Unexpressed grief does not go away. Suppressed anger has to come out somewhere. Fear, too, and anxiety, reside in our psyches—mind, body and spirit—until we are ready to examine them and to express them, then to decide whether these emotions are to rule us or not. Each of these emotions when we cling to them builds a wall between us and God. At some point we are going to have to take an honest look at what stands between us and God. With fear we are not trusting God’s providence, we are clinging to fear that life will again and again let us down. Then anger that God is somehow a part of the problem grows. Sometimes we want to hold on to the anger and keep our distance; at other times we’re afraid to show God how much anger we hold on to towards him for fear that He really is the vengeful God of the Old Testament.
It’s the same principle with grief. Suppressed grief indicates that we won’t let God cradle or comfort us. Somehow the unexpressed grief serves us, protects us against what God might ask us to do or to be. I am projecting here what has happened to my own emotions when they’ve gone unexpressed. How do your suppressed emotions serve you? Are you afraid of God? Of his wrath if you really told him how you feel? Why would you hold back your anger at anything from God? Does grieving alone help you to feel special, nursing your own wounds? Why do emotions within you remain unexpressed to God?
Expressing the suppressed emotions can lead to freedom from emotion’s despotic rule. We can be free from the story that we have always told ourselves about how life always lets us down, or how people always hurt us or how bad we feel in our grief. The first principle of our emotional selves is this: just because you think or feel something doesn’t make it true. The root of our stories lies in our childhood where something happened that was traumatic or difficult. That experience caused us to slant our experience into a kind of self-serving myth that keeps us wedded to that slant even years afterwards. Each time we repeat our story to ourselves we add a brick to a wall that becomes high and thick and self-protective. It keeps out others and God and it keeps from our own true selves. It becomes the major obstacle to having a deep relationship with God.
For me the bottom line of my story was this: “Life will not work out for me.” In one of grandsons I can see his story as ”I can’t see anything that will be any good for me.” What is the bottom line of the story that you cling to? As long as we cling to this “party-line,” we cannot see the reality, the truth of our existence. With me I have come to acknowledge that my life has been very blessed, which is far from my story line. I am hopeful that my grandson eventually will see how self-limiting his story is.
As long as we cling to our story and refuse to see life in any other way, we are stuck with the thoughts that trigger the emotions that keep us stuck in our lives. They keep us from realizing the true self, the deep, soul-self wherein the agenda for our lives, our fulfillment lies. They wall us off from seeing the participation of God in our lives. They insure that we will lead truncated lives, never coming close to our purpose, never realizing our potential, always stuck in a limited view of who we are.
Our culture reinforces our own neediness, because of its focus on material rewards and benefits as the way to feel better about ourselves. “Buy a better _____,” “you deserve _____,” “all you need is a bigger car or a house or a higher income” are all messages reiterated again and again on TV, in magazines and advertisements. Nothing material has ever brought any kind of lasting happiness or fulfillment. It can’t. All it brings is a hunger for something else material once the initial excitement of ownership fades and disappointment once again settles in. All too soon we are hungry again. There’s a song sung by Waylon Jennings that comes to mind now about “looking for love in all the wrong places.”
To build a lasting sense of fulfillment and joy in our lives we have to look for love in the right place, the only place it exits, in the source of Love; we have to tear down the walls that we built between us and God, us and our own true selves and us and others. Can you imagine what it must feel like to feel, to actually feel deep at the cellular level, God’s love for us? This love, full of mercy and grace and acceptance and forgiveness, is available to us when we have torn down our story’s walls. Start now, take down one brick and now another and another until the walls within you are breached and the love of God can flow freely into your whole being. Live in the truth of your existence; let go of your story once and for all time. Live in love; love.