Sunday, June 26, 2011


A former palliative-care nurse chronicles the most common regrets expressed by her dying patients. I found this passage particularly interesting:
3. I wish I'd had the courage to express my feelings.

Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others. As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming. Many developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result.

We cannot control the reactions of others. However, although people may initially react when you change the way you are by speaking honestly, in the end it raises the relationship to a whole new and healthier level. Either that or it releases the unhealthy relationship from your life. Either way, you win.
But it's not quite so easy as all that, is it? The rub is found in the first sentence: "Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others." But what kind of peace, exactly? What is the anti-peace we are afraid of? I have a theory. (I know you're not surprised to hear this.) If we express our anger, if we express our hurt to someone else, I think we run a very serious risk of having to hear their anger, and their pain, and all of the things that we did wrong. Pain and hurt are almost never a one-way street. What we really fear, then, is hearing that we are bad people. And if you have one person who is better at presenting this case than another, or you have a family system in which shame is liberally applied, then of course you'll strike the devil's bargain in which feelings are quieted in order to avoid what feels like a crushing judgment.

So it seems like a good time to remember the Wavy Gravy quote (which I encountered for the first time in Elizabeth Lesser's book Broken Open): "We're all bozos on the bus, so we might as well sit back and enjoy the ride."

We all suck. And you know what? This is good news.