Don’t assume that sorrow is only a figment of your imagination | Ophelie-C

2021.05.09
Picture from Eason Chan s Beneath Mount Fuji MV
Picture from Eason Chan’s “Beneath Mount Fuji” MV

Once, Eason Chan’s “Beneath Mount Fuji” was a song I never got tired of listening to. As Albert Leung penned, ‘why not assume that sorrow is only a figment of your imagination” resonated so much with me and became my creed in the face of adversity. It was not until I experienced the emotional counterattack that I suddenly realized how I’ve always been misusing this as self-criticism, to deny and suppress my own emotions furiously. The signals from my body were clear: your body does not allow for you to “assume feelings are fictitious”. You must accept and face your own feelings.

The first time when I listened to this song, I was perhaps under some emotional pain, and suffering from great sadness and self-pity. This song offered a lot of reflections, for example, “who can privately own Mount Fuji in the name of love alone”, “we must first learn to accept the loss in order to own it”, etc., all seem to be teaching me the truth about everything from love to life. Among them, “why not assume that sorrow is only a figment of your imagination” felt more like a panacea. I also asked myself, if in the end, “we’ll all nothing but ashes” and everything returns to nothingness, why do we have to endure grief? Why not convince myself that this heart-wrenching pain is not real! If this sorrow is not real, it doesn’t seem to hurt so much anymore. It did seem like I had a glimpse into the world’s secrets and figured it out a little.

Later, the application of this idea expanded. I began questioning that all feelings were figments of my imagination, particularly those feelings that I did not favor. If they were figments of my imagination, I should have full control, right? I often question “why it felt like I was overthinking”, and loved analyzing my feelings. However, analysis often comes with judgments. I felt that I “should have” felt this or that, and even questioned “why not” think this or that. But it turned out that it was easy to impose logical reasonings onto myself, and when I failed, I felt guilty. That was the beginning of something terrible.

Indeed, I’ve always been calm and have never allowed emotions to get the better of me. As such, after years of denial of my emotions, my body fought back hard. I was thrown into an emotional vortex. When I was deep within, tears would fall involuntarily, every muscle of my body would tense up for no reason, and even my logical reasoning could do nothing about these. Those who have suffered from emotional illnesses would understand that there is no cause for such anxiety and sadness. Everything is unreasonable, but you can no longer tell yourself that feelings are not real; tears are real, the tensing up of the muscles is real, and the more you analyze, the more you reject, the deeper and deeper you sink.

At that time, the therapist often told me to accept myself and to understand my own emotions. However, for the longest time, I could not fathom what there is to accept, and how exactly to accept. It was the practice of meditation that gave me the epiphany. Yet to be perfectly honest, my practice journey was thorny and full of obstacles. In the beginning, I would unconsciously analyze and criticize the feelings that I had, and then once again I found myself in the emotional vortex. In my last article, “Feelings, the clouds that gather and scatter”, I stressed that meditation requires the uncritical mind, and that was a lesson I learned.

However, continuous practice will strengthen the awareness in daily life. It allowed me to gradually begin to understand my own emotions. I found out that although feelings are unpredictable like clouds, they are not mere figments of imagination, and our bodies would not allow us to judge and reject emotions. Just as the curving of the mouth and lips when one is touched, or when the heart, heart, and even stomach experience excruciating pain when one is sad or disappointed, there is no room to ponder between should or should not. Should we be analyzing whether to be touched or to be sad before feeling? “I don’t think I should be hurting, but in fact it really, really does!”

One day I actually cut myself. Seeing the flowing red blood, I began to reflect: When the body bleeds, we will take it for granted that the pain is there, and there is probably no need to analyze or question why there is such pain! However, why is it that when my heart is bleeding, I keep questioning myself? Is it because the pain of the heart cannot be seen that we decide it is not real? We even assume that the pain is fictitious, and therefore can be ignored?

Earlier, in a positive psychology course, I came across self-compassion expert Kristin Neff, who said that “We often lose ourselves in the role of self-criticism, but we don’t stop to realize, ‘My God, this is very, very painful.’” I was on the verge of tears, and suddenly felt such grievances inside of me. It turns out that whether it is bodily pain or internal pain, we cannot avoid or ignore it. We must first realize that it really, really hurts, face it, and accept it, before we learn how to heal and take better care of ourselves.

(Ophelie-C is a journalist, she started her mindfulness journey in 2014 and survived an emotional storm with it. Since then, she loves to share her experience around, and has been a volunteer tutor for Loving-kindness and compassion meditation(LKCM)classes.)

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