Monday, July 6, 2015

Emotional Healing: You get out what you put in

I haven't written about healing from abuse in a while. I've been distracted and unable to focus, and healing absolutely takes time, focus, and intentional work.

Here's a confession: I hate summer. I hate the heat. I hate the irregularity of it, of no set routine and schedule. I have not found it possible to keep any kind of regular schedule in summer, too many things come up. Generally these are fun things, but it still throws me when life feels unpredictable and a bit over-crazy. And I hate having no time or privacy to myself, because the kids are always here.

I also have a long-term pattern of getting emotionally down and depressed in the summer. I used to think it had something to do with my birthday in early June, because that's when it always seemed to happen. Now I think it is the association from childhood that once school was out, I would be spending a lot of time with the relative who abused me. So there's this sense of dread that remains from that association, despite the fact that it's been years since I have seen him at all, and many more years since I spent any length of time with him.

So I'm trying to keep myself "up". I schedule fun outings with good friends, and keep myself busy with a huge front-and-backyard permaculture-style fruit and vegetable project. I try to do fun, relaxing things like reading mystery novels, watching a show or two, going on nature hikes, and doing the artistic stuff that feeds my soul and makes me feel at peace. (OK, that last thing which is maybe the most important thing isn't happening at all. Cite the lack of time and privacy written about above. Argh!)

Not to mention writing, which is barely happening either.

Despite my intentional efforts to keep my head above water, I'm still feeling the downward pull. I'm not giving in to it, but I do need to give it some time, space and attention. Because there is no other way to move myself forward and out of it.

The thing about emotional healing and depression is, you can't just ignore it. You can't tell yourself to "buck up", and simply talk yourself out of it. Depression doesn't work like that. Depression feelings are the little red flags in your lawn marking, "Look at this: there's a problem here. Attend to this spot, before the problem grows bigger."  Depression is telling you that there's something you need to work through, to come to terms with. And that doesn't just happen all by itself.

I think the Waldorf people or maybe the Quaker people have a label for this. It's called "inner work." A quick google search tells me the label actually comes from Jung. I like it, because it legitimizes the process as "work." It isn't just laziness, being self-absorbed or self-indulgent. "Naval gazing" would be one negative description. Our culture has many negative descriptions for what can positively be called "inner work". We tend to only value outer work that looks productive, or results in see-able, measurable gain or profit. It's an upstream fight to value and to pursue inner work, but the Bible tells us it is the unseen things, the eternal things, which are truly valuable. And that we should not be conformed to the culture around us. We should not take "the broad, easy road" taken by most folks that leads to soul-numbing and soul-death: If we are wise, we take the narrow, less populated path, the one that leads to life, instead.

But I still hear and tend to accept the negative labels inside. Even though I know better from my own hard-fought battles and hard-won gains.

Hopefully, for the rest of the summer at least, I can work something out.