Like anyone else, on many occasions I have had reason to notice how I deal with emotional distress. I remember once, many years ago, when my son was a teenager and something he had said or done made me really mad. I remember stomping into the house, tearing the kitchen cupboard open and looking for chocolate. I could suddenly see clearly, “I am so mad – I need to eat about it.” Whoa~that stopped me in my tracks. Until the next time, when maybe I was a different degree of mad and I failed to notice it at all and ate the chocolate.
Another time, before I was a teacher, someone at my work had played a joke on me, at least they called it that. It involved a prolonged and elaborate scheme of lies. To me it represented a significant betrayal. I felt broken inside, and after a few minutes of messy despair, I noticed something happening within me. Here is what I had to say about it (this is a piece of a much longer story):
” I felt myself deflate, kind of like a bike tire that’s just run over a puncture vine. I had this stupid smile still hanging on my face, but I felt empty. I recalled all the little details…and it was all a lie. I felt a burning anger at everyone who had been involved in this farce. How could they do that to me? I thought they liked me, that we had a strong and trustworthy relationship…After a few minutes I made an excuse and left the office. I needed to get out and feel my pain, to sort it all out. That was when I discovered the heartspider. While I was engulfed in this flood of pain and anger, I felt a fuzziness growing within me. It felt like a little spider was in my deepest self, quickly spinning a cocoon-like web to separate and bury the pain that I was feeling. At first I resented her interference. I wanted and needed to feel the hurt and anger. At the same time, I began to wonder how many little fuzzy balls of insulated pain a heard can hold, and if they eventually burst out into thousands of tiny ones, like baby spiders…Maybe everyone has a heartspider, I don’t know. I think that I can learn to live with mine. She was at work within minutes, wrapping up my own pain so that I could sense the sorrow and loneliness of another person. I think I need her.”
Recently something happened which caused me to feel an emotional response. As I went through my reaction, I watched as I grabbed a good book to read, realizing, even as I did so that reading would numb the pain. The next morning I decided to take a walk in the park, even though it was rainy, and take some pictures. Another distraction. When I returned home I went back to the book. That was when I remembered the heartspider. I hadn’t had occasion to think of her for a long time. But I recognize her work. And now, after a couple of days, it is complete. I am able to see more clearly, without the distraction of my emotions. It’s true I can feel a new little capsule in there. And it may someday burst into thousands of tiny ones. Is this the healthiest of ways to deal with emotions? I can’t say. Maybe some would say it isn’t. I’m just glad to notice that this time I didn’t search for chocolate!