WTF just happened??
I, like many, have been on a roller coaster of difficult emotions for the last week and a half. On election night my feelings shifted rather quickly from hope and excitement to disbelief, fear, and finally–by 2 am–to a numbed shock. The next morning when I finally pulled myself out of bed and allowed myself to FEEL, out poured a tsunami of tears and downright wailing. Like primal, from-the-pit-of-your-gut wailing. I surrendered to it. And thought I had no tears left to cry. I was wrong. (There’s always another layer.) Over the next few days my feelings have continued to fluctuate between grief, anger, disbelief, hopelessness, fear, despair, numbness, confusion, rage. And occasional glimpses of hope–but that was quickly crushed anytime I looked at the latest news.
Perhaps you can relate to my reactions. Perhaps you, too, are scared for marginalized groups–for those of other races, religions, identities and orientations. Perhaps you, too, are angry and protective of our planet, ready to fight for her. Still, I cannot pretend that almost one half of our country isn’t rejoicing at these results. Close to half of the country has a perspective quite different from mine.
That was a blind spot for me.
Many of us held the erroneous belief that the majority of people would not elect a president who is openly racist, sexist,homophobic, xenophobic, and misogynistic. I thought we were progressing. Apparently we have a lot of work to do. Those of us on a spiritual path might say we’ve been whacked across the heads by a “cosmic 2×4”. Or at least a national one. And the message to us all? “WAKE THE F**K UP!!!”
See, part of my tears and rage over the last couple weeks has been from reading the accounts of victims of hate crimes since the election–whether they’ve been the recipient of racist remarks, been threatened, beaten, or been sexually assaulted (it’s already happening, even in kindergarten classes.) But the truth of the matter is that these things have been happening all along. The hate and bullying has been here all along. It just wasn’t as acceptable, but now we have a president-elect who, in a sense, “gives permission” for these behaviors to exist. And all hell has broken loose.
So what is really going on?
I believe we’re being asked to tune in like never before.
On this path toward awakening and collective evolution, I believe we’re being asked to look closely… To look unflinchingly at all the grittiness that gets stirred in our own psyche in reaction to what happens in the outer world. And, once we’re aware, we’re being asked to make choices about the kind of world we’d like to create.
We’re being asked to see clearly.
In shadow work, the negative parts of ourselves that we’ve denied and disowned–and actually feel separate from ourselves–can only be integrated and overcome when we shine light on them. We have to see the parts we abhor. That’s what we do in process painting. We shine a light on that which we’ve denied and see what it has to say to us. That doesn’t mean we let the shadow run the show (or the country…ahem…) but we must acknowledge it in order to arrive at any kind of wholeness. That’s what I see going on on a collective level. The shadow is revealing itself. And for healing and integration to take place in our society, the puss must be able to drain from this open wound. So yeah, it’s going to be messy for a while. And probably painful.
We’re being asked to show up and feel.
In order for us to get through this and the planet survive (and I mean that literally–if you want planet Earth to remain inhabitable for human life for our children and grandchildren) then we must learn to 1.) Process our painful emotions and then 2.) TAKE ACTION from an awakened, empowered state of being.
I was caught in my emotions this week. I was feeling them, but sometimes not all the way through. They were painful–and sometimes it’s easier to carry the anger around with me and commiserate with those who feel the same than it is to feel it all the way through. This is the danger in knee-jerk reactions. If we’re on fire with anger and we immediately turn it outward without mindful investigation and letting it burn, then we’re just dumping the difficult emotion on others and spreading more hate and suffering in the world. Which makes us less effective at whatever we’re trying to change. As we see with many activists, it can lead to burn-out. The most skillful way to work with difficulty is to clearly distinguish between our personal feelings (how they are sensed directly in the body) and the action we might feel inspired to take once the feelings have been processed. (Thank you to my insight meditation teacher Robert Brumet for these words of wisdom that I’m still trying to put into practice.)
How does this look? It means give yourself the necessary space you need to fall apart. And all the time you need. Let yourself scream, cry, punch pillows. Let yourself fling paint onto paper. Let yourself lose it completely. Feel your feelings as they show up in the body. Feel them FULLY. In a safe space. Every time something shows up, feel it. Let the anger burn through you. Let the grief break your heart. Let it consume you.
Having come out the other side of the storm, you might (or might not) feel inspired to take action. This is important: The action you are led to take will not be reactionary. It will not be an attempt by your subconscious to dump the uncomfortable feelings elsewhere. It will be an awakened response.
We’re being asked to take inspired outward action.
Your response could look a number of ways and will be personal to you. It might be to spend a few minutes a day visualizing the world you want to see… and maybe that’s enough for you. It might be to wear a safety pin to let others know that you vow to take a stand and intervene in the face of bullying and bigotry. You might be led to donate to and/or volunteer for organizations that stand for social justice. You might feel led to sign petitions or call elected officials or join peaceful protests and march publicly. You might be inspired to write a song or paint an image or engage in important conversations. Your guidance might shift and change as different needs arise. But the important thing is that your guidance will arise from your own deeply rooted center. It’s a natural expression of your being, versus a reaction.
To recap, I believe the results of this election are a wake-up call to:
- Feel your feelings.
- Express them in constructive, non-violent ways.
- Take empowered action to affect positive change.
This is how we will create the world we want to see. It will not happen by criticizing those who possess values different from one’s own. It will not happen by spewing unfelt anger onto the world or closing off and drowning in our own despair. But it WILL happen by moving through each intense emotion in a supported way and then choosing what we each want to create in the world.
Sometimes in our complacency it takes a fire underneath us to wake us up. An metaphorical earthquake. A pole shift, of sorts.
Here’s the call. The time is now. How are you showing up to your experience?
How will you respond? ~
Do you need help processing what is showing up for you?
Creative Nectar Studio has several resources to support you on your creative path to self-discovery…
Attend an on-site process painting workshop in Kansas City, Tuesday Dec 6th from 6:30-8:30 pm. A safe space where all are welcome. Facilitated by Jenny Hahn.
Schedule a one-on-one process arts session with Stephanie Gray, or one of our adjunct facilitators offering different processing modalities.
Join Nectar’s online group La Chispa for ongoing creative support and prompts via email and Skype sessions. Led by Stephanie Gray and Sarah Oblinger. More information>