Is There An Elephant In Your Living Room?

I was having a conversation with an old friend. The conversation was lackluster and so were we. For different reasons both of us were struggling with a profound sense of loss.

Any sense of loss, as we all know, feeds into every sense of loss we have ever known.

My friend, who is more of a True Brit Stiff-Upper-Lip person than I am, said: “Well, you just have to get on with it, don’t you?”

My answer to my friend was that ‘getting on with it’ stinks. It’s what we’ve all been taught to do. Yet we know it doesn’t work particularly well. You know, I know, pretty well everyone who isn’t eyeball deep in denial knows, that it doesn’t work. It doesn’t work because what you resist, persists.

‘Getting on with it’ means tiptoeing around the elephant in the middle of your living room. The elephant doesn’t go away, your living space does.

How long have you co-existed with the elephant of abused feelings crowding out the space at the center of your life?

How possible is it to expect to spend the rest of your life breathing in to squeeze round the ever growing elephant in your living-room?

Rules For Disposing Of Metaphorical Elephants

The rules for disposing of a metaphorical elephant are quite unlike those regarding real elephants. First of, there is no preservation order on metaphorical elephants. Nor should there be. You can’t shoot them, or poison them (in point of fact, they poison you). But you can dispose of them with kindness – kindness to yourself.

Now you and I know that that is the hardest thing. You don’t have to be a caregiver to be an abused woman (nor are all caregivers abused) but it certainly helps. It goes with the territory. Most of us would be quicker to lavish care on a stranger’s pet rat than we would on ourselves. That’s possibly a slight exaggeration but I trust you get my drift.

So how do you dispose of the elephant of sad, hurt and angry feelings?

You, we, have to find a way to own and honour those feelings. That is the cleanest and most elegant way of emptying out your living room.

Why do you need to empty out your living room? Because you cannot hope to fill it with the feelings – and the reality – you desire and deserve if it is already crowded out with old clutter.

So, is there any magic trick to owning those feelings? I think not. Yes, it helps if you can share them with another person, but only if you can share them with another person who will listen respectfully. You are not looking for any response other than acceptance. Another person’s acceptance may well help you reach your own.

If necessary, you can start this work on your own either speaking those feelings out loud or, better, writing them down.

What has happened to you is what it is. There may be huge sadness attached. You can call it tragic if you will, but doing so will increase its hold on you, when what you want is to loosen its hold.

It happened, that is the fact. To some degree it hones you. But never forget that you still own the tools to sculpt yourself into the shape you desire. Only own your feelings.

Yes, you feel that way. Yes, it takes courage to own those feelings.

Actually, it takes enormous courage to be you. You do it with as much grace and dignity as you possibly can. (And sometimes that may not look too much like grace or dignity. Well, that’s just you being human.)

There is a saying that I love. “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.”

Suppose we were here to own and honour our very human experiences and feelings? I certainly believe we are. It matters not to me whether I am right or wrong. That belief adds value and meaning to my life.

So how did my lackluster evening end? It ended remarkably well, with a lot of warmth, connection and shift. It ended with the two of us shifting our focus from things inexorably gone to present joys.

Those present joys completely displaced the elephants (we started with two) in our shared living space. In fact, it happened so fast that we didn’t notice. At the sound of our genuine, spontaneous laughter those elephants vanished.

Will they come back? Quite possibly. They may well squeeze their huge, grey bulk back into the living room. And the same system for ‘disappearing’ them will work just as well next time, and the time after that, and the time after that…

An abusive relationship leaves you feeling utterly powerless. (It’s funny, isn’t it how an abusive partner does his level best to exclude all laughter from your life?)

The tools for starting to reclaim your power are so small, so seemingly insignificant that you may have overlooked them for years. But they still work.

When will you start to use them so you can create the beautiful, serene, spacious living room you want for yourself?

© 2008 Annie Kaszina