out. Forgive yourself for any acting out you do ... you are still a work in progress!
Remember that much of your pain is separate from you because it was either unacceptable to you, too overwhelming to deal with at the time it was happening, or simply accumulated to become too large a burden for you to carry. We had no knowledge of how to heal these things until recently. We didn't know that allowing ourselves to cry the pain would keep it from accumulating. So now we are wading back through eons and eons of backlog. This is not an easy process. Take it slowly and in small chunks. Baby steps will make it bearable.
Go forward, at whatever pace you can. You are very courageous.