I awoke today in the dark pre-dawn hours to the news of the Las Vegas shootings. A familiar and heavy pain in my heart deepened as I groaned, “Not again!” I scanned my social media accounts over my morning coffee, scrolling through comments that have become heartbreakingly commonplace: “When will it be enough?” “What is wrong with this country?” “How bad does it have to get?”
Amid posts filled with heated debates over ineffectual gun laws, rampant hatred, and mental illness rise the cries of hearts like mine, those that have grown weary of these all too familiar tragedies. We want something to be done. The ache of loss and grief has become too great. We pray for it to just please… stop.
Anger surfaces. We wonder why our leaders, while mouthing their regrets, do nothing to stem these terrible violent massacres of our brothers and sisters. Still, we summon the grace to offer up prayers of sympathy and support, to find deep compassion for all who are impacted by yet another horrific display of violence. I search my heart for meaningful solutions but any answer that comes seems woefully inadequate.
Perhaps the answers we search for often come up short because the violence we see on a daily basis is the result of many, many years of oppression and emotional suppression. There are few safe places where we can admit to our anger and hatred and desire for revenge. We often find little generosity to express our neediness and feelings of inadequacy. We may lack the courage to admit just how much we resent our demanding children, our indifferent partners, our needy parents. With little tolerance for our aching exhaustion or acrid bitterness or the bottomless grief, we shove these unwelcome thoughts and feelings deep into our subconscious. In an effort to soothe our ever-expanding fears our minds want simple, straightforward answers, though our hearts know that none exist.
It frustrates me to no end to admit I do not have satisfactory answers for these complex, layered issues that have been centuries in the making. The causes of violence are complex and charged with emotion. In order to continue to put one foot in front of the other and continue to live a meaningful life I must enter my inner landscape and to honestly confront my feelings regarding these events that triggers so much grief and rage and sorrow. I must become aware of the dark emotions as well as the light ones. I must both find my joy, and confront my own violent thoughts. I must learn to embrace all of me. I must face whatever this violence calls out in me.
We are emotional beings. Though we often pride ourselves on our ability to reason things out, 95% of our decisions are made for emotional reasons. Little happens in life without either an emotional impetus or an emotional reaction. Yet we remain strangers to our rich inner landscapes.
Here’s what I know about the dynamics of emotion:
All emotion calls for expression. Emotions by their nature demand movement (expression). Whether we express our emotions in balanced or imbalanced ways depends upon our relationship with them; in how we have embraced them, or abandoned them.
Suppression always causes imbalance. The minute we begin to suppress or judge or deny any emotion, we drive our feelings into the dark recesses of our fearful minds where they fester and become caustic.
Disavowing our suppressed emotions separates us from our power. When we cannot or will not own our dark thoughts–the ones where we carry a secret desire for revenge or hatred or punishment or indifference, we remain impotent in affecting a change. Since all emotion demands expression, our denied dark thoughts are destined to erupt–either internally or externally–with varying levels of intensity, the most extreme of which is violence. When we cannot or will not confront our denied emotions we often take out our unresolved feelings on those we love the most.
Expressing our emotions requires the courage to become vulnerable. We all need a sacred witness to our pain. The most courageous thing we will ever do is to admit to ourselves, to God, and to another human being the truth of our darkest feelings. This should never be done casually, however, or without assurance that who we reveal our failings to has the integrity to hold our confession in confidence with a compassion that is free of judgement.
Having compassion does not condone action. We can find compassion for another soul whose heart has been crushed beneath the weight of their destructive behaviors without absolving them of the responsibility for their actions. We can also do this for ourselves. We must learn to tenderly love our most wounded selves while being fully accountable for our words and actions. One way of creating peace in our hearts is to offer a means for restoration for the harm we may have caused others.
Forgiveness is the key to compassion. Forgiveness is a deep letting go of our attachment to our pain. It is not the absolution of another’s hurtful actions. It does not mean that our pain was not valid or that our heart was not wounded. Forgiveness unties us from the belief that we are our painful past. To forgive ourselves is the most courageous and healing thing we will ever do.
We are not meant to heal alone. At times, the weight of our shame, bitterness, rage, grief, and fear can be crushing . Loneliness amplifies the burdens we carry. We can feel shunned and unloved, that we don’t belong. It may seem as if there is no way out of our darkness and we slip further into despair. Without others to offer compassion and encouragement or to present another perspective to our problems, it’s easier to entertain thoughts of harm to ourselves or others. One of the most courageous things we will ever do is to ask for help. The next most courageous thing we can do is to offer help to another in need, no matter how uncomfortable it might make us.
Perhaps the thing we need the most to quell the explosion of violence in our communities is the thing we need the most in ourselves: To be heard. To be seen. To be honored. To be understood. To be loved. To belong.
Perhaps what we need during these very trying times is to examine the ways we have both embraced our emotional selves, and where we have committed self-abandonment. Spend a few moments today examining your heart space for all the thoughts and feelings this most recent tragedy has triggered. Try to do this self-examination with tenderness and compassion, and, with utter honesty.
With Much Love,
Melody A Scout is an author and Intuitive Spiritual Advisor. Her deep connection to the natural world has influenced her work as a Sacred Landscape Consultant and Plant Spirit Medicine practitioner. She is currently writing a book called Soul of the Seasons which explores the wisdom embedded within the seasonal cycles of the natural world and how to find balance and joy in both our inner and outer landscapes.