The Art of Emotional Pain

IMG_3156 – Bach Cello Suites, Yo Yo Ma

The Art of Emotional Pain

What do I mean by this? The Art of Emotional Pain? What is art? What do I mean when I use the word art? Art has taken many forms and in essence it is a physical expression of internal emotions, feelings and or ideas. It is also much more than that I am sure. The word art also implies mastery or accomplishment.

What is this art of Emotional pain? Is emotional pain separate from physical pain? For sure emotional pain informs the body. So perhaps the two are separate.

Emotion is a reaction, happy or sad, buoyant or sinking.

Why does emotional pain play such a big role in our lives? How do I create art from it?

It is wondrous for me to see how miraculous we are as human beings. How capable we are, how simple we are and how complex we are. We are capable of overcoming gargantuan maladies and we create solutions to solve major world problems. We can kill hundreds of people with just one bomb and help the survivors heal from their wounds both physical and emotionally to a degree.

We compose great music and create beautiful art, we are indeed a wondrous species.

As we succeed and triumph again, as we fail and fail greatly we can also be overwhelmed by a simple meaningful glance from a loving mother, a passionate partner, a loving pet or a small child. Alternatively one word, an angry tone, and an ill intention or a furrowed brow can impale our hearts just as deeply as a the sharpest arrow can. A rebuff or a rejection, not being heard or taken seriously can turn the tune of painful emotion to it’s highest pitch faster than the flick of a light switch.

We are indeed a wondrous species.

Some people who know me know that I love cello in the Bach Cello Suites. Why do I love this sound of the cello? I love it because for me it sounds like love, it sounds like the grief of loss. In fact it is something great in it’s beautiful rich sadness. It sounds like hundreds of tears being shed for having lost someone you loved greatly, through life or death. It sounds like pain. The sweet pain that releases tears, the tears of loving and losing. We know this one emotion of grief, one of many emotions is a natural part of life. The cello in this music sounds like a slow walk through pain back toward a place where life minus a loved one begins again. Johan Sebastian Bach tapped into something magnificent and from that he created art. Art so resilient that it has lasted for three hundred and twenty-nine years.

Thich Nhat Hanh says that ‘we are not beings we are inter beings.’

‘The observation that we “inter-are”, while true and poetic is not really the most important element of “Interbeing”. The important part is the realization that there is no independant self – that the perception of self, of “me”, of “mine” is an illusion.  Awareness that “I” am made of “non-I” elements leads to the understanding of non-self and it is the realizaton of non-self that brings an end to suffering we are bound together and we cannot live without each other.’

Even though we are not always aware, you-we are joined, connected and if we are not connected to ourselves it is impossible to connect to others. I can think of a quote and a subtle but effective affirmation that guarantees connection to self resulting in generosity to others.

‘Darling I love you!’ Thich Nhat Hanh
‘I love and approve of myself.’ Louise Hay

When we are connected to self we can see that the pain we experience from the other is also a pain we experience ourselves. Knowing this we can own our responsibility for the pain we bestow on others. ‘Don’t flick the switch’ and if you do be conscious of what you are doing.

This sounds as though I must always be hyper aware! But how is it possible to be continuously aware? Hyper awareness is not an option. Awareness is an option. Awareness is consciousness and simply being conscious does not require hard work and it does require love, diligence and a commitment to self. It requires a commitment to simply notice. Also be kind to yourself when you don’t notice, when you stumble into old behavior.

Allow yourself room for failure allow yourself the opportunity to stand up and try again. It is like building a muscle to make yourself stronger. A strong muscle does not simply appear because you wish for a strong muscle – it develops through repetitive use and nurturing. Through this type of careful consciousness the muscle grows stronger it becomes more resilient.

Resilience requires skill. Resilience does not require perfection. Resilience is the art and art is not the final product.

The art of emotional pain is in accepting that pain does exist and creating from it. It is in accepting that we are human and loving the human being in us. There is a beautiful humanity in recognising that we have pain. Pain wants comfort and love. Pain invites kindness and care. Pain needs space, acceptance and the creativity of the humans who inter-bear it. Over and over again.

We do not voluntarily put ourselves into the crushing arms of pain and there is a paradox – emotional pain is a part of who we are.

Today we are living in a rapidly evolving world – Because of this evolution we must maintain connection with one another.

We are indeed a wondrous species.

Theresa Norris 2014

photo by Theresa Norris

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