emotions

Understanding Ambivalence: How Recognizing the Push-and-Pull of Your Desires Can Set You Free

title_understanding_ambivalence_how_recognizing_the_push_and_pull_of_your_desires_can_set_you_free_restored_hope_counseling_therapy_ann_arbor_michigan_christian.png

Think of the last difficult decision you had to make.  Maybe it was as simple as where you’d like to go out to eat or as significant as a change in career path.  What makes the decision difficult is the tension between the options: you might desire some more than others, or fear the downside if you make the wrong decision.  Eventually, the choice is made when one benefit outweighs the other and you feel confident enough moving forward.

But what happens when you get stuck between two desires?  Or worse yet, when you feel two opposing emotions about something at the same time?  Have you experienced loving someone and hating them in the same instant?  What about wanting closeness and intimacy, but pushing others away by your actions or words?

In these examples, what you’re experiencing is a phenomenon called ambivalence. 

What is ambivalence?

Ambivalence is often thought of as apathy or indifference, meaning you don’t care much about something or that it doesn’t matter to you.  On the contrary, ambivalence involves strong desires or emotions in opposition to one another.  You may feel pulled in two different directions at the same time, or you might flip-flop back and forth between two feelings.  This can take place in both simple decisions (where should we go for dinner?) as well as major desires (is this the person I want to marry?).

As time passes and you struggle to resolve these opposing emotions, you might find that you do experience a form of apathy.  The indifference is a numbing response to exhaustion from the tension of trying to balance both sides at once.

What in my story might cause ambivalence?

Ambivalence is common for survivors of sexual abuse or assault as they deal with the aftermath of their abuse.  In many cases, the abuser is someone with whom the survivor has a close relationship.  Positive memories and experiences with that person get mixed up with the abuse, and the confusion of feeling drastically different emotions toward the abuser can be overwhelming. The survivor may also struggle with aspects of sexual abuse that felt good when they confront the damage it has done in their lives.

Similarly, many partners of sex addicts experience the addict’s behaviors as a sexual violation against the partner.  Confusion around staying in the relationship to work things out or leaving is common as they try to reconcile the person they love with the addiction that has destroyed their relationship.

For addicts, shame is a major factor in ambivalence.  Addicts live a double life, attempting to balance the addictive thoughts and behaviors with the normal, everyday self.  Breaking off into these two versions of the self helps to ignore or deny the tension of ambivalence around the double life.

Ambivalence can appear in depression and anxiety as well.  If you’re anxious, you may hate being alone but feel terrified of breaking into a group or connecting with others.  In depression, ambivalence can appear when you lack the motivation and energy for self-care and yet know that the way to feel better is through exercising, spending time with loved ones, or other activities to take care of yourself.

How can I recognize my ambivalence?

One common characteristic of ambivalence is all-or-nothing or black-and-white thinking patterns.  The rigidity of thought patterns requiring a choice between two extremes is what makes the tension between them feel so difficult.  Sitting in the gray area of wanting two things equally and being unsure of what the right next step is can be stressful.  Often, that leads to a desire to escape.

That desire to escape is where apathy and numbness come in.  When alternating back and forth between the two desires or emotions becomes too much, you feel defeated by the struggle.  Rather than staying with the tension, you might just throw in the towel and numb out with addiction or distraction. 

How can I deal with my ambivalence? 

Acknowledge that there are gray areas.  Instead of the rigidity of black-and-white or all-or-nothing thinking, allow yourself to recognize that you can (and are!) feeling or desiring two seemingly opposite things at the same time. 

Press into that knowledge and explore your ambivalence with God and others.  Talk about it with a therapist or trusted friend and explore what might be coming up with each of the desires.   

As a Christian, ambivalence leads to greater intimacy with God.  So many Psalms contain ambivalence: lament, pain, and crying out to God; followed by reminders of the goodness of God and his character.  Often the Christian life involves suffering while also seeking to place hope in God.

Name your desires, even if it hurts to put words to them.  The naming of desires is painful because it involves grief, in understanding that your desires aren’t met yet and you may never see those desires realized.  But recognizing and working through that grief leads to life rather than numbing or escapism.  Addicts in particular struggle to know their true desires, as addiction has offered immediate relief or numbing from desires in the past.  In owning and acknowledging desires, addicts receive freedom to seek out other ways to meet that need instead of through addictive behaviors. 

Learn to practice acceptance. Acceptance isn’t settling for the status quo or pretending that things are okay when they really aren’t.  Instead, acceptance involves recognizing the reality of where you are right now in this present moment, and reminding yourself that you’re okay.  If you aren’t satisfied with what you’re experiencing in the present, acceptance invites you to explore what you might like to change in the future.  Accepting your ambivalence helps you to begin to be curious about it and seek out the story behind your ambivalence.  Understanding your story opens you up to change.

pinterest_understanding_ambivalence_how_recognizing_the_push_and_pull_of_your_desires_can_set_you_free_restored_hope_counseling_therapy_ann_arbor_michigan_christian.png

Do you struggle with ambivalence often in your life?  Have you gotten to the point of numbing and indifference after a long struggle with ambivalence?  Or do you notice rigid and inflexible thinking patterns that make it difficult to make decisions or practice kindness toward yourself?  At Restored Hope, I offer counseling services to help you understand your personal story of ambivalence and how you can move forward into greater acceptance and awareness of your desires.  Give me a call at 734.656.8191 or email me today to schedule your first appointment.

Unspoken Family Rules: How They Shape Your Decisions Today

title_unspoken_family_rules_how_they_shape_your_life_today_restored_hope_counseling_ann_arbor_novi_michigan_sex_and_love_addiction_christian.png

Have you ever noticed how much families differ from one another?  If you’re married, dating, or have even lived with a roommate, you’ve likely experienced friction as a result of these differences.  You’ve learned certain patterns from your family-of-origin that are different from other families.  Perhaps your loved ones clean differently than you do, cook certain recipes that have been passed down through generations, or have a different morning routine.  These patterns aren’t necessarily negative: just different.

But what happens when the messages you’ve absorbed from your family-of-origin create problems for you?  Maybe your spouse wants to talk about their feelings when they happen, and your philosophy is just to keep quiet and move on.  Perhaps apologizing is difficult because it wasn’t modeled for you growing up.

We assume these patterns of behavior are “normal” because we don’t know anything different.  We expect others to act in the ways our family did.  However, what we come to realize is that these patterns of behavior aren’t always healthy.  Unhealthy coping patterns learned as a result of these unspoken family rules can lead to addiction and dissatisfaction.

What are unspoken family rules?

As a child, you likely had some rules that were clearly outlined.  A curfew, allowance, and chores often have direct and clear expectations.  However, there are often “rules of engagement” in relationships, such as how you speak to one another, the way in which emotion is handled, or identifying who is responsible for consequences.

When these rules are unspoken, as is often the case, you learn them more by the response when you unknowingly break one.  You also might learn from your parents’ modeling of behaviors.  If your parents never talk about their feelings, for example, the precedent is set for you to do the same.

We internalize these “rules of engagement” and pick up unhealthy coping as a result.  If you were taught that it wasn’t okay to experience a negative emotion like anger, then you aren’t given tools to handle anger when it comes up in your adult life.  You may shy away from it or find yourself exploding when it arises and then feeling intense shame. 

Common Unspoken Family Rules

Don’t talk.

This family rule doesn’t mean that you aren’t speaking to one another, but instead that you don’t have conversations about uncomfortable topics.  Certain areas of discussion are off-limits.  This breeds secrecy and hiding, both inside the family and outside as well. 

You might notice this with an alcoholic or drug-addicted parent.  All the family members may be aware of the problem, but you don’t talk about it, instead discussing lighter topics and ignoring the larger issue.

Don’t feel.

Have you ever seen the film Frozen?  (If you’re the parent of young children, my guess is you’ve seen it more times than you’d care to admit.)  In the movie, Elsa has magical ice powers that spiral out of control when she feels negative emotions.  To manage these powers, her parents isolate her and explicity tell her “don’t feel.”  But she soon finds this is impossible, and the plot of the film unfolds as she loses control of her emotions.

It is impossible not to experience negative emotions.  But if they are unacceptable in your family-of-origin, you don’t learn how to manage them properly.  You might become numb to certain emotions or struggle to control them.  Emotions may be seen as a sign of weakness.  Christian parents can sometimes give messages that certain emotions are sinful or signify lack of faith.  Emotions such as anger, fear, hurt, and sadness are commonly minimized and implied as unacceptable.

Another way a child can absorb this unspoken rule is by observing parents’ strong reactions to negative emotions.  If your parent becomes abusive while angry, you’re likely to avoid anger out of fear of losing control.  If you had a parent who was consumed by sadness or depression, you may have learned to take on the role of the positive one who brought up the mood, and sadness will feel foreign to you.

Blame-shifting.

Anyone who breaks unspoken family rules becomes the scapegoat, taking on the blame.  If you speak up as a child against these family rules, you get targeted.  Others who break the rules are blamed as well, such as extended family members who attempt to change dysfunctional family dynamics into more healthy patterns.

If you talk about your parent’s addiction to a teacher, for example, your parents may punish you severely and blame you for the problems the parent is now facing.  You’re told consequences are your fault for speaking up.  The teacher may be made out to be the villain and blamed for their role. 

Children are great observers but horrible interpreters.  When you’re told there’s something wrong with you as a child, you believe that what your parents are saying is true, even when it clearly isn’t.  As an adult, then, you’re more likely to distrust any positive qualities and focus on the negative.

Deny any problems.

Similar to the “don’t talk” rule, denial involves hiding problems under the rug and pretending they aren’t affecting you.  Phrases like “stop making such a big deal out of it” are a hallmark of dysfunctional families.  Imagine an alcoholic parent whose spouse enables by covering up the addict’s behaviors.  Children then learn to minimize their parent’s drinking, even when it leads to abuse or other problems.  In domestic violence situations, children may learn to lie about any injuries they sustain.

This can lead to dissociation in adults, where you cut yourself off from any negativity in your life and compartmentalize to avoid distressing thoughts or feelings.  You might doubt your perception of reality because it had been questioned for so long as a child.

Boys should be… Girls should be…

You may have picked up how boys and girls are supposed to act in a variety of spoken or unspoken family rules.  Phrases like “boys will be boys” or “girls should be prim and proper” are often used to direct behavior.  Often these gender roles can be exacerbated by traditional “Christian” values that often have little basis in Biblical truth.

Appearances are everything.

Focusing more on the external than the internal is a common unspoken family rule.  Perhaps you learned to put on a good face even when there are problems at home, addiction, or arguing.  Body image issues can arise from this rule as well, as you may be taught to wear makeup or be a certain clothing size to hide any emotional distress.  You are taught to pretend that everything is okay on the outside while your emotions are raging on the inside.

Your value comes from what you do/produce.

This unspoken rule teaches you that academic achievement, financial success, Christian service, or some other measure of external success is what makes you worthwhile.  You might feel like you have to be a “good kid” at the expense of being able to make mistakes.  As an adult, you begin to question your value when you make mistakes or fail.

What are the unspoken family rules you experienced growing up?

How can you name these rules today so that you can break the patterns?

  • What were topics that were off-limits for discussion in your family?

  • What emotions were unacceptable in your family?

  • Did you learn to shut off any negative emotions?  Which ones?  Why?

  • Where do you tend to place blame when something goes wrong?  Yourself?  Others?

  • What gender roles did you learn from your family?

  • When do you find yourself putting on a mask to pretend everything is okay on the outside?

  • Is it okay for you to make mistakes?  Where does your value come from?

As you reflect on the above questions, are you becoming more aware of the dysfunctional patterns in your family?  Have they impacted the way you interact with others or feel about yourself?  Do you find yourself swallowed up by shame or unable to feel certain emotions?  My role as a counselor at Restored Hope is to uncover these distorted messages you carry around and help you experience a new, healthy way of relating to yourself and others.  Give me a call at 734.656.8191 or email me today to schedule your first appointment at my Ann Arbor counseling office.

Are You Living Like The Walking Dead?

title_are_you_living_like_the_walking_dead_restored_hope_ann_arbor_novi_therapy_counseling_christian.png

This Sunday, AMC premiered the 8th season of The Walking Dead with the series’ 100th episode.  It’s fascinating to see how much this show has maintained its popularity through the past 8 years.  Part of the draw in our culture toward TV and movies that focus on zombies is that on some level, we can relate.

Have you ever heard yourself or someone else utter the phrase, “I feel like a zombie”?  Whether it’s because we’re exhausted, stressed, or overwhelmed, we can find ourselves having a hard time functioning.  While feeling exhausted might be remedied by a good night’s sleep, sometimes we feel like zombies caught in the day-to-day of our lives.  We can be emotionless and struggle to make it through each day.  We lose sight of our hopes and dreams for the future, as the fog of everyday stress fills our mind.

One hallmark trait of zombies is their insatiable hunger.  That hunger is what makes them so dangerous.

At the same time, we can relate to the sense of being hungry for something more.

We desire for our lives to have meaning and purpose, to feel content and whole, but we often settle for filling our hunger with things that don’t satisfy.  We can become addicted to alcohol, drugs, sex, shopping, food, or gambling.  We can become entangled in dysfunctional or codependent relationships.  We might fill our lives with things that make us busy so we don’t have time to feel longing for more.  We might spend our money on bigger and better things as an attempt to make us feel happy.  But sadly, none of these satisfy us.

What are you hungry for?

What are the things that you desire?  If you’ve numbed out in any of the above ways, it’s likely that question hasn’t crossed your mind in some time.  Nothing may come to mind for you.  Here are a few questions that might help spark your curiosity:

  • If you could change one area in your life that would make it infinitely better, what would it be?

  • If you could wave a magic wand and have the life you want, what would it look like?

  • What do you daydream about? Why? What will that give you?

  • What were the things you loved to do as a child? What did you want to be when you grew up?

As you answer these questions, you may come across desires that aren’t practical or helpful.  For example, if you daydream about having an affair or quitting work to play video games all day, that likely isn’t a desire that will serve you well in life.  However, these daydreams provide clues to your desire.  For example, if you daydream about an affair because your marriage feels like you’re living parallel lives, it can point out a desire for more intimacy in your marriage.  If you desire to play video games all day because you hate your job, that’s a clue that you want something more out of your career.

Keep in mind that this may be a painful process.  Identifying desires breaks the pattern of numbing out and opens us up to feeling longing, sadness, loneliness, anger, and a whole host of other emotions.  But in order for you to feel joy and contentment with your life, you need to be able to move through these negative emotions as well.  I love the book Desire by John Eldredge that outlines how desire is both crucially important and so difficult to engage with.

How do I come back to life?

You’ve identified your desires: now what?  Just identifying desires can lead us back into numbing out if we don’t have a concrete idea on how to move forward into those desires. 

To start, choose one desire you’re feeling in your life.  Typically it’s best to identify the desire that has the most energy or emotion tied to it.   It could be related to your career, your relationships, your spiritual life, or your hobbies.  Next, what is one step you can take to move yourself closer to that desire?  Start with the end goal and trace each step back until you get to a manageable first step.

An example from my own life: I want to be a skilled home baker.  I’m obsessed with watching the Great British Baking Show and Food Network’s Holiday Baking Championship, and I dream about crafting beautiful and delicious desserts.  But the amount of knowledge these bakers have is beyond my competence.  How do I trace it back?.  In order to be a skilled home baker, I need to learn different recipes and methods of baking desserts.  I need understand the chemistry of baking.  I need to practice.  A next step might be to check out a book at the library about baking to read, to sample a new recipe, or to watch a YouTube video about cake decorating.

But what if I don’t know what to do?

Like the CDC developing a cure for the plague, or The Walking Dead’s Rick Grimes forging a new community, you need a guide who can give you direction on where to go and how to get there.  Often, the process of coming back to life is long and arduous.  Like a trek through a mountain, it can be easy to become discouraged when looking at the summit instead of the next step in front of you.  You might slip back into old patterns in that discouragement.

As a therapist, I function as a guide in areas of your life where you feel stuck.  My role is to help you identify and engage with your desires, break down desire into manageable goals, and walk with you as you make progress on your climb up the mountain.  When I see you slipping back into numbing out through addictive behaviors, it is my role to lead you back to the path to your desire.  In the process, I believe that you’ll see areas of your life slowly become more vibrant and in alignment with what you desire.  Hope will grow and flourish as you begin to see these dreams becoming a reality.

pinterest_are_you_living_like_the_walking_dead_restored_hope_ann_arbor_novi_therapy_counseling_christian.png

Do you feel like you’re shuffling through your life instead of thriving in it?  Do you hunger for something more, but have a hard time figuring out what that is?  Maybe you know what you desire, but the path to getting there feels overwhelming and exhausting.  At Restored Hope, I want to help you along the path to embodying a vibrant and full life, rather than just surviving.  I offer counseling sessions at my therapy office in Ann Arbor to help you along the path to a more fulfilling life.  Give me a call at 734.656.8191 or fill out the form here today to hear more about how I can help.  

What Skydiving Teaches Us About Surviving Anxiety

Imagine yourself strapped into a small plane, ascending into the clouds en route to your first skydiving jump.  As the plane tilts its nose upward, your stomach drops, and you can’t quite tell if it’s an effect of the lift or your nerves.  You talk to your tandem skydiving instructor, hoping for reassurance, but then you notice your palms and forehead begin to sweat.  The thud-thud-thud of your heartbeat is echoing in your ears, and you’re certain everyone around you can hear it. 

As you reach altitude and prepare for the jump, you start to panic.  Your anxiety is higher than anything you’ve ever experienced.  It takes all your strength to just look out the plane at the ground below.  Your instructor informs you that this is the last chance you have to back out.  You have one of two choices – you can retreat back into the plane, giving up on this experience you were so excited about when your feet were flat on the ground.  Or you can jump.

What do you do next?  

Paralysis that hinders the decision to move forward or retreat is a common phenomenon for those who struggle with anxiety.  Often, we learn to retreat back into what is safe, avoiding the situations that make us feel anxious or worried.  In particular, if you struggle with phobias, an anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, or even compulsive thoughts associated with sex and love addiction, you may have seen yourself retreat into destructive patterns that work in the short-term to relieve anxiety.  But these do not solve the problem, and in choosing them, we miss opportunities for growth.

How do we overcome it?

Have you ever bought a goldfish at a pet shop or store?  The seller hands you your fish in a plastic bag filled with water and instructs you to place the tied bag into the fishbowl or aquarium before releasing the fish into the water.  Why do they do this?  It is meant to help the fish get used to the temperature of the water – or habituate.

Just like that goldfish in the tank, we need to learn to habituate to our anxiety.  Habituation involves walking through an experience of anxiety without avoiding or running away from the feared event.  In essence, it is proving to yourself that you can survive the anxiety without turning to the ways you’ve coped in the past that only serve to increase your anxiety next time you face the same situation.

In the goldfish example, habituation occurs as the temperature of the water in the bag slowly adjusts, degree by degree, to the temperature of the water in the aquarium.  With anxiety, the process is similar.  Let’s say you feel anxious about public speaking.  The first time you have to speak in public, your anxiety might be off the charts.  But when you survive that event, the second time you’re asked to speak in public you’ll likely feel slightly less nervous.  Once you’ve spoken in public five, ten, or fifty times, it won’t even faze you to do it again.  Your anxiety levels have adjusted, degree by degree, to allow you to feel more at ease.

Katie d’Ath, a psychologist who works with obsessive-compulsive disorders, illustrates this visually in a helpful format in the video below.  (I would highly recommend other videos in her series on obsessive-compulsive disorder.)

Typically our first response to anxiety is to do whatever it takes to make the anxiety go away.  And it works in the short-term: otherwise we wouldn’t be doing it.  But the short-term fix of distraction or avoidance won’t satisfy the long-term desire to release the anxiety.

How can we begin the process of habituation?

Before starting this process, build up additional coping strategies for anxiety where you can calm your body’s response enough to approach the process in a grounded and rational place.  Techniques such as breathing exercises, mindfulness, and positive self-talk can be a great first line of defense against anxiety.

Once you’re in a place where you’re ready to work through anxiety, it is time to practice sitting in your anxiety.  First, this involves listening to what your body is saying.  Pay attention to the sensations of anxiety in your body.  What do they feel like?  Where does your anxiety feel most present?  What quality does that anxiety have in your body?

Next, notice the thoughts that are running through your mind.  What are the fears you’re having?  What’s the worst-case scenario playing out in your mind?  What are the beliefs about yourself or others that are contributing to the anxiety?

Pay attention to what other emotions are present besides anxiety.  Often fear is linked with anxiety, but other emotions, such as hurt, anger, or sadness can influence the course your anxiety takes.  Read through an emotions chart and identify what you’re feeling.

Then begin to question the racing thoughts in your mind: where are they coming from?  Do they come from a past fear or experience of embarrassment you had?  Are they about the future and what could happen if you take a risk?  How valid are they?  Is this something that is possible, or is it an irrational thought based on a cognitive distortion?

Finally, there comes a decision point – how will I choose to deal with my anxiety?  I can choose to run away and avoid in order to experience that immediate relief.  Or I can choose to run to the things I know that are good for me – greater awareness, support from my loved ones, and self-care.  Ultimately, the foundational way we can conquer anxiety is to believe that we can survive it and act on that belief.

I hope you choose to jump into the anxiety and fear and find that you will make it out on the other side.

pinterest_what_skydiving_teaches_us_about_surviving_anxiety_restored_hope_ann_arbor_novi_therapy_counseling_christian_anxiety_depression.png

Are you exhausted by your constant sense of anxiety?  Do you feel tied down by the paralysis and avoidance that work in tandem with anxiety?  Do you feel hopeless about making it out? At Restored Hope, I would love to help you experience freedom from your struggles with anxiety and depression.  My Ann Arbor counseling office is currently taking clients, and I’d love to talk with you about setting up your first appointment.  Give me a call at 734.656.8191 or fill out the form here to talk today.

Pain, Joy, and Longing: What The Giver Can Teach Us About Desire

What comes to your mind when you think about the word desire?  Is desire a familiar friend to you?  Or something that you run from as soon as you feel even a hint of it? We all carry different desires in our lives: desire for food, desire for another person, desire for a promotion at work, desire for a house (or a bigger house, or more stuff for your house).  Or perhaps your desire is more abstract: desire for more peace and calm in your life, desire to be loved, desire to achieve a mission or purpose in life.

Merriam-Webster's Dictionary defines the verb desire as “to long or hope for;” “to express a wish for” or “to feel the loss of.”  Notice how desire is so closely tied to disappointment or anticipation: we’re looking forward to something, but we haven’t yet attained it.  Or on the flip side, the final definition intertwines desire with loss or grief, as when we desire something we once had but lost.

What are some of the desires you identify most strongly in your life?

A short time before the movie release a few years ago, I read the children’s book The Giver by Lois Lowry.  In this novel, the characters live in a dystopian future where everything exists in shades of gray.  The lack of visible color extends as a metaphor to the citizens’ emotions and longings.  The inhabitants of this community take a pill each day that suppresses desire and emotion.  The plot of the book begins when the main character, Jonas, is assigned to the role of Receiver of Memory.  This assignment requires him to receive all the painful memories that the society has wiped from its memory. 

I listened to a podcast discussing some of these themes in greater detail after reading the book.   This theme discussed in the podcast struck me: because the characters in the book do not experience emotion and have no memories, they don’t experience feelings of pain.

Wouldn’t we all like that?  Our world is full of pain: we have only to open up a newspaper, turn on the TV, or take a walk on the city streets to see suffering in our world.  We grieve the deaths of those we love, we feel pain at broken relationships, we are shocked by the violence around the world, and we weep at images of children who are starving.

As Jonas begins his process of receiving the memories the society chose to erase, he is wrecked by the intensity of the emotions he feels, ranging from joy to sadness.  In the process, something starts to change in him.  He begins to see in color.  He stops taking his pills and begins to experience desire, sadness, and joy in his daily life.  Emotions he didn’t even know existed are now rising to the surface.

Another theme that surprised me in this novel was the assertion that medicating pain through erasing memories doesn't just strip these people of suffering.  Because pain and longing do not exist, there is no opportunity for joy.

There are a multitude of ways that I attempt to make myself happy to feel a fragment of that joy in my day-to-day life.  I’ll obsess over how many Facebook likes I get on that photo, spend hours playing mindless games on my phone when work feels overwhelming, or stop and get my favorite fast food when I’ve had a bad day.   But it doesn’t take long for me to realize that these are all ways I’m simply medicating my pain and deadening my feelings through this false sense of happiness, while denying the deeper desire that bubbles just beneath the surface. 

We all have ways that we choose to escape from our pain and longings. These typically involve us numbing that pain or desire, driving it far away so we don't have to deal with it or feel it.  We can run to shopping, drugs or alcohol, sex, the approval of others, perfection, power…any number of things that quiet the voices inside of us that want something more.

How do you avoid pain and deaden your heart to your desires?

Pain is uncomfortable, that's true.  Longing typically leads to pain, because our longings likely won’t be perfectly fulfilled in this life.  But if I kill my desire and shove my pain into a deep dark corner of my heart where it will never be acknowledged, my life will be flat.  Maybe I won’t feel sadness or longing, but I also am robbed of my ability to experience joy.

I love that joy and pain are juxtaposed so clearly together.  They are two strong and seemingly opposing emotions, but you have to be able to experience one to find another.  As a Christian, I am grateful for the pain God has brought me through, because the deeply rooted joy I can now experience is so clearly an outflow of that.  I can rejoice and be thankful in God.

How can you choose to acknowledge your desire, knowing that it will be painful?

I need to choose to embrace desire every day.  (And to be honest, I’m not always successful.)  It is easy to find ways to medicate pain in our world, because we as a people don’t like to feel these difficult emotions.  But I must choose to sit in pain or sadness when I feel it, rather than running away from it.  I must choose to become alive to my desires, although that often hurts.  And in so doing, I’m opening myself up to experiencing joy and compassion toward others.

Have you been struggling to feel anything at all these days?  Maybe you’ve come to a point where you're not quite sure you can experience emotion.  Or maybe you’re in a spot where your emotions feel overwhelming, and you just want the pain to stop.  Restored Hope is an Ann Arbor based counseling office where I want to support you on your journey of understanding yourself, your emotions, and your desires in a way that embraces them rather than runs away from them.  Give me a call today at 734.656.8191 or fill out the form here to hear how I can help.