This month I’m writing a piece for Psych Central on not viewing our anxiety as an adversary. An expert I interviewed for the piece shared the below poem with me, which I knew I had to share with you. This is how she encourages her clients to relate to their anxiety.
And it’s how I think we can relate to everything — particularly painful emotions. Instead of fighting with our feelings, we can acknowledge and accept them. We can let ourselves feel what we feel. Because every internal experience, every feeling, is welcome.
“The Guest House”
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
As an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
From Essential Rumi by Coleman Barks
If it helps, copy this poem into your journal or onto an index card. Keep it with you as a reminder. When you need to remember that there are no “I should feel this way,” or “I shouldn’t feel that way,” or “I shouldn’t be anxious,” or “I shouldn’t have that thought,” reread the poem.
Think about what wisdom your thought or feeling may hold. Think about how it might guide you. That doesn’t mean that we believe in thoughts that don’t serve us. Rather, we explore where the thought comes from. We explore how we can reframe it or how we can put a positive spin on it.
We sit with our feelings. We see what messages our feelings are trying to send us. And after we’ve fully processed them, we use our feelings as guides for taking healthy action.
P.S., For creative ways to explore and process your emotions, check out my latest post on my creativity blog.