Maybe it’s okay to try and avoid the negative aspects of life.
Maybe it is okay to try to avoid the negative things in life... like ingratitude, disconnection, the more painful parts of the human experience. Maybe it’s okay to not put yourself in the atmosphere of it, to not imbue your heart in it, soak your soul in it. Maybe it’s okay to seek for more ease, more beauty, more awe, more being held, more soft breezes and kisses, more effervescence, more feeling the wind on your back. Maybe it’s okay because we’re trying to open our hearts up more, that we catch glimpses of a self that can be so alive and so present and so radiant that we have to take a shot at that.
And that as we are opening our hearts, it is hard to keep stretching when we surround ourselves willingly or intentionally with that which causes us pain. So maybe it is okay if we don’t seek it out, to try and avoid it as much as possible.
That is not to say we can avoid all pain, all negative emotions - they seem to be an essential part of this human experience. They help guide the way, they help get your attention, your presence, to raise your awareness of an important moment or lesson in your life. Which is beautiful because it means life has a purpose, an intention, a perspective pointing toward living, continuing, moving, flowing. We evolved to seek comfort, to be efficient, and to avoid pain, and feel good. We have bodies with senses to take in the splendor of Earth, and nerve endings that can take in the ecstasy of a kiss and the agony of a cut. So pain is necessary, and important, and we can welcome it when it is in our life - since it is going to be there anyway - yet not go out and find it. We are naturally inclined to not try and break our bodies, our toes, our teeth - why would it be different for our emotional lives?
Demonizing pain creates suffering. It catalyzes shame and fear, which causes us to want to hold on to it, hide it from view, keep it safe from the outside world. Sitting in the pain, getting to know it, learn its purpose, tend to it, and let it flow like a light breeze, fulfilling what it is meant to do without trying to hold onto it or keep it still. Wind was not meant to be still. It’s characterized by its very un-stillness.
The pain can flow and run its course, leaving behind a clearer marker to avoid - as much as you can - a similar path. And if we are really present during the lesson, if we learned all that we could from it, and we no longer need the catalyst, maybe the paths that once seemed painful will not look the same.
Yet, if we aren’t present, and we distract ourselves, the pain will have more to teach us. It wants to not be there, its purpose is to impart lessons, not to cause suffering. Pain was not meant to be held onto. And so if there is more to learn from a particular pain, it will come back again and again until you allow the fulfillment of its teaching. Pain is an experience to sit with, to endure, when it comes into our lives - and not to seek out. If our pain helped us open our eyes a little wider - not to close them and avoid the experience - then we don’t need to learn that again.
As children, we may burn ourselves on a stove. It is a lesson in the protection of our bodies, our skin, our nerve endings, our feeling enablers. It may lead to some shame because there is an idea that we should know better - that we asked for or caused the pain, that it is somehow justified because of our choices, our lifestyle, our being. But we don’t come with a user manual, we don’t have prior knowledge, all of the software installed. EXCEPT the instinct to not dwell in pain. So the only way to not dwell in pain is to move through it, explore it, find the wisdom it needs you to see. You didn’t know hot causes pain, you may have not have even known what the word “hot” meant, it may be embarrassing if those around you already learned that lesson, yet they learned that lesson one way or another. They went from not knowing to knowing at some point, just as you did. The particular journey to get there need not be compared and judged, because maybe we learn the lessons in different ways. This is how we learn to speak - word by word.
The pain of burning ourselves on the stove may lead to some fear because it was unknown why that thing was “hot” and “hot” can cause pain - but not all “hot.” Only until we spend more time exploring earth and coming to understand and distinguish the things in life. Stoves are meant to be hot. That’s their purpose. We need not avoid stoves, we can use them for particular reasons. We don’t keep stoves to remind us that hot can cause pain. We were present for that lesson. Pain demands to be felt. It doesn’t demand to be relived. We can learn how to use the lessons pain gave us.
The shame and fear that can build up on top of pain has to be worked through - it has to be faced to get through it. To let it go and keep moving - not to cradle it and keep it safe from view.
That’s not to say we shouldn’t soothe our pain - it feels good to feel good for a reason. So the absence of pain is something to seek out, yet not something to be vilified when it arrives. Relief, healing, and growth all involve a releasing - a flowing. As we practice facing our pain, learning from it, we get better at it - like anything else. We become more efficient in learn from and releasing our pain. We become resilient to the shame and fear that can accompany it.
Resilient comes from the Latin resilire and resile, to “leap back” or “to recoil” — the bouncing back when we realize we may do something again that causes pain. To pull back from lessons already learned, avoid reliving the pain, and spend our energy and our time on other feelings, other pains, other joys. The better we get at it, the more resilient we become, the more time we can be in not-pain, and even be in joy.
So maybe it’s okay to want to feel good things with the time we have our bodies, and to follow our lessons that help us open our hearts and work through other pains. Maybe not intentionally putting yourself in situations where you need to use energy and working through pains you already felt and learned from, not exposing ourselves to pain every day, is okay - so you have more time to spend in the lighter side of human experience.
So if I recognize a song that induces feelings of ingratitude, maybe it’s okay to avoid it since I’ve already learned from ingratitude.
Maybe it’s okay to not like scary movies, so you avoid them - and not because you can’t handle the fear or don’t value fear and honor it as an essential emotion in the human experience. But because you likely have fear elsewhere asking to be felt and released.
These emotions can be entertaining, no doubt, and I’m not intending to be prescriptive - perhaps manufacturing fear in a movie experience can help get in the feeling-space to feel through other fears. I love roller coasters for the feeling of not being “in control” - or perhaps the illusion of control - a similar feeling to releasing shame. Once you are on a roller coaster, you’re on it - so you might as well be as much on it as you can muster, feeling whatever its meant to have you experience, choosing to lean into the moment and feel fear if it comes, to feel thrilled, to feel the exquisiteness of the movement. There is no “should” there.
So maybe it’s okay to avoid the stimuli that don’t conspire to avoid pain and feel good - to be resilient - *because* we go through it, we explore and sit with it when it comes - and instead we seek out the emotions that lift us. The ones that not only are not pain and fear and shame, they help give us what we need to explore pain and fear and shame. They give us the effervescence to float while we are going through the goop - to keep our heads up, to keep our hearts open. Maybe it’s okay to seek happiness - to surround yourself with many good things, like gratitude, connection, beautiful music, delicious food, relaxing environments - to imbue your heart in joy, soak your soul in love.