The heart knows: Dr. Laurie on dealing with discouragement

I don’t know if it’s a pattern, but lately several of my clients have talked with me about being discouraged.

One person told me her pain seems to always be present, no matter what she does. Another hoped that a visit with her physician would lead to some new treatments, and it didn’t. With several other people, being discouraged came from a feeling that no matter what they did, their illness did not change.

The word “discourage” comes from a French word, and when you look at its roots, it means dis – away from, cour –  courage. So, when we feel discouraged we are literally away from our courage, which resides in our hearts ( cour – heart).

Take a moment and put your hand on your heart. That is the beating center that moves blood and oxygen through our bodies. It is also the electromagnetic center of much of our energy. Our hearts are also a center of knowing. It is a knowing which is comprised of the same kind of cells and neurotransmitters that we have in our heads – brain cells. We know many things in our hearts.

When we move away from what we know, and from our center, we lose our emotional balance. We get discouraged.

So, put your hand back on your heart. Remember it is your heart, not anyone else’s. Your life, your journey with your illness won’t look like the person sitting next to you, or the person who writes about their experience. It is yours, and you know many things about your self that influence this journey.

Even when we connect with that center, feel our own heart beating and listen to what we know, we may feel our courage and our energy falter. It is a lot of work to live with chronic illness. It takes perseverance and stamina to stay true to our personal path of healing. Living with pain every day has a cumulative effect on our mental, emotional and physical reserves. There are days when we are discouraged.

To deal with that discouragement, I suggest two things.

The first is not to fight it. You don’t have to “cheer up” or try to make yourself feel better. Listen to what you are discouraged about with compassion for yourself. Maybe underneath that discouragement you are frightened. Perhaps you are sad and mourning some part of your life or physical body that is different and will never be the same. Our discouragement can be a sign or a marker that there is something we need to pay attention to.

The quality of the attention matters. We pay attention with a gentle inquiry. What’s going on dear one? What are you trying to tell me? We don’t have to judge or correct ourselves. We listen.

That compassionate attention may begin to restore us to our natural balance. We find our way back to our heart center.

It may take a little longer. In that case, bring to mind that truth that our feeling states do not last forever. Our feelings, even such potent ones as being discouraged, will melt away. When we hold our feelings lightly, we see that like the clouds, they are not permanent. They come through, change our inner weather, perhaps give us a message, and then move on. Allow being discouraged to do the same. It will not last.

You don’t have to resist it, nor do you need to sink into it. If you want it to move on faster, distract yourself, talk with someone, find a reason to laugh. But respect what it says about your heart. Being discouraged invites you to take a moment and connect with your heart’s knowledge.

I look forward to hearing from you and the ways you work with your feelings of being discouraged, and how you help yourself move through it.

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