You can only be conscious of a few things at any one time. But there are many thoughts and feelings that live beneath the surface. The important ones will attempt to surface, especially the negative and painful ones. Chances are, you’re not excited about allowing them to surface. That’s why you might choose fake happiness instead of genuine joy.
To explain the problems with this situation, I like to use the analogy of a child and a parent. The child wants to express the pain and be comforted. The rational-focused parent says, “not now, I’m busy.” There is definitely a need for the rational parent, because most of the time, it’s not practical or healthy to let a complaining child have full control.
However, “not now” can easily become “never.” It’s easy to procrastinate when uncomfortable feelings are pushing their way to the surface. A balance is needed. The head (the parent) should remain in control, but the head should provide the needed time for the heart (the child) to share its concerns.
Without time to express feelings, a person will become more and more compartmentalized. A small to moderate amount of compartmentalization is helpful when it’s time to be a responsible adult. But the deeper a memory is buried with passing time, the easier it becomes to believe the memory isn’t a part of the real you. And, that’s a dangerous position to be in.
Your personal history shouldn’t be erased because doing so will increase the likelihood of repeating your mistakes. If you can’t remember what you already tried, including how it turned out, you may be doomed to repeat history. Instead, there is another option: transform your personal history through healing and forgiveness.
Everything that happens to you provides an opportunity for you to identify and understand who you are. If you attempt to ignore your memories, you will lose a part of yourself in the process. Every time this happens, you become a little less authentic. That is because buried negative experiences continue to leak lies into your self-image. They poison your self-worth. To heal you must bring the truth in contact with your experiences.
If your primary goal is to be happy, then you might choose to ignore unhappy thoughts and feelings. But this will only lead to the need to invest increased amounts of energy to keep up the appearance of being happy. You’ll have to fake it, and, unless something else changes, there’s no way to “fake it until you make it.” You can’t fake your way into genuine joy.
When you fake your happiness around other people, you’ll likely suffer greater depression when you are once again alone. The size of your problem hasn’t necessarily grown. But you will experience it as more painful because you haven’t been able to share your true feelings with another person.
Happiness will endure so long as your circumstances are positive. The minute you experience a setback, your negative feelings will attempt to surface. However, when you learn how to work through difficult feelings, you learn how to maintain joy regardless of your circumstances.
Compartmentalization is an avoidance technique. It produces an immediate strength to get you through the moment, but left in place, it results in permanent weakness. It’s similar to accepting a numbing agent when you have surgery or dental work. You miss out on the sharp pain while you correct the problem. But it would be dangerous to your health to remain numb forever. Likewise, if fixing the problem is too easy, you might let yourself fall into the same trap again.
As you feel pain in life, try to remain aware of it. Include God in your awareness. You can bring the “child” to the “parent” for true healing. In order to grow stronger and healthier, you must give God access to the weakest, most vulnerable parts of yourself.
If you want to become joyful, make time to be completely honest about how you feel about what has happened in your life. Ask God to help you see the truth.
Dawn Blevins says
Thank you for this Matt. This is actually where I am and what I need to read at this exact time in life. The whole situation with the U.S. and vulnerability with Jesus Christ is revealing new failures and areas of improvement within myself. However, I feel safe. I know He is in control yet I am immobilized by the circumstances of the pandemic. Patience is the key for me right now and that is where I am struggling because I feel like I am losing time and life is passing me by. I am hurting, so many people are hurting and suddenly my story does not seem as important anymore. It is difficult for me to understand how God can love each of His children when there are so many and we all have such varied stories and difficulties. I know my life in Christ is different than other peoples’ yet I long for community and how I combine my story with other peoples’ lives is where I am trying to fit in and not feel like I am not worthy. Thank you and God bless you Matt.
Matt Pavlik says
Thanks for the feedback that my writing is timely for you. Yes, I agree that the whole country (and maybe the whole world) is going through a lot of stress these past few months. I also agree that God is in control. It brings me a lot of peace when I don’t wander “beyond my paygrade.” Do your part and leave the rest up to God.
Are you saying you are immobilized because of a fear of catching the virus? Or do you mean something else?
God’s love is infinite. It sounds paradoxical, but God can favor you, treat you differently than others, you can feel special because of it, and God can do this for as many people as He wants. That’s amazing. If you struggle with this, I suggest you stop comparing your situation with others’ situations. God doesn’t have to rob another of His children to give you more of His love.
Finding genuine community is difficult as I’ve written about earlier. You might have a chicken and egg problem. The less worthy you believe you are, the harder it is to find community. But the more you accept yourself and are able to see yourself through God’s eyes, the easier it will be to connect with others. I suggest working on feeling worthy (based on God’s truth) and then seek community. I’m not saying you need to be perfect before you seek relationships. I’m only saying you should be working on your self-worth as you continue to find a place to fit in. Don’t wait until you’ve found a community to start feeling good about yourself. Also, don’t wait until you feel good about yourself to find a community. Keep doing both.
How do you get beyond hopeless.
The past 8 years have been so hard. I have lost so much. Rejected, abandoned, not good enough takes its toll. Beyond hope
Matt Pavlik says
I’m sorry to hear your struggle has been so intense. You ask a good question. Even in your question, you are looking for hope. That’s a great start!
For everyone who has a relationship with Jesus Christ, hopelessness is a state of mind. How hopeless you feel is really a matter of what you focus on. God can make you a way out of the most negative focus. You’ll have to do your part to reinterpret your experiences in light of God’s truth about you. Ask God to help you with this.
You’re made in God’s image, so you’re never beyond hope. You are good enough as God made you. What you’ve experienced can’t take away God’s love for you. If you expect God to fix your past a specific way, you might end up disappointed. With God, your future is not limited to one direction. If a particular direction leads to a dead-end, then pick a different one.
If the last 8 years have exhausted you to where you can’t feel any hope, you probably need to “borrow” others’ hope. All I mean by this is ask for help from others who are more hopeful than you are.