Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Mommy, what's more powerful, love or pain?

Living through unrelenting anxiety, fear and panic is something that I am used to. All the what ifs and possible disastrous outcomes of the future is what I do on a moment by moment basis. It's npr, fox news, cnn, bbc world news, and msnbc all crammed into my brain with a 24 hour streaming of bad news on top of bad news. Planning and critical thinking is the ground that I stand on and how I identify with myself. So keeping up with the on slot of the news stream in my brain was my duty and honor.

But all of these things did me more harm that good when I was in the grips of anxiety.

Eli once asked me what's more powerful, love or pain. I asked him how he had thought of that question. Eli was suffering from a cold at the time, and he answered, "Because when you are in pain, if feels so powerful, I was curious to know if it was more powerful than love."

When I am in pain it is very hard to look at the pain of others. And I start to think about if there is a quota on pain. If I am brimming to the rims in my own pain and suffering, will I be able to see the pain of others? Can one pain be compared to another pain and be judged based on a value system? If I am in pain because my arm has been cut off, is that more painful than a person whose finger has been cut off and less painful than a person whose leg has been cut off? Comparison of pain is a source of more pain. Comparison seems to arise when we are not heard or honored in the reality of our pain. The pain can be physical, the pain can be psychological, the pain can be cultural, the pain can be economical. If you have never suffered from depression, or anxiety consider yourself blessed. If you have never suffered from debilitating physical pain, consider yourself blessed. If you have never had to worry about where your next months meal for your kids are coming from, consider yourself blessed. 

We cannot compare our pains. We have to listen to each others pain and come together through it. 

Watching the outcome of the election and trying to answer the question, why, why, why the one word that keeps coming to the forefront is privilege and access. I have privilege. I have parents who believed in education and learning through traveling. I live in the first world where running water is not one of the major issues of life. I have a sustainable job and work with colleagues who I honor and respect. I have access to cultural diversity and multitude of life experiences which have given to the blossoming of wisdom. And I think of the people in the middle parts of America, where they are living in a different reality than the reality of the Americans living on the coast. Access and privilege. I know that I am who I am not because I am more smart, and more hard working than my peers. I am who I am because I was given vast amounts of privileges that I did not ask for, but was given to me as a gift. 

In my mind Trump and Clinton were like zits on an adolescents nose and forehead. They are both big, red, and throbbing with pain. We would rather such things never existed. But maybe what it did is bring to the front all of the pain of America growing up with it's hormones and all. And it is reveling all the pain that has been hiding under cover. One zit is about social issues and one zit is focused on economic issues. I feel much more righteous in that social issues are at the forefront of my concerns. And I want to be right. (And I might still feel right and righteous in my belief.) But that is because I have privilege. And I cannot compare my pain with other pains. I have to stop, look, listen and see if I can find a place inside of me that can postpone the panic of engulfment and see if I can give attention without judgement to the pain of others. It's easy to give empathy to those who are in pain that we can understand. It is much more of a challenge to give empathy to those whose pain we deem unnecessary and irrelevant. Which will only enhance the pain.

Has modern society always struggled with xenophobia? Yes. Are we shocked to find it in our family, friends, and neighbors? Yes. Has modern society always struggled with inequality of capital? Yes. Are we shocked to find it in our family, friends, and neighbors? Yes. Current American politics has unveiled it's basic paradigm: us versus them. It's called a Splitting (also called black-and-white thinking or all-or-nothing thinking) and it is the failure in a person's thinking to bring together the dichotomy of both positive and negative qualities of the self and others into a cohesive, realistic whole. It is a common defense mechanism used by many people. The individual tends to think in extremes (i.e., an individual's actions and motivations are all good or all bad with no middle ground). -

Mommy, what's more powerful, love or pain?
I think love. What made you ask that question?
Because when you are in pain, if feels so powerful, I was curious to know if it was more powerful than love.
... You know, pain is powerful, but I think love is more powerful.
Me too.

We want to control and predict the future. That is the purpose of research and the definition/goal of learning and studying in our world. When I am in the grips of panic and anxiety I want to make the world black and white, us versus them. And I want someone to blame. Brene Brown says the blame is a way to discharge pain and discomfort. Being human comes with a lot of pain. Let's all honor our own pain. And maybe then we can honor the pain in others. 

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