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!


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