DIANE GOTTLIEB

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Are Your Tarot Cards Judging You?

I pick a Tarot card every day for guidance and inspiration. One day last week, I picked The Sun from my go-to deck, the Hanson-Roberts. It’s a lovely card–naked baby on a horse riding under a huge sun and bright blue skies. I wanted so much to feel that warmth, the happiness, the smiley, innocent joy. But there was competing feeling that morning—grumpiness—that, unfortunately, won out. And the more I tried to embody the happy, optimistic vibes of my card for the day, the grumpier I became.

I took another look at that Sun Card … and felt like it was judging me.

 

We Are a World of Immediate Gratification—with a Demand for Immediate Fixes

 

Suns and smiles are wonderful, and of course we all want to be happy. But when there is a rising pressure to be happy, to be and think positive—all the time–one can easily become exhausted. All-pervasive shiny, glowing social media posts may shoulder a good deal of the blame, but maybe they’re just the symptom of an underlying problem: our dependence on immediate gratification.

We have become a world of the “give it to me fast”—with a demand for immediate fixes. As Amanda Montell says in her wonderful article A Psychologist Explains the Trouble with Positive Thinking, “At the first sign of sadness, our impulse is to suppress it, medicate it, or feign positivity.”

That is sooooo not the solution, but I have to admit, I’ve been guilty of “suppressing and feigning” myself. Have you?

 

We Hunger for Immediate Relief

 

Hard feelings are hard! Of course, we’d want to push them away and opt for the sunnier sides—ASAP. When we don’t like the way we’re feeling, we want that feeling gone—pronto! We hunger for immediate relief.

 

“As a society, we have become increasingly intolerant of negative feelings,” says psychiatrist Samantha Boardman (in that same article), and, worse, our focus on thinking positive “makes it seem that a person’s happiness is completely in their control,” according to Dr. Peg O’Connor.

 

That’s where we cross a line into some nasty and dangerous territory. It’s easy to see how this type of destructive thinking can follow: If our happiness is totally under our control, then when we’re not happy, we must be doing something wrong—or maybe we ourselves are all wrong. Right?

 

NOPE!

 

“What Is” Today May Not Be What Will Be Tomorrow

 

We are complex beings with varied feeling—a full emotional realm. And all of our feelings need to be heard, even, embraced—all of them. This is nothing new for us on WomanPause. In the last post, Nicky Mendenhall talked about “touching fear” and how our feelings—even the feeling of fear—can’t hurt us. But ignoring our feelings, suppressing or fighting them, may cause us unnecessary harm.

Just last week, I had a coaching session with Sherry Danner. (She’s amazing—please see our interview.) My anxiety has been going through the roof lately, and she and I discovered that this was because I had been trying to push some deep, sad feelings away. Sherry suggested that I make space for those sad emotions, to accept what I was feeling and “what is” in my life.

“What is,” is not static. As we all know—but sometimes need to be reminded—change is the only constant, and “what is” today may not be “what will be” tomorrow.

 

Whether You Believe in God, Goddess, the Universe, Or the Random Nature of Events, We Will All Be Presented with Challenges

 

So, if we “sit with our sadness” are we giving up on happiness altogether? Of course not!

How do we find the balance? A great question!

Whether you believe in God, Goddess, the Universe, or the random nature of events, we will be presented with challenges in life—and with difficult feelings. Only once we accept them—as they are—can we grow from them.

We are all being challenged right now. Thankfully, though, the pandemic has brought to the mainstream a new perspective on mental health. More space has been created today for not feeling “okay.” Even if we have not personally lost anyone close, we have all experienced a loss of life as we knew it. One of the most common feelings brought on by loss is grief.

Our country, our world, is experiencing a collective state of grief. That’s heavy. And, unfortunately, grief cannot be turned off with a smile.

 

The Moments of Greatest Learning Came from Those Moments I Did Not Run from My Feelings

 

Shortly after my first husband was killed in a car accident, I remember saying (over and over) to myself that I would grow from this—that I had absolutely had to—or what I was going through would amount to wasted pain. While I made many mistakes in those first months after his death, I began to realize that the moments of greatest learning came from those moments I did not run from my feelings. It was only then that I was able to face my fears—which were great and many—and take baby steps forward. It was only then that I was able to rebuild and find increasing joy and love in my life.

 

Taking a long walk outdoors, belting out your favorite songs (always better when singing into a hairbrush), or doing a quick–or longer–guided meditation (some of my favorites are those by Jon Kabat Zinn). All these can also help to shift a mood or perspective. You may also want to examine the feeling–even talk to it.

When you’re feeling a less-than-happy feeling, be it grief, anger, fear, it’s often helpful to ask the feeling where its coming from. Ask what the message is that the feeling is trying to communicate. What is it offering to teach you and how can you best learn its lesson?

 

AND ALWAYS be gentle with yourself in this examination. We are most often our own most critical judge.

 

None of Us Needs to Do This Alone

 

Lastly, don’t hesitate to ask for help. Asking for help is not a weakness! We should all know this by now, but for some reason, we too often forget—at least I do. Reach out to others, and if your feelings ever feel just too big or unmanageable, call a professional who can provide guidance. I know I have and will be eternally grateful for the support I received.

(I’m also grateful for celebrities who talk publicly about their own mental health journeys. They do the world a great service. I’m thinking today of when Michael Phelps first spoke out about his own painful experiences with depression and suicidal thoughts. His “It’s OK to not be OK” campaign provides a vital message that has given so many the courage to reach out.)

None of us needs to do this alone. Just as we are built to feel all of our feelings, we are also at our best when we share.

So … back to The Sun. I’ve realized the card wasn’t judging me after all. Maybe I needed to pull The Sun card that “cloudy” day to remind me I wouldn’t be grumpy forever. Sunshine would still be available for me, whenever I was ready to embrace it.

 

When have you pushed away painful feelings? When have you mustered the courage to sit with them? What have you learned?

As always, I’d love to hear from you. Please leave a comment or send me an email.

See you March 15th!

XOXO

Diane

P. S. Please feel free to share on social media. And if you know another amazing woman over 50 who might appreciate WomanPause, please forward her the link.

18 Comments

  1. Christine Waloszczyk on March 2, 2021 at 8:16 am

    In 2005, I began the journey of quitting a sleep medication, clonazepam, I’d taken for 15 years for restless leg syndrome. During those years, I was able to wake up feeling fresh-minded first thing in the morning and was productive. However, my mother became hospitalized for two years before dying, then a sister passed away a few years later (by suspected suicide). My marriage was a shambles. I remember crying on the subway every night after work for a time. So I took on more work and busied myself with my son’s lives, anything to stop FEELING. I left my husband, because he was just one more thing that I couldn’t handle.

    I thought I’d felt everything I needed to, even to the point of feeling somewhat happy for a time. I was lively and sociable. I was always running on multiple cylinders. When you’re in survival mode, it’s hard to take time to feel too deeply. But I’d come to rely on those pills for any stressful situation. When I went off them, it all came crashing down on me. That’s when I had to learn to “sit” with the feelings that apparently I hadn’t even begun to truly address from my past. Ugh! It was the worst. But I had no choice, so I did it. I literally could not move at times. It took me two years and a bout of agoraphobia to get through it. I thought I’d die. No, it was worse than death. Although I’m still not very good at sitting with my feelings — I’ll go for any distraction sometimes, especially during this pandemic — I know the perils of forgetting to. They will catch up with you later. They are probably waiting for me as we speak.

    • Diane Gottlieb on March 2, 2021 at 12:40 pm

      Christine, thanks so much for sharing your experiences. What a fraught time filled with loss! Sometimes “survival mode” is exactly where we need to be, but as you have so generously shared, survival mode is unsustainable. So many mothers have “busied themselves” with their kids’ lives (myself included) and so many of us have used substances or activities to avoid feeling feelings (pills, wine, exercise, shopping, work, and any other number of things). When our feeling catch up with us–and they will–pow! All those stored up feelings can knock the air out of us, sometimes for quite a while. I am so glad your found the courage inside to sit with your feelings and heal. And, yes, it’s not a one and done. Like for most of us, some feelings “are probably waiting for me as we speak.” XO

  2. Sarita K Sid on March 2, 2021 at 5:25 am

    Thank you for making me laugh in the opening with your comment about the card judging you ha ha; I’m sure this puts you in a very small minority 😉
    I agree that positivity and its platitudes do not serve us well. Barbara Ehrenreich wrote a brilliant book about ten years ago called Bright-sided: How Positive Thinking Is Undermining America (New York Times bestseller), in which she makes a plea for a return to realism.
    You nail it with the need to face our feelings as opposed to running away from them or masking them with positivity. If we’re feeling depressed or down or anxious, or fearful, etc. there probably is a good reason for it. Diana named many of the inequities in our nation that we mustn’t turn away from, that can give rise to some of these feelings. There was a great deal of wisdom in both the post & the comments section.

    I used to push away painful feelings around members of my birth family because I didn’t know what to do with them. My brilliant therapist has taught me over the last few years to be more of a detached observer of my feelings and she has helped me to see that not everything is personal; sometimes I’m experiencing a sibling as they present in all of their relationships. Sometimes I feel angry about personal comments that are both a projection of my dad’s own insecurities, and a reflection of the cultural privileges bestowed upon him. Life & people are very complicated. I’m learning continuously.

    My therapist also reminds me about the things I can control during this pandemic, that help me to feel better. Like going for a walk, as you mentioned, Diane, but I don’t enjoy long walks 😉

    Thank you, Diane, & the entire community for this conversation 🙂

    • Diane Gottlieb on March 2, 2021 at 5:45 am

      Thank you, Sarita! I love Bright-sided! How ahead of her time Barbara Ehrenreich often is!
      Thanks for sharing your own experiences and for mentioning the “nothing personal” idea. I remember that being one of Don Miguel Ruiz’s Four Agreements.
      And thank you for participating in this community conversation–yay for this wonderful, inspiring community!!!

  3. Laura on March 2, 2021 at 12:00 am

    Great post Diane. I have had such amazing experiences just opening to my feelings! They definitely are with us for a reason and have a message. Thank you for this beautifully written reminder. ❤️

    • Diane Gottlieb on March 2, 2021 at 12:53 am

      Thank you, Laura! You have supported me so often in being open to the hard stuff. I am grateful.

  4. Diana Everett on March 1, 2021 at 10:06 pm

    Hi Diane, Happy March!

    I can definitely say after decades of suppressing sadness and anger as well as denial regarding family of origin resulting in catastrophic spinal infection at age 65, that suppressing sadness, anger, and less-than-happy emotions is NOT healthy.

    The aggressive “positive thinking” mentality in this country is toxic and unrealistic.

    I have been feeling a bored flatness lately which is very unusual, have always been excited about life; same old cleaning up-for-my-five-cats routine and only escape is to feed street cats, get groceries, go to physical therapy (pre-surgery sessions now over), my only “social life,” and to the dentist. Can’t even run the “flatness” off as frequently as damaged hip too painful.

    Been taking night walks listening to a podcast, which have been grounding and gets one out of the house or routine. Highly recommend regular walks. And journaling, as Ben encourages. Journal those feelings so they get out in words. Once defined, the power of negative feelings diminishes. Meditation can be a life saver too.

    Believe beneath our collective sadness is a recognition ignited by the pandemic that we as a country have not been taking care of one another for at least 40 years. The USA has slipped in providing living wages, universal healthcare, utility infrastructure, public transportation, environmental protection and quality of life to its citizens, the most vulnerable, women and people of color and aging suffering even more. Extreme weather increasing. Old infrastructure which is outdated. Rampant greed and capitalism. Voter suppression as we speak.

    We are seeing gaping injustices that have always been in this country highlighted even more during the pandemic. It affects our mental health as individuals even if we are not directly affected because we know others have suffered and continue to suffer needlessly and that the system is not working!

    African Americans and low-income Americans suffer high COVID rates and women feel betrayed by their husbands and employers during the pandemic, carrying the burden of childcare and household management, even while working and sometimes as the main breadwinner.

    I have been taking a series on reducing anxiety by AVAIYA University, which is mostly complete. However the entire series can be purchased for $30. Highly recommend for anyone interested. Excellent information on a lot of different topics from top people in the mental health field.
    http://www.avaiya.com

    Have a good week, Diane, with ups and downs included! And remember Ben’s advice to look at the gains and not the gaps!

    • Diane Gottlieb on March 2, 2021 at 12:51 am

      Thanks so much Diana for sharing your experiences. Being open about our challenges helps others to be open about theirs too. And thanks so much for that link! There are so many resources out there, and sharing them is one of the things that makes community so rich!

  5. Sherry Danner on March 1, 2021 at 6:07 pm

    “Hard feelings are hard!” I love the simplicity and truth of this line surrounded by your beautifully open sharing. I am a coach for others and I also work with a coach myself (and I was a therapist and will always turn to therapists when needed, too!) We don’t arrive and collect our prize. The work continues! But hard doesn’t have to mean alone or hopeless. We can’t save each other from pain, but we can help each other through. Thank you for being a voice of loving truth in a world that tells us if we aren’t happy we must be doing it wrong.

    • Diane Gottlieb on March 1, 2021 at 8:48 pm

      Thank you, Sherry! Love “we can’t save each other from pain, but we can help each other through.” I always say … it takes a village. We can be that village for each other.

  6. Louise M Debreczeny on March 1, 2021 at 4:33 pm

    I always feel scared when i pull a card like the tower. It’s a feeling of oh shit what now? I love how you reframe it. It is so true that we don’t have to feel okay all of the time.

    • Diane Gottlieb on March 1, 2021 at 4:36 pm

      Louise! That tower man!! It can throw you for a loop! And still, there is no way around, right? It’s through to the other side.

      • Louise M Debreczeny on March 2, 2021 at 5:01 am

        I always hope for the emperor or the magician or the star but life isnt all rainbows and gumdrops is it?! Lol

        • Diane Gottlieb on March 2, 2021 at 5:38 am

          Unfortunately, it isn’t! But … so interesting that those are the cards you hope for! I love those too, but I’m not sure they’d be my first picks. I have to start asking people what their favorite cards are! I always love getting the Ace of Rods, The High Priestess, The Sun. I even like the Death card–call me crazy! We have to talk!!

  7. Nicky Mendenhall on March 1, 2021 at 4:04 pm

    Hi Diane,
    It only took a decade in psychoanalysis to learn that feelings had messages for me if I paid attention. Now that I’m not “on the couch” anymore, I have to remind myself. And read your post! Thanks for keeping this thought in my mind.

    As I read your post, I thought of your recent move and sent you love and acceptance for all you are giving up – as well as gaining of course. Moving is a gigantic step and brings up so many feelings!

    Thanks again for using my post on fear and mentioning it again. As I said, I need the reminder!
    Love,
    Nicky

    • Diane Gottlieb on March 1, 2021 at 4:34 pm

      Thanks, Nicky! We all need reminders. I think one of the main reasons I write is to remind myself of things I too often forget.

  8. Alison McGhee on March 1, 2021 at 2:53 pm

    Wonderful post! I too have loved seeing Michael Phelps’ PSAs. “Feeling the big feelings” is the only way through. XOXO

    • Diane Gottlieb on March 1, 2021 at 2:58 pm

      Thank you, Alison! XO

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