That’s all it took.
One sentence bouncing around in my head.
Slowly eroding the emotional walls that I had put up.
One sentence that annoyed the crap out of me but also brought about freedom.
I had no idea how much I had stuffed down, all in a massive effort to “just get over it.”
One sentence, that’s all it took for the dam to break loose…
“If you mute the pain, you’ll mute the joy.”
And just like that, all the pent-up emotions came gushing out. Anger, frustration, grief, anguish… more anger, more grief. It was like this internal storm cloud broke loose with a deluge of release and then after it had unleashed all its fury, the calm after the storm came. With the calm came clarity, peace, and the ability to feel, to feel beyond the numb and feel the joy.
Why You Have to Feel It All
As a hairstylist, I have recognized that my “Thairapy” times with my clients may very well be the closest they come to an actual therapy or counseling session, so I’ve done a lot of reading on psychology and counseling information, studying ways that I can help them with the difficult things they face.
One book that I have slowly worked my way through is Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by psychotherapist, Lori Gottlieb. In her book, she shares stories of sessions with her patients as well as her own therapy sessions—hence the subtitle, “A Therapist, Her Therapist, and Our Lives Revealed.” I have so many dog-eared pages and underlined sections, it’s not even funny. I soaked up so much information to give insight and help for my clients when needed, but that morning, what I read was for me and now dear friend, for you.
In the chapter titled, “The Psychological Immune System,” she says this:
“…many people come to therapy seeking closure. Help me not to feel. What they eventually discover is that you can’t mute one emotion without muting the others. You want to mute the pain? You’ll also mute the joy.”
Something deep within took notice and latched on to that paragraph. I finished the chapter, but my mind condensed it down to one sentence, “If you mute the pain, you’ll mute the joy.”
That One Sentence Provoked Me
As I went about my morning routine of waking the kids up, breakfast, and out the door, that sentence just kept playing on repeat. I get to the gym, pull up a message on my podcast, turn on my earbuds, and start sweating it out, trying to focus, but that dang sentence just kept popping up. By the time I had finished my cardio on the elliptical and started gathering the weights for my strength routine, I was beyond annoyed but finally recognized that it kept poking at me for a reason.
That’s when I shot up a frustrated prayer to my ever-present, internal Counselor and asked, “OK, I give. Why do you keep bringing that one sentence back to my mind, no matter how hard I try to shut it up?” True to therapist form, He answered with a thought-provoking question, “Why do you think I keep bringing it up?”
Ugh, I really didn’t want to go there, but evidently I needed to do my own poking around my inner psyche to investigate. What I discovered wasn’t pretty. Deep down, pushed into the dark corners of my soul, I had stuffed tons of thoughts and emotions all in an effort to silence them. In my effort to mute them, I had also muted some of the other emotions that bring about joy and peace.
I cannot give you all the details, but I’ve been on a roller coaster of a situation in my life for about 15 years. It’s taken me on highs of hopeful elation, feeling like things were good and about to change, only to take a nosedive back down into frustrating sameness. I would put energy and effort into chugging up the hill to progress, and just when I feel like we are about to build momentum for a breakthrough—just kidding! The situation takes a sharp turn back to Nowheresville, where nothing changes and everybody’s content with the same, boring routine.
I get tired of the routine, tired of the effort, so I go through seasons of just pressing mute. Go through the motions, just don’t feel. The feeling of hope and joy always seems to be crushed by frustration and anger. The feeling of progress and potential is always stifled by the grief of digression and lost opportunities. So, my inner self says, “Just don’t feel.” Push it down, get over it and go about your day. And honestly, that does work for a while… well, until one sentence takes a jab and unlocks the door, unleashing it all.
Finally, a Breakthrough
I finished one set of my strength routine and just stood there, allowing the Therapist of my soul to bring all those inner things into the light. He shined a spotlight on exactly what was going on, and I knew I needed to reach out. I sent out a quick text to a friend whom I had opened up to about this “situation” before and simply said, “Hey girl, I’m struggling again… I’m trying to resist the bitter, complacent place that pulls me down… I need your prayers.” Thankfully, she was able to text right back, and the next few minutes were filled with her compassion and encouragement.
She really didn’t need to say much, but reaching out started a vital internal dialogue in which I could process through the emotions. I did a set of push-ups, releasing the frustration. Then I typed out a sentence in our text, identifying why I felt so frustrated. Squats came next, and I let out all the anger I’d been sitting on. Then I added more to the text. This pattern went on as I went through my workout, tears mixed with sweat. I’m sure the older people in the gym that morning thought I was really passionate about my workout. Gosh, if they only knew the stuff I was working out.
On my way home, I couldn’t stop the tears from flowing. As soon as I got through the door, I plopped down on the couch and re-read the long text exchange of everything I had pressed mute on, allowing myself to feel them all in one final release of tears and snot until all I felt was spent and exhausted.
My wise, internal Therapist took advantage of the moment. I mean, there I was on a couch with a box of tissues feeling very open and vulnerable but ready for a breakthrough… and with a still, small voice, the familiar words of John 16:33 dropped in my spirit. “I have told you these things so that in Me, you will have peace. In this world, you will have trouble; but be of good cheer, for I have overcome the world.”
I have clung to this verse before, but at that moment, I had a whole new appreciation for it. I like how Jesus didn’t sugarcoat it, didn’t give a “suck it up” speech or some Christian flowery words like, “Let go, and let God.” No, He flat out said that if you live in this world, there will be hard days and sucky situations. There will be pain and frustration, but don’t let it steal the joy and peace you have in Me.
Jesus Feels It All With Us
I also thought about the shortest and easiest verse to memorize, “Jesus wept,” and how ironic it was that He released deep grief and sorrow while He was on His way to raise Lazarus from the dead. Why would Jesus weep if He knew that He was going to bring this man back to life?
I also pictured Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, deep in prayer as He knew His time to be crucified drew near. The Word says that He was sweating drops of blood—a sign of incredible anguish and internal pressure so great that tiny blood vessels had burst under His skin. Again, why did God point out the pain and internal struggle of the One who knew He would ultimately defeat the grave?
I believe that Jesus was teaching us that it’s okay to feel. And not only is it okay to feel, but we need to release those hard feelings in a healthy way so that He can do an internal swap. He takes your pain and gives you His peace. He takes your grief and replaces it with joy. Um, yes please!
I went about the rest of my day with tired, puffy eyes, but, gosh, I felt so much better. He didn’t change “the situation,” but He did change me, and I’ll raise a Hallelujah to that!
So, sister, how are you doing? What do you have stuffed in those dark corners? Whoa now, before you close this out and throw those walls up, let me ask you one more question: how’s that working for you?
With some post-meltdown clarity and chocolate, I could look back and see that I really wasn’t doing very well. In an effort to “hold it together” or “suck it up” telling myself “other people have way worse things to be upset about,” I was trying to control my feelings, but they grew and grew. Eventually, they controlled me—gaining the power to discourage and distract me from the things and people that usually bring me joy.
So yeah, it’s so true, if you mute the pain, you’ll mute the joy. Muting the feelings doesn’t make them go away, it just builds up more internal angst and pressure until all it takes is one sentence, one look, one commercial, one song, one teeny, tiny little pinprick and boom, it all comes gushing out and sometimes not in a very helpful or healthy way…and usually on the people you love the most.
If you’re tired of the emotional tug of war, I want to encourage you to learn how to overcome those internal struggles. I promise you can!
Try Following the Steps I Took to Overcome Internal Struggles:
1. Listen to the still, small voice guide you in a very personal counseling session. Let Jesus into those dark places, it’s OK—remember, He’s suffered too. He is not fragile, and He’s big enough to handle the full brunt of your emotions. Sister, you can’t hide and heal at the same time. Vulnerability feels scary, but with feeling comes the healing.
2. Break the silence and reach out to someone who will be a safe place for you to vent and fall apart if necessary. Don’t be afraid to go to a therapist or counselor either. Please understand this, you are no less of a person if you need professional help! They will help you sort through your thoughts and develop healthier ways to cope.
3. Process through your thoughts and emotions. I am feeling ________ because ________. Remember, your feelings aren’t the enemy. They are indicators and symptoms of inner things that need to be addressed and released in a healthy way. Yell outside, cry it out, punch a pillow, go on a run, take a day off for some self-care. Just know that trying to numb with other things (food, drugs, alcohol, sex…) may bring temporary relief, but deeper pain and regret later. Trust me, sister, it’s not worth it.
4. Have a good cry or pity party… just don’t stay there. Start a gratitude journal and start listing everything you’re grateful for. Studies have shown that this is a natural upper. Intentional gratefulness releases the feel-good chemicals in your mind, bringing about a sense of joy and peace!
5. Take advantage of the information that’s readily available. Here are a few resources I’ve found helpful:
Podcast: Cleaning up the Mental Mess by Dr. Caroline Leaf
TED Talks on The Power of Vulnerability by Brené Brown
And, of course, I hope you will discover all that The Grit and Grace Project has to offer: articles, podcasts, and videos to encourage and help you sort through the difficult things with which we all struggle.
At The Grit and Grace Project, we are in a season of sharing our stories and encouraging you to share yours in our HerStory collection. I’d love to encourage you to go on the journey of taking time to walk through your life story—the good, bad, and the ugly. A vital part of that is learning to be emotionally healthy—to feel, process, release, and heal—all with the love and grace from the One who not only paid it all, but felt it all.
That’s all it can take. He felt the pain, He endured the suffering, and He defeated all of Hell and the grave so you wouldn’t have to be held captive by your pain and your suffering.
He is your wise Counselor, your compassionate Healer, your rock-solid Friend. Open up and release to Him, He can take it! Jesus offers, “Come to me all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).
One Savior, that’s all it takes.
You’ll love this podcast episode from This Grit and Grace Life: How to Feel Your Emotions in a Healthy Way With Dr. Zoe Shaw – 075!