Our collective attention is, yet again, to the tender subject of suicide with the passing of Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade, most notably.
This has me reflecting on our fast paced, modern world. Our relative freedom and abundance also comes with immense pressures and intense challenges. Some of these look like the pressure to perform, to be happy, to "look good", or to get it "right."
Let's look at just one area where this shows up — social media. We see our friends, family, or celebrities, like Anthony Bourdain, living the apparent dream life. This can bring up questions for us either quietly or in a very significant way, that make us question our choices, our lives, our joy. "Why don't I have the dream life?" "What did they do to have such a perfect life?" These nagging questions push on us to be happy, to perform, to look good, and to conform.
We live in a culture where having things, – money, fame, titles, and fancy stuff are cherished above most else, even without a diagnosed mental illness, these pressures can spiral down into what I'll simply call dissatisfaction.
In her article "Regrets of the Dying" Palliative care nurse Bronnie Ware expressed the following 5 "surprisingly common" themes of dissatisfaction from her patients on their deathbed:
- I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
- I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.
- I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
- I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
- I wish that I had let myself be happier.
Happiness starts with being well
To foster 'true happiness' starts with being well.
Sleep well, eat well, move well, play well, relate well, and work well.
Be generous, live with integrity, and be kind.
Be your authentic self. express your feelings, be with friends, and have community, commune with nature.
Remember your true value does not decrease based on someones inability to see your worth.
Practice taking joy in the little things.
When we get stuck...Acupuncture and our shadow emotions
In Five Element Acupuncture we understand that emotions are a healthy part of being human. Our bodies are wise and we have emotions for good reason. The goal in acupuncture is to keep it moving - problems arise when we get stuck and stagnation of emotions ensue. By understanding the shadow side of the emotions, we can use them to heal, and take better care of ourselves and those around us.
The Wood Element – Depression
Appropriate anger uprises when we feel violated whether it's physically, emotionally, or mentally. That anger is there to serve us in taking effective action. When there is no appropriate expression/action this uprising energy gets stuck. Eventually the "explosion" upward turns inward and that leads to profound inner turmoil or resignation.
To Feel Better with the Wood Element: When you feel violated and anger ensues - take appropriate, safe, ethical, and effective action to right the wrong. A release of anger can be as simple as saying 'no', punching a pillow, or shouting alone from the gut in a safe space like your car with the window up.
The Fire Element – Mistrust & Cynicism
Appropriate sadness arises when we feel heart broken or disappointed. This feeling is there is to serve us in creating space, allowing the heart to heal. When there is no appropriate space or expression of sadness, this energy turns inward and brings about cynicism and a deep lack of trust.
To Feel Better with the Fire Element: When you feel sad, do your best to allow the feeling and give yourself a safe space to heal. Effective communication, having support through friends and community, or listening to music can be helpful in making room for the shadow side of the Fire element.
In a world that puts pressure on us to feel happy all the time, remember that beauty thrives in diversity of experience – it's okay to not feel happy. Give yourself the space and support you need.
Earth Element – Obsessive and Compulsive Worry
Appropriate empathy arises when we are concerned for the care of others. This feeling is there to serve us in creating a powerful bond with those we care about. When stuck, this energy turns inward and can bring about obsession, worry, and/or compulsiveness.
To Feel Better with the Earth Element: When you begin to feel worry, do your best to allow the feeling and not fight it. Remember to trust the process.
Practicing the art of gratitude is one of the best remedies for the feelings of worry and obsession.
Metal Element – Despair
Appropriate grief arises when we lose someone or something precious to us. Grief arises to help us create space, mourn and integrate that which we have lost. When we get stuck in grief, this energy can turn inward and bring about feelings of despair.
To Feel Better with the Metal Element: When you begin to feel grief, do your best to allow the feeling and not fight it. Remember to trust the stages of grief.
Creating ceremonies of remembrance and honoring is a powerful way to move the energy. Deep and powerful breathing also moves stuck feelings and relieves heaviness of the heart.
Water Element – Fear & Anxiety
Appropriate fear arises when we are placed in what we perceive as a dangerous situation. This feeling is there to serve us in creating safety and respect of that danger. When we get stuck in fear, this energy can turn inward and bring about feelings of overwhelm and anxiety.
To Feel Better with the Water Element: When you begin to feel fear, do your best to allow the feeling. If appropriate, heed the warning. If you need to move through it, breathe intentionally to promote feelings of courage.
If you are feeling anxiety, pay attention to what may be the root fear underlying those feelings.
Deep and powerful breaths develop courage to move through the fear. Meditation will also allow you to cultivate perspective so you can sort out what needs to be feared and what doesn't.
You are not alone & it’s not personal
When our emotions are balanced and flowing, they arise to serve and guide us. If they get stuck, try one of the suggestions above.
You are not alone, even if you’re feeling that way. Know that others are going through or have gone through similar experiences. Reach out! There are friends, family members, community centers, gyms, wellness centers, schools, classes, meet-ups, clubs, support groups, and support hotlines.
If you or someone you know is struggling and you find this helpful please feel free to share.
Wishing you a full and abundant life of allowing, presence, and harmony.
Lots of love,