Have you ever had a complete emotional unraveling due to a seemingly small event? Maybe someone cut you off in traffic and you were blinded with rage, a friend commented on your weight and you had a meltdown, or you didn’t get the job you interviewed for and descended into a week-long depression. Did the intensity of your emotional response catch you off guard? Did you ask yourself, what is this really about? You may have tapped into a well of pain and hurt that has been collecting water for years.
Let me give you an example from my story. If you read my last post, you know that I spent my childhood and adolescence in ‘survival mode.’ While all of the traumatic events were unfolding, I was not allowed or able to feel my feelings, much less process them. I was trapped in a shameful silence that didn’t let anything out or anyone in. There was no place of stability for me to let down my guard and there was no time or energy to consider the weight of the damage happening in my soul until I escaped that environment.
Like many of my clients, the first place I felt far enough away from the chaos was my freshman year of college. One normal day, my mom called to ask about my younger brother and what he was going through emotionally. This small event set off a bomb inside of me. All of a sudden, the pain, hurt, and abandonment I felt as a child came to the forefront of my life. I spent the next four years feeling my feelings for the first time. I would sob deeply while driving my car (one of the few places you have privacy in college), I screamed at God, and I honestly didn’t think I would survive the darkness that was in my heart. All of the emotional pain I was living with had welled up inside me. I call this the “Well of Pain”.
Well of Pain
Envision a well of water inside you. Every loss, every broken heart, every time you weren’t picked for the team or play, every rejection, each broken bone, and every break up adds water to the well. Traumas like abuse, divorce, or death of someone close to you adds buckets upon buckets of water. As the water builds up, the heavier and more unstable your well of pain becomes. The smallest drop can tip the well beyond capacity causing a tidal wave of feelings. We feel like we are dying, going crazy, or that this pain may literally crush us. When I begin the therapeutic process with a client who has a full well of pain, they think they are losing their minds. The truth is, the natural process of therapy is to get worse before you get better. There is a lifetime of wounds, hurts, and sadness they are finally able to feel and process.
The hope for my clients and myself is that we stay current on our well of pain. As you do the work of feelings your feelings and expressing them, the water level stays low. We can sit in the pain and tragedy of life without the paralyzing fear of, “If I go there, I will never come back.” As someone who has carried my own well of pain for years, trust me, that first step to release the water is worth the risk. It takes so much courage to take that first step. It takes the power of the Supernatural. We can become alive to ourselves, present with people we love, and OK with our feelings.
Recommended reading on feelings: The Voice of the Heart by Chip Dodd