Hide and Seek

I recently shared with you one of my favorite poems. When I first read Rumi's "The Guest House", several years ago, I was challenged by its bold call to embrace all aspects of one's self. "Welcome and entertain them ALL"? Herein lies the quandary: we won't take issue in embracing laughter, delight, joy, celebration. These we deem "acceptable" and "good". But the others? They are intrusive. Sadness, grief, anxiety, depression, anger, and guilt are not welcome and should they force their way in, they are kept hidden in the basement.

We lose access to our true selves when we numb and deny our emotional reality.

Whether informed or defined by cultural norms, family rules or past painful experiences, we all have an innate idea of how to "appropriately" present ourselves in order to receive the love and affection we crave. We make vows on how to best navigate relationships with others in order to secure acceptance.

“If I’m angry, they won’t like me. Your anger pushes people away. Hide your anger.”

”Your fear makes you weak. Never let them see you weak.”

”Put on a happy face. Everyone loves a happy girl/boy!”

”When you were crying, they made fun of you. Don’t ever be embarrassed like that again.”

”You need to be perfect to be loved.”

”Your needs will be burdensome and no one wants to be around a burden.”

These and others like this are our internal messages. While they seem helpful, they are actually detrimental to our emotional health and growth. We don't get to pick and choose what emotions we siphon off and which we keep around. We like the idea of compartmentalizing but if we refuse to experience sadness, we are also numbing ourselves from joy. 

We lose access to our true selves when we numb and deny our emotional reality. The more and more we do this, the more difficult it will be to distinguish between what is true and what is false. We respond, "I don't know" to "how are you feeling" because we've legitimately lost touch with our own experience.

Rumi's idea of inviting all guests in is quite bold because it entails high risk. There is a reason we've put up the "no vacancy" sign. To allow painful emotions to surface means we are opening ourselves to feel heartache and loss and those are excruciating. We don't know if we can survive their existence. It seems safer to keep them at bay. But if we want to be people that are whole and true, then we must do the work of learning to welcome and entertain all.

Psychotherapist Stephen Cope describes what occurs, "The "night sea journey" is the journey into the parts of ourselves that are split off, disavowed, unknown, unwanted, cast out, and exiled to the various subterranean worlds of consciousness...The goal of this journey is to reunite us with ourselves. Such a homecoming can be surprisingly painful, even brutal. In order to undertake it, we must first agree to exile nothing."

Later this week, we'll look at what it will require to make this agreement and what it can mean to meet ourselves again.

If we want to be people who are whole and true, then we must do the work of learning to welcome and entertain all our varied emotional guests.

Tiffany Dang

Tiffany Dang, LPC, Austin, TX