Every now and then something strangely wonderful happens to me…in between everyday tasks and destinations, usually when I’m driving by myself, scooting around town between the grocery store and the gas station, safe and secure in the comfort of my car (although occasionally it occurs when I close my eyes to meditate). I think it has to do with getting really quiet and just being with my Self for a few uninterrupted moments, free from distractions. There’s nowhere else to be and nothing else to do. It’s one of those things that therapists, and other like-hearted people get to experience if we’re lucky, and willing, and open.
All of the sudden, the profoundly deep emotions I’ve been sitting with (but not consciously aware of) for the past few days or weeks or months, wells up in my heart and comes over me. For a few minutes, my heart becomes flooded with empathy for the suffering I’ve seen or heard about in my office; sitting across from the incredibly brave, resilient people who share their stories of trauma and triumph with me in therapy. It is large and powerful and unstoppable, like a tidal wave of compassion.
It sounds awful to be hijacked by emotions like this, but it really isn’t. I don’t mind crying, even when I’m sitting at a red light and someone in the next car can see me. I’ve actually come to feel so grateful for these moments and the fact that I am still able to feel my feelings to this extent…that I haven’t become so hard-hearted, desensitized, or cynical about life. Instead, I feel incredibly blessed that I haven’t built a wall around my heart.
Many of us build walls to avoid the intensity of our feelings, for fear of being swallowed up by them. To shield and protect ourselves, we use sarcasm, apathy, stoicism. At times, I too have fought back tears in an effort to remain composed, in control. And sometimes that’s necessary, important and even wise, depending on the situation. But eventually those feelings must be released and dealt with, or they become embedded, patterned in the cells of our mind-body.
In reality, when someone builds an actual sea wall, not only is the beach spoiled by the wall itself, but over time sand is lost in front of the wall until the beach eventually caves and sinks. It is the same with an emotional tidal wave. Ironically, our anxiety about being engulfed causes us to bottle everything up, which inevitably leads to drowning anyway.
It is a risk and a leap of faith to trust in the process of allowing and expressing our painful feelings, especially if we weren’t given permission to do so by our families, communities, or society, for various legitimate reasons. And it may be that we need to do it with someone secure like a therapist, mentor, wise teacher or spiritual leader… someone who can help create a safe container for those feelings and show us healthy ways to cope with them.
Our feelings hold sacred messages for us, and it is a gift we give ourselves to let emotions like these rise to surface to be released, explored and soothed. Afterwards, it is often healing and refreshing. In fact, much like how real tidal waves actually clean beaches and restore animal and plant life that has long been absent to the affected region, these emotional tsunamis have the capacity to cleanse and restore the soul.
The ocean within all of us is vast and mysterious. As life circumstances change, our internal tectonic plates shift from time to time, causing all of us to quake. Tides of emotion will ebb and flow, too. Eventually there will be another tidal wave. It is inevitable, and that’s okay. Let it come.
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