Okay, so this was going to be a more traditional anonymous Ask Havi about some of the different ways we can deal with heartache and pain.
But I was deeply touched by this woman who wrote to me, and I am so in love with the unique, quirky “I’m a real human being” way that she expresses herself that I wanted to share our correspondence with you in a more organic way.
She sweetly gave me permission to use whatever I’d like aside from her name, so I’m going to let you read her letter, my response, and her response to that. And then I will leave you with a heartfelt wish.
I think this is beautiful.
Here’s the letter I received the other week.
It looks absolutely crazy, but I like a little crazy, and with all the time I’ve spent on your blog in last few days (I can’t seem to keep off of it!) I totally trust your opinion. If you say it rocks, it must rock.
But that’s not why I’m emailing you. It’s because I just read your post about Healing Heartache (with a side of wackiness) and it totally threw me.
I don’t want to get too heavy with you but I just wanted to tell you how much that post meant to me.
I’ve recently gone through several coaching/therapy sessions over the last year, which weren’t necessarily great, but one of the early realizations was that, in addition to having a pretty crappy childhood, I never talked about it unless it was in a way that was fishing for sympathy, or the type of look-at-what-I’ve-been-through bragging.
Not a pretty realization to have about oneself. But, after that realization, there came an incredible wave of sadness.
It took me a while to realize that I was grieving for that little girl. I was so sad for her and I had to go through all that sadness to be able to see her clearly.
And in the process, I had so many experiences like the one you described in your post. Times where I went to her in my mind and talked to her or held her hand. It was awful, and hard.
And I’ve never heard of anyone else doing that until I read your post. So I just wanted to say thanks for putting up something that was so personal and close to you. It was amazing to read, it must have been tough to write, but it made a big difference to me. It’s nice to feel like I’m not alone and not so crazy.
And, if you have another moment, (I know I’ve already taken up a lot of your time), would you mind giving me a tip or two about “letting the pain feel safe“?
I’m working on self-compassion, and I’m working on meeting myself where I am, but that particular phrase, and really, the point of that entire post, seemingly to be okay with the pain, just struck me as so wrong-headed that it must mean I have work to do there. (Smile and sigh).
So, I’m willing to poke around there in my quiet moments and I just wondered if you had an idea or two that would help.
If you don’t have time to get back to me, or I’ve completely obliterated appropriate boundaries, I totally understand. No sweat. I just really wanted to write you this email. Maybe just for me. Thanks. Big hug to you and Selma.
And here is my answer.
Thanks so so much for your moving letter. It really means a lot to me.
It’s really beautiful that you’ve found your own ways to work through the healing you need. And even more amazing that you are going out and actively bringing self-acceptance into your life, and not putting up with things that aren’t serving you.
With letting the pain feel safe:
I definitely didn’t mean that we should just let the pain run wild or anything. More that you create a conscious space or container where healing can happen.
You kind of stop and say “Okay, this is me and this is my pain and yeah, there’s a lot of it … and this is where I’m at right now.”
What you want is for that pain to feel like it’s been acknowledged and known, so that you can start to let go of it.
It’s like, if you’re shooing a cat out of your apartment but the cat really has some message to give you, so it won’t go. If you let the cat look at you and show you its mouse or whatever, then you can open the door and it will leave.
So it’s not that you want the pain to be there forever, you just want to reassure it that you’re not going to kick it to the curb.
You’re going to let it be seen and heard (no more than you can stand, of course, only as much as is healthy and safe for you) so that you can say: “I see you and I hear you and I’m letting you exist so that you can leave me.”
Does that make sense? Or is that more confusing?
I’d also say: if this practice doesn’t resonate with you or it just pushes some buttons: skip it. If it doesn’t work for you, maybe it’s not right for you.
Don’t force yourself to work with ideas that aren’t helpful for you. Find the ones that help YOU feel safe and supported and loved as you work through all the stuff you’re working through.
Also: I absolutely think the Dance of Shiva stuff will help untangle a lot of this stuff for you. Yay for you for even trying it. Yes, it’s soooo crazy and yes, you’ll love it. I think. I mean, it’s the best thing that ever happened to me.
Best to you, my dear. Be kind to yourself when you can!
To which she said:
“Ah, I see. That makes more sense to me. I like the ‘container where healing can happen.’ That feels safe and helpful, like I can be with it without it ‘getting’ me.
The pain and the fear — it’s like all the stuff I’ve ever heard about how to ‘silence’ your internal editor (e.g. put her in a jar and close the lid, snip the balloon string, etc.). Which never worked for me.
And then I read somewhere that my internal editor was just trying to help because she didn’t want me to embarrass myself, or get laughed at, or fail, and I was like, “Oh, that’s so sweet.”
And now I can totally talk to her. When she goes nuts with her criticism, I give her hugs and thank her for helping, but then I gently tell her that now is not the time because I’m working on my first draft but that I’ll be sure to call her when I’m revising, which seems to make her happy, and then I feed her Milk Duds.
She likes those, and all that chewing keeps her busy!
But it sounds like I need to treat other forms of pain and fear with the same kind of acknowledgment and compassion (which simply never occurred to me). I think I can do that. That kind of practice sounds doable. (Hmmm, needing to treat more things in my life with compassion … I think I see a pattern here.)
So, okay, big, huge thank you to you and Selma. And thanks for also saying I can skip whatever doesn’t work for me, too. I tell you, the going easy on me and breaking of old patters is so new and strange. But, I’m getting there! And looking forward to the Dance of Shiva DVD.
Big hug to you and Selma!”
And my response to that:
You know what? You have a terrific writing voice. And really important stuff to say! And you should be blogging! Ohmygod. When do I get to read your stuff?!
Am I right or am I right?
Seriously. This woman writes so beautifully and so openly and truthfully about her process. What a unique voice. What real-human-being-ness.
Which is totally why I let her letters “guest-post” today. Aside from the fact that I thought the material might be useful for you, I’m actually convinced that we could all learn a lot from hanging out with her.
So I’m hoping she’ll join the ever-growing group of people who are — incredibly — being inspired by my Blogging Therapy series to pull up a seat here on the internet and share their words with the rest of us.
And who knows what they’ll end up inspiring us to do, right?
In the meantime, I’m so going to use this woman’s wonderful letters as a reminder for me to give some more time to my own practice of quietly witnessing my pain and giving myself love and all that hard but good stuff.
My heartfelt wish for you:
May you have the ability to tap into whatever reserves of strength you have in the moments when you need them most. May you feel brave enough and kind enough to feed your inner critic with Milk Duds when that’s what she needs and to ask for help and support and a hug when that’s what you need.
And may we all be able to write about it. Because writing is healing. But now I’m getting into “blogging therapy” territory. We’ll talk about that tomorrow. Mwah!