How to meet neighbors

“Feel, he told himself, feel, feel, feel. Even if what you feel is pain, only let yourself feel.”

—P.D. James

In the name of personal responsibility, I have often diminished my pain. (Yes I realize that doesn’t make actual sense but it seemed to make sense at the time.)

I have ignored my own hurts, dismissed my own needs to the point of neglect, and, very often, not allowed myself to feel offense, anger, sadness, and grief.

I’m also a big fan of using humor to deflect attention that might pull my defenses down, and to distract myself and others from the idea that I have any pain at all.

What happens?

Does it work?

Does the pain diminish?


Heal itself?

Go away?

Ha, haha, no. No, it does not.

The pain remains, I think, until it gets acknowledged. I don’t know all the psychology of it, but repressed emotions don’t disappear, and the soul is not satisfied unless it can experience and express what’s going on in there. All of it.

Maybe the one thing the soul cannot abide is insincerity.

Or maybe it’s undercooked potatoes.

Anyway, what happens when I don’t care for my own pain is that I wait on other people to do it for me.

I pass along the burden of recognizing my own hurts, and healing them, to someone else.

I wait for someone else to acknowledge what I’m going through, so it can be seen, can be validated, can be expressed and felt.

I seek recognition of my pain from outside of myself, but the truth is…

…that never quite does the trick.

One of the most healing things I’ve learned to do lately is talk to myself.

In moments of overwhelming emotion, I sit still a moment and have a little conversation.

I try to do it quietly.

“Hey,” I tell myself, “this is tough, huh? You’re really hurting.”

“Yeah,” I answer back.

“Wow, I see that,” I say. “There’s a lot of pain in there. You’re trying so hard. You feel so sad right now. It’s really heavy. This is sad, this moment, and it hurts.”

“Yeah,” I sniffle back at myself. And I take a deep breath. And strangely enough, I feel better.

Then I glance up and wave awkwardly at the neighbor one balcony over, who’s looking at me kinda weird. If you’re going to adopt this practice, I recommend holding your phone to your ear while doing so.