We learn early to on take care of our physical bodies. We are taught to brush our teeth, take showers, apply deodorant, to disinfect a scratch and put a BandAid on it. We wash our clothes, our dishes, our environment. We may worry about germs, about colds, infections. We wash our hands when we come home. The level of our involvement with our physical environment depends on our personalities – from slobs to people with OCD – but mostly we all learn basic care routines from our parents and use them throughout our lives. Women often go much further, learning to wax, scrub, peel, make up etc. Then there’s working out, going to the gym or practicing sports, which a lot of people do almost religiously. “I can’t not work-out”, they say, or “I have to go for a run”.
And in cases of injury – the answer is ready-made – go to the hospital. Broken limb, spouting cut, heavy hits, accidents – no question, no need to think about it. We immediately reach for a doctor.
Basically, we know how to take care of our bodies. The extent to which we do it is a matter of personal choice, but basics are usually covered.
I have always wondered why we do not apply this degree of casual, daily discipline to our inner mental world.
Healing emotional wounds
After all, most of our injuries nowadays are not physical. We do not live in mammoth-hunting times. We can go days, months, years without having a physical injury. However – how many days go by without us sustaining an emotional wound? A snarky comment, an angry driver, a thoughtless word or action from friends or partners… Anger, sadness, depression, frustration, shame – how common are those and how often do they happen to us? Are the occurrences yearly, monthly – or daily?
And did anyone ever teach us the equivalent of applying BandAid on those wounds? Did anyone ever teach us how to deal with a broken heart? A pop culture trope offers up a gallon of ice-cream and a bottle of wine as first aid kit. Those two items serve up numbness and nausea. Sure, you may stop thinking about what broke your heart if you pass out or while you’re throwing up.
After that, we’re expected to soldier on, paste a brave smile on our faces and keep going. After all, what is there to do? I mean, other than stalking your ex and ordering a hit on their new partners?
“We’ve all been there”, people say, “Time is the best healer” etc. Everyone’s been there, but everyone is unique and needs to deal with such issues in different ways. For some people, betrayal is a very hot button. For others, it may be abandonment and loneliness. For others, it is the loss of meaning. Any issue may reawaken old wounds – or not at all. Our levels of resilience – and what feeds that resilience – are different.
Accepting and dealing with our weaknesses
We often adopt a Pompeiian strategy with our inner lives – cover them up and keep going. Which is a bit of a shame, since we are burying treasures along with the pain, and not learning skills that could help us whenever we run into trouble again.
When I was younger, sooner or later, my ills (anxiety, fear, anger etc…) would invariably impact my health. I never knew when or what would happen, but after a certain period of time “swallowing grass-snakes” as we say in French, or emotions, I would erupt in a severe asthma attack, or I would throw out my back, or I would get very sick, or be assaulted by a brutal migraine. After such occurrences, which I began to await fatalistically, I would usually feel better, as if I had evacuated the problem – or more accurately replaced it.
But a part of me was in despair – is this the way I’m going to live my life? How do other people deal? How long – or short! – can I go before an attack? Is there nothing else I can do but passively wait for it to happen?
Maybe you’re wondering the same thing. I researched this issue far and wide. Therapy – with a good therapist – can be fabulously effective. But ultimately, you are always in your own company. Ultimately – if your therapist is away, if you are in a tough situation – the person who is always by your side and can be an opponent or a priceless ally – is you.
With meditation, you learn to know, accept and embrace yourself.
You learn to know and love yourself intimately.
I do not believe there is a better or more freeing gift.