Although it is sometime ago now I found the trial of Oscar Pistorious quite compelling and wound up watching more than I really had time to. I also felt a little morbid to if true be told.
The entire event was laden with emotion, trauma and distress and the climax of the trial was especially gripping. Although his verdict was given before the actual end of the trial the proceedings were not finished until the Judge gave the court her justifications for setting his sentence.
She spoke about ensuring that actual law was seen be carried out (not law in the eyes of the man in the street she clarified), that the feelings of the families were taken into consideration and also that rehabilitation was considered. After this she went onto state the importance of something that I was not expecting at all...........
Mercy, she said, must be remembered. Mercy? Maybe its because I don’t watch many of these things that I was startled at the intentional inclusion of mercy. It did seem in some ways to be out of context, a person had died, a life had been lost forever and here the Judge is talking about mercy. Yet she did clearly state that the element of mercy had been integral in her decision making process.
Not long after this I found myself making some parallels to this within therapy. I so often see that mercy can be something that people can lack for themselves. Perhaps mercy is too strong a word, maybe forgiveness then, yet if not forgiveness then certainly compassion. If you were a fly on the wall in my therapy room you would see time and time again people who are furious with themselves because they feel they should be able to deal with things. People who are desperately frustrated for not living up to their (often unrealistic) expectations and excruciatingly disappointed and critical of themselves for not getting over things sooner.
This lack of forgiveness, mercy, patience and consideration for oneself dramatically hinders progress yet all too often it seems that people are hard wired to inflict the punishment irrespective of whether or not it is justified. Self-compassion at times can be in very short supply and in certain instances there can be a famine of it.
We could get bogged down into looking at where this comes from yet maybe more important is what keeps it going. The unforgiving media, beliefs that it will be a slippery slope, the next thing I will be that I am getting away scot free with everything?
I would encourage you to ask if you are giving yourself an excessively hard time, are you reducing your chances of moving on by declining to be compassionate to yourself? Is there room in your life for a little more mercy towards you? After all the Judge in Oscars case felt that it was essential and could not be left out.
So, what about you, you are your own judge and jury, what will your verdict be?
Will you throw the key to your cell away?
Will you give yourself a life sentence?
Will you be more lenient?
Final question, which approach will give you the best chance of your best future?
What goes in must come out. Mustn't it?
It is a blessing that most things which enter our bodies eventually find their way out again. Can you imagine the problems that we would have if some things didn’t!
People can and do vary in their eagerness to speed up the removal of such unwelcome visitors. This removal process ranges from antibiotics for infections, devices for removing splinters, liposuction for fat, (people can also take large quantities of laxatives to hopefully rid themselves of food consumed) surgery for shrapnel and things obviously become more imperative and urgent when tumours, cancers and growths are involved. Such things simply cannot stay in our bodies and quite often people are desperate to get them out and get them out for good wishing them never to come back.
Strangely enough this doesn’t always apply though when it comes to emotions, feelings, trauma and hurt, in fact a quite different set of rules seem to apply. This ranges from them being allowed to seep out at times of extreme emotional overload to emotions being suppressed, contained and denied, sometimes for decades. Alcohol can act as a catalyst to expressing feelings also at times the smallest of things can be the final straw and people can explode.
I understand the concerns that can be had about displaying how we feel and the consequences that can be feared as a result. Yet containment of strong emotions especially negative ones is definitely not sustainable long term. Emotions that are stored up do not reduce in intensity or go away, true, they may lay dormant although it can only take one small trigger to ignite them. Suppressed emotions lay in wait, growing in threat, waiting to pounce!
If you feel you don't know how to express your feelings it doesn't matter, there is no right or wrong way. The main thing is that you don’t allow them to take up residence, some people give them entire suites to live and thrive in and then wonder why they feel awful.
Finding a balance is often at the heart of overcoming anxiety, depression and most emotional struggles, stuff happens to us and our balance, our equilibrium, becomes fragmented. Internally our balance is crying out to return to a sense of harmony although it is often thwarted by a wasteland of unexpressed emotional pain and hurt.
You can't afford to wait until you have to go through the emotional equivalent of vomiting! Not if you want to move on, feel better and happier that is.
Just to say in case I need to, I am not at all suggesting that we turn into human emotional blancmanges, just that our emotional digestive system has a productive metabolism.
1. Contain and suppress emotions at your peril.
2. Leave yourself actually more vulnerable (than if you expressed them) by allowing emotions to fester.
3. Hinder your chances of finding your precious balance.
Simply put, just don't allow yourself to be a car park for emotional wreckage, if you do expect your life to get wheel clamped!