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Pain, Anger, Sadness, Fear and Hope

My feelings about today.

I have had a rare tension headache since 9:00 pm last night. It is crawling up the back of the left side of my neck. And there is a sinking feeling in my stomach. Where are these feelings coming from? What core need is being impacted? I do not need to look far to understand. Relational value is the feeling of being known and valued by important others. At this point, I feel neither known nor valued by my country. As a whole, my fellow countrymen have repudiated the core values I hold dear. I am now experiencing a profound sense of alienation.

As is so often the case for humans, the deep pain I feel turns secondarily into rage and then contempt. How could they be so ignorant, so foolish, so misguided?

Then the loss hits. Eight years where I experienced a leader who showed integrity, grace, beauty—shattered. A deep dark emptiness creeps through me.

Then I look at my children and think about tomorrow. How will this impact them? A profound sense of uncertainty gives rise to catastrophic visions. My fear and anguish is profound.

Because of my training, I know that I need to lean into my feelings and rather than reject them, I need to first be curious and understand them. I know my headache and nausea are somatic responses to the fact that, at its very core, my body is processing emotional information that it is finding very difficult to digest.

I want to escape these feelings. I want it all to be a bad dream. But I recognize that a core aspect of having the privilege to be self-reflective being on this planet is that awareness involves suffering. And my feelings are something I must not run from, but lean into. Tears well as I do so.

As I understand and accept my suffering, I know I will, with time, work to cultivate an attitude of loving compassion for others. My fellow countrymen were trying to do the best they can. Although I certainly understand my rage and pain, it is also the case that what I am feeling likely has been felt by many that made this day happen. They do not intend to destroy. What happened is their way of communicating their own alienation, and need for a voice and for a change.

With this perspective, a glimmer of hope emerges. I know as a clinician that with crisis comes opportunity. And although today my feelings will not let me see it, I do believe that perhaps there is a hope that this disruptive force can be channeled in a constructive way. I hope this is true for the good of us all.

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