Emotional Comfort or Spiritual Insight? Not So Alike

Something terrible has happened to you or you’ve just had a bad day. A part of you is yearning for comfort, a hug or words of assurance and support. And, often there is this notion that when things are quite awful, we’re seeking for something within the realm of spiritual “upliftment” or insight… so you find yourself wanting that, too.

It’s strange, but sometimes we conflate the emotional and the spiritual as if they are similar or the same.

I have to say that emotional comfort and anything spiritually helpful that is shared between two people after something terrible has happened to one party don’t tend to be the same thing. Sometimes they do cross lines into each other’s territory. But, sometimes they are so remotely different that while emotional comfort can feel nice at the time, it may be spiritually detrimental and while the spiritual insight might render the potential for growth, it could be emotionally harsh.

There, I said it. But, what on Earth do I mean by this?

Let’s play out a hypothetical scenario. Okay, so someone has wronged you in some way. You feel hurt and confused. You share this story with someone close to you, a friend, a family member, or say your partner. Now the person close to you shares their sympathy for your ordeal and your pain. They agree with you in the ways in which you were wronged and the ways that the other person was acting out of line, or childishly or whatever be the case.

This is emotional comfort. It revolves around sympathy and pats on the back.

To be honest, the emotional folks among us, including myself need this kind of support at times. It helps us regain our footing and helps us let the emotion run through us.

Now, if you’ve been following my blog for a while you’ll know that I’m all about energy and working through emotions. Letting emotions run their course is a good way to let that energy flow out of you. That’s great.

However, the aforementioned scenario doesn’t necessarily help one evolve or grow from their experience all that much. It validates their hurt. It validates their pain. It validates right/wrong dichotomies that rule the wars of the world both internally within individuals and externally amongst people.

What about Spiritual Insight?

So, let’s take that same scenario. Now instead your close confidant points to issues surrounding the conflict that you may not have considered. Could there have been a reason that your “adversary” acted out of line? Maybe they’re having serious family problems? Maybe they’re feeling very insecure about something in their life and it’s coming out on you inadvertently? They might try to get you to see it from a broader perspective. They may remind you that it isn’t what happens to us in life, but how we choose to handle it. Harbouring pain or negativity only hurts us.

Now this is all wise and helpful advice, but not what we necessarily want to hear to be comforted. It’s sometimes hard for us to see that maybe we weren’t wronged in the grand scheme of things, but in actuality given a gift or a blessing we can choose to take and use to grow and see things from a higher vantage point.

You see emotional comfort is good and necessary, but so is the transcendence of the issue and the pain. We can’t stay too long in the woe-is-me mode because we run the risk of letting that pain dwell inside us. In my experience, rising to the level of the spiritual was the only thing that helped me overcome my most challenging issues.

All that said there is something called “spiritual bypassing” that is also not where you want to find yourself. That’s when you don’t deal with your emotions, but rather take the spiritual high road (that’s a play on words right there, did you get it? Hint: I didn’t mean taking on a morally superior attitude 😉 ). It’s when you may tell yourself spiritual truisms to bypass the actual feeling and processing of what you’re experiencing. Or, when you do some sort of spiritual practice like meditation with the intention to override actually feeling your emotions and dealing with them. In other words, it means avoiding going deep down and feeling the pain to work through it.

© 2012, Melina Schetakis. All rights reserved.

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