This too shall pass
Won’t it? This moment will be as gone as the one that preceded it — just as fast! It’s an obvious and fairly ridiculous cliché. I was on a call recently where we asked some folks to give imaginary advice to an imaginary person, using COVID-times as a template for how one might overcome hardship. This was the response of several of the partiipants. “This too shall pass.”
I call bullshit.
Well, I didn’t in the session, but I will now. Notice how we never say that about the things in life we like? The concert is awesome! This too shall pass. This is the best meal I’ve ever had. This too shall pass. I had no idea my wedding day would be so amazing. (Say it with me…) This too shall pass.
No, of course not. We don’t say it because we want to enjoy what we are enjoying. So, why do we say it about things that we find difficult. Challengeing. Painful? Because we don’t want to feel that. But here’s the deal: we are going to have to feel it eventually. We are going to have to move through it if we are going to be rid of it. This too shall pass is a nice attempt at bypassing. It’s a great way to try to dodge the heaviness of the moment.
To those participants, I wish I’d said something like, “Yes, it will pass. But what is actually true for you right now? What weight are you feeling — even if you aren’t able to name it? What is it that you have had to give up in the midst of this traumatic event?” It’s not that I want people to be traumatized. It’s that I want people to experience the fullness of their lives. How can we do that if we are going to run toward the emotions that we prefer, and avoid, or worse, deny, those that we don’t?
Our lives are made up of many, many small moments. Moments that come and go. Moments that pass. Those moments carry with them differing degrees of feelings. What might life look like if we became more willing1 to experience them all as the move through us? What might life feel like if we were able to learn to surf those waves?
Regardless, there is one thing we all know is true.
(Say it with me)
Something that’s on my mind here: I’m aware that sometimes — perhaps even often — bypass is a trauma response, meaning a defensive act. In this case, it’s wise to let the intelligence of this response guide. That said, how often do we let our defenses work far longer than they are necessary? I had a therapist who always used to say, if you’ve got a sledgehammer, and need to kill a fly, best to get some new tools, lest you destroy your house.↩