“Fuck you spiritual people for using gratitude as a bypass to your anger.”
Some people are Recovering Catholics…I’m a Recovering Spiritualist.
Working at a spiritual center for a long time had major perks. I learned a lot about myself, a lot about communication, a lot about trusting the capital U universe, was reminded that everyone is doing the best they can, I had a consistent meditation practice, and met some of the best people I’ve ever known (and still know).
I also learned a lot about hypocrisy, the dangers of groupthink mentality, spiritual bypass, gossip lives everywhere, and that having Big Emotions was a good thing and accepted…unless it wasn’t, depending on the person or the day you did or didn’t share them with.
I’ll pull it back around to the point of this post to say, the reason that this article (where the opening quote is pulled from) resonated with me is it felt like a really wonderful tool for my Recovering Spiritualist tool box.
I saw said article going around on The Book of Faces, and it was the first good thing I’ve ever read about What To Do With and maybe even How To Invite And Move Through anger.
Like, a solution to acknowledging and living with The Feeling that doesn’t turn to dialectical behavioral therapy techniques involving snapping a rubber band on your wrist or holding an ice cube–both cause physical pain response to “distract” from the feeling, which I’ve found more triggering than helpful.
It was not an elephant-journal-style Go Do Some Yoga And Become One With A Flower article…which, are sometimes helpful, but sometimes make me feel WORSE for not being able to just click in to nature and feel oneness because FUCK ONENESS I’M TOO MAD TO BE A DELICATE FLOWER RIGHT NOW.
Everyone has Big Emotions. I have more than I care to look at most of the time. Regarding the Practice Gratitude And Become One With A Flower articles, there is often a rotten whiff of put-your-feelings-aside-and-do-This-Thing-to-feel-better occurring (this can be described as “Spiritual Bypass”). That is generally not the true intention of these writers, but in the middle of a stormy place, at least for me, any stench of that turns me right the fuck off.
Spirituality used in an enlightened and mature way is all about understanding that life is about taking the good, bad, ugly, and boring and not shying away from any of it, simply attempting to be as present as possible. (SUPER EASY RIGHT?! HA HA LOL NO PROB BRO!)
Spiritual practices to help achieve this being-present state, such as gratitude and mindfulness, are awesome. They’re a fantastic way to get out of the bear trap in our own heads about things we usually can’t change in that moment. I feel that Gratitude, in general, is one of the most accessible love languages there is and helps to form instant connections between people and also to good feelings within one’s self. “Thanks for holding the door for me, stranger!” “I’m so grateful for this beautiful day.” This type of gratitude practice is truly a way to Be In The Moment and Present with what is occurring in that instant. It’s great. And important. AND HAVING SAID THAT:
Sometimes, I’ve found that using these much-written-about spiritual practices (gratitude and mindfulness among others) can also be wielded as a way to repress feelings instead of looking at them. Instead of working through them. I personally have long wired buttons (installed by god only knows who and it doesn’t actually matter even if I did know anyway) surrounding the idea that I shouldn’t be experiencing what I’m feeling. That I should Be Grateful and stop feeling furious or hurt or scared, or Get Over It, or Other People Have It Worse. Spiritually shaming myself for Not Dealing Better.
What I got out of the article, was a really great suggestion on how to look at that Scary Thing (for this writer, Anger) right in the face, acknowledge it, and being able to see it for what it is. And THEN something can actually be done about it. To not downplay something or water it down by tacking on a gratitude statement at the end. (“Fuck you spiritual people for using gratitude as a bypass to your anger.”) Name it. Call it Only Anger. That’s what it is. It isn’t Anger But. It’s something. It’s its own Something.
Fully experiencing Something, I’ve found, is the only way to move it through my body. Anger is something that lives in the body. It lives in the mind and gut and heart and cells, and it’s Real energy with Real consequences for holding it in. Like puking when you’re nauseous. Avoiding throwing up (because jesuschrist I HATE throwing up) is actually worse than just doing it and getting it out of my system.
Side stepping Big Emotions with spiritual bypass techniques (“gratitude” being the culprit in the article) without facing it head on is like walking around a small brush fire and sing-songily saying “whelp, that’s just a little fire, I’m going to avoid it, hopefully it won’t continue to spread!” Next thing you know your house in AllGoodville has been burned to the ground and not only have you lost your house but you also feel like a moron for feeling angry enough to have caused this fire in the first place AND I’M A TERRIBLE PERSON WHY COULDN’T I JUST MEDITATE THIS AWAY?!
You know why, Self? Because you thought you weren’t strong enough to look at what made you angry in the first place. Or you thought that the people around you weren’t strong enough to handle your Big Emotions or would be scared away or wouldn’t like you because of them. So, if you’re going to be grateful in this moment, be grateful for the lesson and choose different next time. Or try. Or try to try.
There’s this idea that something isn’t something until it is named, and once something is named, it loses its chance at being anything else. (The most eloquent explanation of this came from a stranger standing in line with me at the observatory on the roof of the Boston science museum a few years ago. He was a physicist. And might has well been a space magician.) Sometimes, taking away something’s ability to be something else is a sad loss-of-possibility thing, but sometimes, it can be a lifesaver.
My Big Imagination is the King of taking something small and through the process of infinite possibilities about What It Might Be, spinning it into Crazy Town (not to be confused with AllGoodville), where I become the mayor of a swirling apocalyptic nightmare of my own making. The Trees made of Worst Case Scenarios and all the rivers are made of poison and it’s always dark and windy and I CAN’T SEE ANYTHING HERE IN CRAZY TOWN WILL SOMEONE PLEASE TURN ON THE LIGHTS AND MY SKIRT IS BLOWING UP OVER MY HEAD AND NOW I’M EMBARRASSED TOO WHY DID NO ONE GIVE EVACUATION ORDERS?!!
For me, turning on the lights in Crazy Town involves saying What I’m Worried About, usually to someone else, Naming it, and then talking through the underlying fear surrounding it. Taking that Thing that was swirling around like a huge category 5 hurricane in Crazy Town and seeing that while that Thing might still be there, and it MIGHT even be as big as it feels…that I, me, Sarah, am actually okay in the middle of it. It has a name. It’s not The Nothing. It’s Something. The huge insane storm monster might Actually just be a squeaky little troll in a cape that is too big for his little body and he thinks he needs to fill it by being scary. It’s okay little troll. I see you. You’re good enough for my attention just the way you are.
My anger is good enough for my attention.
Part of my spiritual recovery has been to reclaim the practices that did actually feel good to have in my toolbox. Meditation, visioning, the law of attraction…taking these ideas and making them mine again, instead of feeling like they belong to a teacher or place. I had cast them aside because they felt like they belonged to something that I no longer wanted to associate with. Some of my steps forward have been to surround myself with people using them in different ways. It’s not always super comfortable. And, also, some of it just doesn’t work for me. And that’s great.
Gratitude for waking up in the morning, my health, clean water…I’m not talking about Those things. I’m talking about inventing a statement of gratitude to soften the power of and invalidating Big Emotions.
My offering is that we (I, me, myself) Full Stop between a feeling statement and a gratitude statement. Give them both room to breathe and exist. Use spirituality as a tool and not to distract.
And, in the mean time…
Fuck “no worries”
Fuck my slew of undiagnosed injuries that scare the hell out of me
Fuck this shit weather at the end of April
Fuck taking this too seriously
Fuck dogs for being so goddamn awesome that it breaks my heart that I can’t have ALL of them
Fuck the dudes bottling water from California
Fuck Bruce Rauner
Fuck feeling like I need to lose another 8 lbs.
Fuck the health insurance industry
Fuck maybe having to move again
Fuck not knowing if I should have kids or not
I’m grateful for being able to Fuck stuff, so to speak.