Latina superstar Gloria Estefan knows a thing or two about pain and loss. In 1990, her tour bus was crushed by a truck — and smashed several of her vertebrea. Doctors fused them with titanium rods but told the salsa queen that she’d end up in a wheelchair.
“Because I had studied psychology, I understand the stages,” Estefan later said. “You have to go through the depression, the crying. Then, at a certain point, I pulled myself up and said, ‘Okay, no more’. ”
The life-lesson from Estefan’s trauma and miraculous recovery showed up in the refrain and title of her 1993 hit, No Hay Mal Que Por Bien No Venga, perhaps the greatest cha-cha track in recording history. The words are a Spanish proverb which means, There is no bad out of which some good will come.
Can you find a way to hold the depression you are feeling from your loss as an internal energy that is poised to flip to the positive pole?
When it courses through your mind and body, grief manifests as a throat-choking, hemorrhaging, soul-sucking black hole. The Jungian psychologist and author James Hollis calls that energy a “black mass.”
Play with this notion: imagine the volume of energy that the black mass takes to produce those mechanical effects in you. Just see that energy for what it is: an internal power plant. A natural resource that’s 100% yours.
Hollis learned to thank the bouts of depression in his own life after a childhood of abuse “as a gift from the psyche.”
Other schools of therapy would try to remove the black mass by medication, behavioral modification or cognitive reframing . . . But none really honors the depression for its insistence that one’s life be changed. In that massa confusa a powerful will to life may be found, though presently it is obscured and unavailable.
To thank the depression as an angel, a “messenger” of attention and healing, seems bizarre to contemporary culture which pathologizes such mainfestations and seeks their rapid elimination.
And the mind goes, ‘HTF do you do you that when you keep having images of the lover you slept with for years, who checked out overnight and now shows less affection for you than they do toward the assitant at their dentist’s office’? Or the parent who died on you? Or the business partner who pulled the rug out from under you? Every waking moment seems to bring alive their casual brutality, to borrow Neil Bissoondath’s words — the hearteache that he or she has apparently inflicted.
Whatever was loved — an actual lover, a marriage, a stock, a self-image — kills in its absence. The mind freaks out at the vacuum the loss leaves. It’s compelled to fill a void with something.
Imagine, then, for a moment, if you were a person totally incapable of protesting what you miss. Just pretend. What does it feel like?
The moment will pass and then the pain is back — a pain in the ass that has as much a reality as the chair right under your ass. So give the painfulness the same place in existence as you’re giving the chair that’s supporting you right now. Immerse yourself not in the thought of the loss, but the sensation of the big empty space inside of you.
Step into it with a live-and-let-live submissiveness. Do it as if your personality isn’t even in the scene anymore, as if “you” have disappeared and all that’s there now are lumps of coals and waves of whatever passing through a sphere of awareness like a storm in the changing sky.
The weather changes, and you’ve just ’sat with your pain,’ as Buddhists would say. And the pain you felt maybe has a different surface to it. Transparent like a window pane. A looking glass into a totality that is you. A light-well.
When one can find that vital connection once again, the natural energy and purposiveness returns and the depression lifts. – James Hollis
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