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Lessons I’m Trying To Learn: Don’t Avoid Sadness

This is part of Fire! Ready! Aim! Series: Essays on Lessons Learned by an Enneagram Social 8w7

For the last five years I’ve been meeting with an EMDR therapist. It’s a type of therapy that has been primarily used for those with PTSD but can also be used for more micro-traumas. There are different criticisms out there about EMDR, but my therapist is incredible regardless of the specific practices that set EMDR apart. Going back to traumatic situations in my childhood and early teens, and then given space to relive and rearrange how those experiences have sat in my body, has been a powerful tool to understand myself.

More recently, in one of my sessions, I was exploring a situation in where I felt guilt, responsibility for something I shouldn’t have, and obligation towards fixing something I couldn’t fix. As we sat there in long bouts of silence, I just kept tearing up and feeling terribly sad. The conversation would go something like this:

Therapist: How do you feel?
Me: Really sad.
Therapist: Ok, let’s sit in this and stay in that feeling.
Me: What? Why would I want to feel that?

Another conversation a few months earlier with a friend went similarly.

Me: I just feel really sad, and hopeless.
Friend: Yeah, anyone would, you need to have those feelings.
Me: What? I would like them to go away.
Friend: The only thing you can do is go through them, be aware and own them. They don’t go away. And if you think they have, it’s because you are distracting yourself and avoiding the fact that they are always there.

These realizations were very impactful for me as they exposed how I tend to avoid pain and sadness in extremely complicated and convoluted ways. I overcompensate for negative emotions by subconsciously piling insecurity on top of insecurity that eventually leads me to be completely oblivious to what lies underneath it all. How many things in my life started, or worse continued, because I was trying to avoid being sad? I try to hold onto relationships, force outcomes, control circumstances – all to avoid feeling what it all means to me if it doesn’t go the way I imagine it to. These characteristics are definitely more of traits of my Seven wing as I have identified strongly with my Seven wing when it comes to my emotions.

I’ve been having this reckoning lately, and coming to terms with my underlying sadness. The first step has been just to identify it and recognize that it’s there, and it’s not going away. The second step is to identify what things I have built up in my life motivated by this avoidance of feeling that way. And finally, to reorient my future in full awareness that with life comes sadness, joy, suffering, and peace in order to stop artificially ignoring the other half of reality. It is only through this raw acceptance of what is in front of me, and deconstructing all the ways in which I’ve been unaccepting, that I can truly be free, available and present.

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