My client arrived for the session looking tired and stressed. He told me that two days ago, his dad had had a stroke.
We were in a meeting room in the bank where he works.
“Wow, I’m sorry to hear that. How are you feeling now?”
“Angry.” said David, (not his real name). “He’s been eating crap and not exercising for years. He’s a doctor for goodness sake. He should know better. I can’t believe his disregard for his own health. It’s going to happen again unless he sorts himself out.”
I thought there were probably some more vulnerable feelings going on underneath the anger, but rather than probe him about them, I suggested we meditate.
I instructed him to focus his attention on his breath, notice what feelings came up, and ask himself, ‘Can I be with this?’. We did it for about ten minutes.
Afterwards I asked him what he noticed.
“Sadness was the main feeling.” he said. “And then I asked myself “Can I be with this?” and I said no! I didn’t feel comfortable feeling sad. I don’t think I ever have done.”
“What’s wrong with feeling sad?” I asked.
“I guess I see it as weak. It’s a negative emotion. I also worry that it won’t stop.”
“That you’ll just feel sad forever?”
“Yes, although as I say that I know it’s not true. I also know really that it’s not weak.”
“It not. In fact it takes far more courage to be honest with yourself and other people about feeling sad than it does to suppress it. How did it feel to tell yourself, “No, I don’t want to feel this?”
“Right. Well suppressing how you feel never feels good, and it doesn’t work! It’s like pushing a beach ball under the water, it just springs back again even harder.”
He committed in that session to exploring more why he’s so resistant to feeling sadness, to talking about it with his wife and practising some body scan meditations that would help him feel it more.
A couple of sessions later, he told me he’s gone to see his dad, and talked to him about his health. He’d told him that he felt really sad about the fact that if he carries on like this, he’s going to drastically shorten the amount of time he can spend with his children and grandchildren
His dad was furious. His wife said later that she’d never seen him so angry. But David stayed calm, remembering that when he’d been angry before, it was covering over his deeper feelings, so he told his dad to just have a think about it.
The next morning, his dad came up to him and have him a massive hug, which was quite out of character. He had a big smile on his face and he told him “David, I’ve realised that I need to change the way I’m living. I want to get back in shape. I want have more years with you and my grandchildren.”
David was delighted. He felt like a massive weight was lifted from his shoulders. He’s optimistic that his dad will turn his life around. His wife couldn’t believe what had happened.
Before, he’d thought that by pushing away the feelings, it would help him concentrate at work. He now realised that dealing with it properly was actually what he needed to do in order to be able to focus.
As he reported all this he was smiling. He told me he’d never realised before ‘the Colossal Benefits of Sadness’.
I was touched and really proud of him. By having the courage to face into his own feelings, and to express them vulnerably to this dad, he’d improved the lives of everyone in his family, himself, and freed up a lot of head space to be able to perform better at work.
The truth is that we’re all suppressing or avoiding certain feelings that we don’t like. And we would all feel a colossal benefit if we did allow ourselves to feel them.
If it’s unclear to you what that might be, a great question to ask yourself during a meditation is “What am I resisting?”
If you’d like some help working through some anger or sadness, get in touch for a free consultation.