Path Upward Is Dark

Have you seen the film “Shawshank Redemption”? Here’s a little spolier for you.

Our wrongly convicted protagonist attempts to escape the prison. By crawling through a sewer pipe that is barely big enough for him. For 500 yards (457 meters).

If you were told that the path upward is a dark, scary, painful one, will you take it? How good the destination must be to go on that path? How confident do you have to be of a happy ending before you do so? How bad does your current state have to be, to motivate you to take that on?

Well, here is the bad news. We are all carrying unprocessed emotions from our past. And they are responsible for weighing us down, blocking us, preventing good experiences, and causing ailments.

And here’s the good and worse news. We can move past these emotions, freeing us up. But to do so, you have to feel them.

We are terrified of hard feelings. We develop whole illnesses and ailments to distract ourselves so we don’t have to feel them. Grief, rage, guilt, shame — these are difficult things to begin with. If they are sitting inside you for years, the prospect of facing them may feel like a free fall into a dark, black void. Will you be able to ever climb out of it?

I can tell you from experience, that you don’t feel like you’re climbing out. It feels like this darkness, devoid of all light, engulfs you. You curl up in fetal position and sob. You don’t feel any hope, you don’t sense that there is an end. You forget that you had better times in life.

But then one day it lifts. You feel space in the part of the body that the hard feeling used to occupy. It doesn’t immediately register that you are “better.” But you observe that you are no longer feeling that feeling.

Here’s some more bad news. It’s not a one-time thing. We have layers and layers of these feelings. When you finish with one batch, you discover the next one. It’s hard work. It takes time.

But on the other end, what’s waiting is acceptance and freedom. Acceptance that you are OK, whatever remains after that baggage is gone. You no longer feel the need to do things you did to compensate for, or prevent yourself from, feeling those feelings inside. And whatever you want to make out of your life is closer to your reach, more within the realm of possibility. Life gets easier.

Life goes on either way. These are not easy choices. Do you go on with dull pain and numbness that never ends and gets worse over time? Or do you brace yourself and sink into abyss, hoping that it’s temporary and there is light on the other end?

The choice is yours. But here’s a clue.

The harder choice is usually the right one.