do not despise your inner world

I spend too much time fighting with my inner feelings, dialogue, thoughts, and expectations. “I should feel ______, I need to do ______, I shouldn’t feel ______, why do I think ______or feel like ______, I have to ______, I can’t believe I still haven’t ______, Why can’t I/When will I______…”

While there are times interspersed in my day when this is inner world is complimentary, positive and empowering, it is definitely rarer. So too often, the result is I am too hard on myself. It’s not very enjoyable, peaceful or healthy. (The “Exploding Soul” name/identity came as a reflection of all things swirling in me, GOOD and bad, ideas, passion, drive, love, and more, often feeling like I am about to burst with it all!)

What helps? I rely on good friends to make fun of me (thanks Stef!), mentors to give me perspective (thanks Rania!), people to talk me through it when I’m stuck (thanks Chad & mom), friends to make me laugh (thanks Chad & Rach!), friends to encourage me (thanks SMont!) lots of prayer, naps, writing, grace as I learn, time in nature or traveling, disconnecting from technology of any kind, and overall, telling myself: “Ease up babe! Give yourself an $%^&ing break :) You’re doing beautifully, you are great. It’s all ok. Seriously, relax.”

And then today I read this excerpt from a BrainPicking Weekly email, a breath of fresh air:

Do not despise your inner world. That is the first and most general piece of advice I would offer…

Our society is very outward-looking, very taken up with the latest new object, the latest piece of gossip, the latest opportunity for self-assertion and status. But we all begin our lives as helpless babies, dependent on others for comfort, food, and survival itself. And even though we develop a degree of mastery and independence, we always remain alarmingly weak and incomplete, dependent on others and on an uncertain world for whatever we are able to achieve.

As we grow, we all develop a wide range of emotions responding to this predicament: fear that bad things will happen and that we will be powerless to ward them off; love for those who help and support us; grief when a loved one is lost; hope for good things in the future; anger when someone else damages something we care about. Our emotional life maps our incompleteness: A creature without any needs would never have reasons for fear, or grief, or hope, or anger.

But for that very reason we are often ashamed of our emotions, and of the relations of need and dependency bound up with them. Perhaps males, in our society, are especially likely to be ashamed of being incomplete and dependent, because a dominant image of masculinity tells them that they should be self-sufficient and dominant.

So people flee from their inner world of feeling, and from articulate mastery of their own emotional experiences. The current psychological literature on the life of boys in America indicates that a large proportion of boys are quite unable to talk about how they feel and how others feel – because they have learned to be ashamed of feelings and needs, and to push them underground. But that means that they don’t know how to deal with their own emotions, or to communicate them to others. When they are frightened, they don’t know how to say it, or even to become fully aware of it. Often they turn their own fear into aggression. Often, too, this lack of a rich inner life catapults them into depression in later life.

We are all going to encounter illness, loss, and aging, and we’re not well prepared for these inevitable events by a culture that directs us to think of externals only, and to measure ourselves in terms of our possessions of externals.

What is the remedy of these ills? A kind of self-love that does not shrink from the needy and incomplete parts of the self, but accepts those with interest and curiosity, and tries to develop a language with which to talk about needs and feelings.

Storytelling plays a big role in the process of development. As we tell stories about the lives of others, we learn how to imagine what another creature might feel in response to various events. At the same time, we identify with the other creature and learn something about ourselves. As we grow older, we encounter more and more complex stories – in literature, film, visual art, music – that give us a richer and more subtle grasp of human emotions and of our own inner world.

So my second piece of advice, closely related to the first, is: Read a lot of stories, listen to a lot of music, and think about what the stories you encounter mean for your own life and lives of those you love.

In that way, you will not be alone with an empty self; you will have a newly rich life with yourself, and enhanced possibilities of real communication with others.”

– Philosopher Martha Nussbaum

I beg you, to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.”

– Excerpt from Rainer Maria Rilke’s 1903 classic, Letters to a Young Poet

Wishing you, wishing ME, more self-love, patience, music, reading & overall being enriched/guided by others’ STORIES!

You are amazing.

Erin

P.S. All photos are taken by me, from my travels the past few months – in order of appearance – Kansas (I live in the country now :) ! ), Niagara Falls, Colorado, San Francisco, Grand Tetons/Yellowstone.

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