Lately I’ve been thinking a great deal about emotional pain and how I tend to hold onto it regardless of the cost. Recently the death of someone in my immediate family brought with it emotional pain that I thought for years I had a handle on. I was wrong. The question I finally had to face was, why am I holding on to it at all?
Like an archaeologist on a dig in a desolate remote area, my emotional pain, long buried and ignored, was uncovered. With the dust brushed off and contents catalogued, the discovery was lifted from it hiding place and exposed to the light. It was old and worn but definitely still functional.
Disguised as a tough exterior, my emotional pain was comprised of decades old feelings of emotional neglect and abandonment as a little girl, nearly nonexistent self-esteem as a teen, a deep, radiating sadness, anger and even jealousy to name a few. As I studied my emotional archeological discovery with new eyes I started to understand a little more about this kind of pain, where it came from and why I’m still holding onto it like an old, ratty, almost unrecognizable stuffed toy.
I questioned why I and many others hold on to emotional pain when it does us no good. One of the first things that struck me is that even though emotional pain is, well, painful, it can also be its own source of comfort. Humans by nature are not fond of letting go of anything that we’ve had a near stranglehold on for a long time. This includes emotional pain and even though it hurts and does absolutely nothing worthwhile for us, it’s something that we are intimately familiar with. It has been around so long it’s become part of our identity. If we choose to let it go, then what? Who will we be? Who do we become?
We are so afraid of the changes letting go will cause that we hold on and hope the pain will pass just enough to keep going. In the meantime we forget that we change every day regardless.
I believe for me fear has been one factor for not letting go of the pain. How will I be me if I let go of something I’ve allowed to define me nearly my entire life? Who will I be without it? It’s fear of the unknown. The funny thing about the unknown is we live with it every day. We never know what’s going happen from one moment to the next.
Maybe in reality it wasn’t my emotional pain that has been buried all these years. Maybe it’s been the real me buried under the pain…the person that as a child was not allowed to be her true self and as an adult isn’t always sure how to be. The pain has been such a dominating part of my identity that I didn’t realize I had an real identity long before the pain ever existed.
It’s time to let it go. Like most things it will be a process. But it’s time. Letting go of the emotional pain means no longer being able to use it as an excuse for anything. It means learning who the real me is. It means not allowing anyone to ever squash that down again.
I am very blessed to have a great support system with my husband and my friends. I have learned that family is not about bloodlines. It’s about the people who want me in their lives, it’s about love, acceptance and those who are there for me when everyone else disappears. It’s about being there for them when they need a shoulder. It’s give and take. Flaws and all.
The archaeological dig of my life is not over. I will continue to uncover things about myself and set them free as I live out my remaining years…as no one other than me.