Posts Tagged ‘pain’

The presence of self-promotion

August 1, 2012

I am at it again. I am blatantly using my own space to promote the Making Meaning blog at Loyola University where I am obtaining my Master of Science in pastoral counseling. My most recent post is on feeling bad.

Self-promotion is a tough phenomenon for me. I grew up with the meaning of “humble” to read “kick me.” Being humble meant never sticking up for myself. Being humble meant taking the least favored soda, popsicle, and seat. Being humble meant never bringing attention to myself EXCEPT when it was in the service of others.

As I grew up, I noticed that being humble did not feel very good. In fact, it felt pretty crappy. Plus, it seemed that I was the only one expected to be humble. One of my siblings or parent was getting the good soda, the favorite flavor of popsicle, and the best seat. I thought “Why don’t THEY have to be humble, too?” I was in my teenage years when (fortunately) those disagreeable hormones kicked in and humble was suddenly not my preferred way of being in the world.

Growing out of humble and into self-promotion was not easy. We are instinctively programmed to move away from pain and suffering, but there are times when a little pain and suffering is good for us. Struggle makes us stronger. I have struggled with the marriage of suffering to my desire for happiness. If I were to totally avoid struggling and suffering, I never would have had a child, quit smoking, gone back to college, and moved to Maryland. All of these sound like wonderful adventures, but let me tell you: there is nothing — ABSOLUTELY NOTHING — that feels good about quitting smoking in the first six months. Intellectually, there is the reward of saving money, getting that monkey off my back, breathing easier, blah blah blah. But the withdrawal is fearsome. The good news is that I was willing to suffer through those months so I could be successful. Yes, success is associated with self-promotion. I had to promote myself to myself. It was a hard sell.

Self-promotion was a part of successfully negotiating Bachelor of Science and Master of Public Health degrees. I had to get grants and scholarships to afford my passage. Self-promotion was a huge part of selling myself to my employer here in Maryland. Self-promotion is my prime method of sharing my words that can connect me to you.

I am still humble, though. I know I am not alone in my success. Many people and that ultimate spiritual being helped a lot. They promoted me when I wasn’t looking and I turn around in my life right now to find I am exactly where I need to be.

©2012 by Barbara L. Kass

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In the presence of others

October 23, 2010

We can never know the true experience of life for another. We cannot climb inside their skin, see through their eyes, think their thoughts, or feel their emotions. We can only imagine what their experience would be like for us had we lived it.

At my class the other night, we had an exercise where one person behaved as a client in therapy while the rest of the class worked on being present with that person using our feelings and responding to that person from our hearts.

It was a real eye opener to me to see how I (and others) defaulted to our analytic thinking and responded from our heads, not our hearts.

Responding to someone from a feeling place requires work and practice. It also requires a willingness to develop a way to be in touch with one’s own feelings while listening to another person’s story and, at the same time, get in touch with how the other person is feeling, and know which is which. It requires empathy for what the other person is experiencing. We must have enough life experience and a few mishaps along the way to truly empathize and identify with the pain of another’s experience. The important caveat was to be fully in another’s presence without falling into their pain and dwelling in the misery.

I focus on pain because I don’t know too many people who sign up for psychotherapy when everything in their lives is grand and wonderful . . . much less pay to share that information with me. Truth is the number that I actually know is . . . um . . . zero.

Among all of us, there was a tendency to diagnose and define the pain. We could identify it. We could exchange a sentence or two about how that must be for the client in the chair. Then, we wanted to fix it.

It was a clear lesson in how to get out of our heads and out of our own ways. In the presence of others, there is no fixing to be done. We must acknowledge and accept. We must reflect that we understand. We must respect that their eternal presence was and is fully capable of dealing with life and knows what they need. We must honor the wisdom that brought that person to our presence. We are a presence for others to come and rest their stories. If we let our presences connect and speak with each other, they will find a healing path together.

©2010 by Barbara L. Kass

The presence of pain

April 8, 2010

Pain (physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, whatever) is an indicator that I have cut off from me . . . blocked my flow of energy – the energy of well-being, love, inspiration, kindness, health, transformation – any energy that will take me from here to there; my pain can feel sharp, burning, clutching, sad, numb, bewildered, afraid, jagged, and it is all uncomfortable for a reason: to get my attention.

Emotional and mental pain send me the message that I believe something is wrong and often when I look at the source of my pain, that is where it has originated – in my thoughts, my expectations, my illusions – I believe something is wrong. Love and connection feel as if they are dying and leaving an empty spot when a friend, a lover, or a child leaves my life. I even grieved for 8 months after I quit smoking cigarettes because there were these huge empty spaces in my life that smoking (and the emotional equilibrium that nicotine provides) used to occupy. People are irreplaceable and I need to acknowledge their loss, yet at the same time, I need to remember that there are others in my life who I can connect with and love. Loss also opens up new possibilities, even though at the time, I may not want to admit it.  

Physical pain indicates that something in my body needs attention. Sometimes, pain is a gift. That blaze of rocketing flame in my chest might indicate a heart attack. I have to stop and look at exactly what needs attention and what kind of attention do I need? For an injury, I probably need a person with a medical degree. I am not going to stop, analyze and resolve the underlying issue to my injury right then (for example, when I set my thumb on fire with one of those sparklers we light up during the 4th of July, it was very evident from the golf ball size blister that visiting someone with burn treatment expertise would be a wise investment of my time and money). Other pain, like a headache, many times means I need sleep, a massage, less thinking, or a long, long walk in silence.

Spiritual pain is often present within any other kind of pain. I am a spiritual being and spiritual pain means I have cut off from that which is permanent and indestructible: my eternal presence and my connection to all that is. I am forever, as are those people who I might believe I have lost. Every creature on earth has the gift of self-comfort, including me.

I am on fire today – all my similes and metaphors and examples indicate something is ready to be lit up, cooked, heated, warmed, or incinerated.

©2010 by Barbara L. Kass