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At least this foot doesn't have Ebola!

“At least my other foot is fine!”

All of us are guilty of at-leasting on ourselves. And all but the most skillful (superhuman) of us are guilty of at-leasting on others. I keep at-leasting on myself for the plantar fasciitis I have in my foot, because, you know, “At least I don’t have it in both feet!” and “At least I don’t have Ebola in both feet!” and “At least my whole family doesn’t have Ebola in both feet!”

Because, doesn’t this cheer us up when we point out how lucky we really are? You know, that whole First World Problem thing? Aren’t we helping? Being good positivity purveyors?  Gratitude attituders? Resilience revelers? And anyway, what else would we do when someone shares their pain?

Maybe we could, just, acknowledge the reality of what did happen? Since, when we jump to what could have happened, we have just voided what did happen. We literally blotted it out from the timeline. Something happened, people. Something happened.

If you’re thinking, “What’s the bigs?” you are not alone. Because there’s a prevailing flawed moralistic logic in America.

Flawed Moralistic Logic Exhibit A: Because other people have bigger problems, you should dismiss the reality of a problem you have. Yo, peepelos! There will always be other people with bigger problems. With this logic, we have to deny every pain, every problem, except one – The One worst pain or worst problem in the world. So, if yours ain’t The One, you have no right to acknowledge your pain.

Flawed Moralistic Logic Exhibit B: Because your reason for saying “at least” is to make someone feel better, it’s okay to do it. Yeah. At least you didn’t say, “Look on the bright side, you negative scourge on humanity!” or “See the good, you ungrateful bitch!” or “Buck up, you weak whiner!” Oh wait – you did. Pretty much.

Yeah, that’s harsh. Yeah, I want to shake you up. That’s what I do. Shake you right off the shaky construct of ground we’ve all been standing on too long, to find yourself some real unshakable ground.

I know that when you told the person with cancer “At least they caught it early!” you didn’t mean, “Gratitude check yo’self, bitch.” I know you really wanted to make the other person feel better. I know. And I love you. I get that this tendency comes from a really well-meaning place. But my mission, baby, ain’t to keep us doing well-meaning things that actually harm us. This ain’t a small deal. When we continue to operate within the same unexamined social constructs, not only do we fuel a disconnecting worldview, but we miss out on experiencing the unparalleled exhilaration of truly connected living. You can quote me on that. (You will. You will! A lot. All the eff over social media.) [pause for social media flurry] [pause again for the people who thought I didn’t mean them]

When we continue to operate within the same unexamined social constructs, not only do we fuel a disconnecting worldview, but we miss out on experiencing the unparalleled exhilaration of truly connected living.

And if you’ve been on the receiving side of a well-meaning “at least”, you know how hollow you felt. And now you know why.

Let’s stop forcing ourselves and others to move around everything – to effectively drop it or dodge it. Let’s stop telling people to get over it instead of getting through it.

Let’s do something about it. Now. I’ll help.

Don’t feel bad because you do this at-leasting thing. Just know that you do it, and hold it. Yeah, hold it, don’t drop it. Get some space around it, and know that it does not define you. Let the tiniest bit of compassion enter in for this well-meaning at-leasting person that is one of many facets of you. There. That’s all there is to it. When you’re about to at-least on yourself or someone else, intervene on behalf of yourself by holding the space.

You may have heard that phrase in yoga or psychology circles before: Hold the space. If you’ve been like, Wha?!?” about it, I’ve been there, too. Cred to my teacher and East-West psychology expert Karina Ayn Mirsky for steadfastness in the face of this face with the eyes rolling around in it. And now, I present to you my straight-ahead look at holding the space:

Holding the space is allowing yourself and others that space – where no one is compelled to fix anything – that is the only place where compassion has the right-of-way.

[surely a social media pause here]

Holding the space is allowing yourself and others that space – where no one is compelled to fix anything – that is the only place where compassion has the right-of-way.

So, do ya still wanna make someone feel better? It ain’t your job to “make” anyone feel better, not even if that someone is yourself. And besides, ya can’t. Your job is to allow feeling what is. Let yo’self off the hook! Compassion, in its purest form, is acknowledging what is, without judgment. Feeling better can only happen when this requirement is satisfied. Without it, there is some level of dismissal, invalidation, disconnect – and don’t underestimate the destructive effects this can have.

So, start learning how to hold the space. (How? By doing it. Practice 101.)

All right. We got this. But we also have a bit of a scourgebitchwhiner complex, don’t we? After all these years of at-leasting on ourselves, we really think we are what we’ve been effectively calling ourselves – negative scourges, ungrateful bitches, and weak whiners. Want some help with that? Here we go – my complete reframing of negativity, ingratitude, and whining, each in 10 seconds or less:

Stating what is, even if what is is not “good,” is being more positive than pretending it’s good. It is connecting to something authentic, seeing it so we can change it, starting us in the direction of positive change instead of keeping us in the same place of denial – totally disconnected from what is. Which, ironically is really the negative scourge.

Gratitude for what we have does not make pain go away. Sorry. Although gratitude can totally amp our connected worldview and lessen the effects of our pain, it doesn’t replace holding the space to feel our pain.

Giving words to what needs to be felt is not being a whiner. It is a healthy part of the healing process. And it’s not weak – it takes strength to do. If you never acknowledge where you are, you will never be with it long enough to give compassion the right-of-way. You will never heal.

Okay, so let’s review this in an actual real-life application.

In class the other day, I had a student who was recovering from a kick from a horse resulting in multiple broken ribs. Another student offered up, “Good thing it wasn’t your head!” (Whoa there, horsie. Do not judge this student. I mean, come on, I hadn’t even written this blog post yet.)

At times like this, we just have to reflect back the hardship, the pain. Not change it. Not move away from it. Hold the space.

Try something like, “Wow, sorry you’re going through that. Sounds really hard.” (Yes, “sorry” in this context is an appropriate expression of sorrow, not an apology. But that’s a whole nutha blog.)

See that, though? You just took this very significant opportunity to acknowledge what is, to allow healing space. It’s significant because YOU MAY BE THE ONLY ONE THAT DOES IT FOR THIS PERSON. EVER. It is imperative we spend time there, with it. By not acknowledging it, we suggest that it shouldn’t be acknowledged. That the person suffering should not be suffering. And again, no, we don’t mean to be assy like this, it is not our intention, but it is the effect. Let’s stop leaving the person needing healing with an impression that they should be more “positive,” “grateful,” or “tough.” When I’m suffering, I am feeling none of these things. And that is okay. That is a necessary part of moving through something.

Let’s stop leaving the person needing healing with an impression that they should be more “positive,” “grateful,” or “tough.”

Join me in promoting going through it instead of getting over it. Holding the space, seeing what’s there. Allowing compassion in. And coming through into a more compassionate, connecting worldview, a foothold in something less shaky, the ability to take a stand for what is real.

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