Today I want to invite and welcome you to The Dignity of Suffering podcast. On this podcast, we are going to take a candid look at the trials and tribulations that come with being alive.
Each week I will explore a different aspect of this process, either by going in depth into important research, ideas and examples from my clinical practice and/or in conversation with thought leaders and experts in their field. Together, we will create a space to elevate our most difficult but necessary moments so that we can move through them with the respect they deserve.
The idea first sprung up in my early 30s when my grandmother took a turn for the worst. She was already battling arthritis and heart issues and then had a string of bad nights. As a result, each family member took turns staying at her place overnight.
One night, I was sleeping on her couch and she asked for help getting to the bathroom. To get her there, we wrapped our arms around each other like kids slow dancing at a school formal. Halfway there, a smile crept onto her face and she whispered, “We’re doing the washroom waltz.”
At that moment, I felt a wave of grace wash over me. My grandmother had summoned an incredible dignity while battling all kinds of pain and potential humiliation. She took care of me in the middle of all of her suffering by letting me know everything would be okay. She did this by finding language and humor for what she was going through.
This podcast is intended to be a conversation and a community. I am going to interview great minds who have dedicated their lives to helping us develop a curiosity about our experiences. They are going to help us bear the unbearable, say the unsayable, and live with dignity so we too can do the “washroom waltz” even when everything else is falling apart.
Naming Our Emotions
A big part of this podcast will be addressing this issue: many of us don’t know how to respond to the suffering we encounter in our lives.
Why is this the case?
There is a very powerful concept in neurology called name it to tame it. It means when we can name our emotions and put them into language, our brain feels like there’s a way out. The amygdala calms down when we name the emotions we’re struggling with.
However, many of us didn’t learn the language to describe our feeling states. That is why, when we feel lost and overwhelmed, we either want to curl up into a ball or become aggressive and fight.
Truth be told, many of our early experiences weren’t recorded into narrative memory.. When those pre-verbal experiences that we weren’t able to process or talk about come back up in our lives and we cannot name them, it is a huge threat to our stability. This makes us anxious.
However, we often rush into adulthood trying to get away from these overwhelming and vulnerable feeling states. Then all of a sudden, we are faced with intense situations and we don’t know what to do or how to talk about them. As a result, we find ourselves getting upset and/or pulling away.
I do not have any quick fixes or ready-made answers for you. However, I can offer a space to talk about and feel our most uncomfortable feelings so that we are better equipped to reach out to our loved ones and ourselves, turn our fears into kindness, and bring a sense of dignity to our suffering.
If you want to start diving into the podcast today, check out the podcast here.