Let’s face it – we all go through difficult times. Everyone experiences some pain, whether physical, mental, spiritual, or emotional, at some point in their life.
During those challenging times, our tendency is to grasp for relief. Just like when we get a headache or our back is in pain, we reach for the ibuprofen to alleviate the discomfort. We want it to go away, quickly.
I’m grateful for the Tylenol during those times when I needed pain relief, fast. But we know what can happen when the medicine wears off. There’s always a chance that it will come back. Then, we’re faced with the same choice again – reach for the relief.
The Problem with the Relief Approach
There’s a limitation, a bit of a problem with this approach, especially when it comes to emotional pain. Painkillers don’t deal with the cause of the problem. They are just symptom relief. That relief is appreciated, but it’s not changing the source of the problem.
Immediate pain relief with emotions doesn’t work as cleanly as it does with ibuprofen. Unfortunately, some people turn towards drugs, alcohol, food, spending, or gambling to alleviate the pain. As with the ibuprofen, it may work for a while. But it always wears off, and then we’re faced with the depression, anxiety, anger, worry, or grief again.
If each of us knew there was a choice – if we knew there was a more effective way out that had lasting power – we wouldn’t be seeking relief so much. We’d be looking for release.
Release is Empowering
Relief is quick, but temporary. It depends on something outside of us – a medication, an addiction, or a quick feel-good action to distract us. Release takes longer. Sometimes quite a bit longer. It requires us to work at it and develop the skills and tools necessary to let go. But it’s within our power. We’re the ones learning to release. We’re the ones in charge and capable of letting go of the hurt, anger, and stress.
The best thing about the choice to release is that it’s sustainable and renewable. Release is a skill you can develop. As you practice it, over time you get better at it. When life becomes painful again, you know exactly what to do – you already have the skill to know how to release, if you’re willing to keep practicing and working at it. That’s empowering.
Release comes from within you, not outside of you. If you’re clenching a stone in your fist, only you can gently open your hand and release it. If someone has to pry it out of your hand, that’s not called release. That’s force and force isn’t always healing.
Relief works at the surface. It numbs the nerves so you don’t feel what’s going on. Sometimes, it provides a brief and needed respite. But it doesn’t seek the roots. Release practices, which aim at transformation at the ground level, seek the source of the situation. They help you to reconfigure the foundation from which that pain arose so that those emotions don’t consume you like they used to. They won’t be totally numbed out: what’s different is that you’ll be bigger than those emotions; you’ll see clearly where they arise from, and you’re empowered to move through them consciously into a more expansive sense of yourself.
A Bit of Relief, a Lot of Release
I see my work as a therapist as a little bit of relief, and a lot of release. Of course, we want to alleviate the pain. Nevertheless, I want my clients to leave sessions feeling more capable and empowered, to have practices and a new perspective that shifts them out of the old, painful patterns. Into more joyful, calm, and fulfilled ways of living.
As a yoga teacher, the approach is the same. We can bring more ease to the body through an hour yoga practice. But the real transformation comes from shifting our mental state to release physical and mental habits that create tension, and invoking meditative and mindful practices that bring about inner peace.
It’s OK if you want some relief. We all do. But don’t stop there. Rather than finding yourself back at square one again when the relief wears off, use that time of relief to create lasting, empowering change. Find someone to assist you in releasing the patterns that keep you stuck and suffering, so that you become the source of your own relief, and greater, transformative release.
Want to get started? I wrote my book, Awakening from Anxiety: A Spiritual Guide to Living a More Calm, Confident, and Courageous Life, to give you some of those tools to release worry, stress, overwhelm, and fear, and find your inner place of calm. Or Contact Me about upcoming online programs designed to bring deep healing and release.