– If something really bad has happened, if your girlfriend has broken up with you or if someone has died, it might be a good idea to drink alcohol to get over the initial shock.
That piece of advice comes from my teacher of psychology in high school. Of all the advice I have been given in life, it ranks up there with the worst.
I was reminded of that advice the other day when a girl I know came home and found her father dead drunk, asleep on the kitchen table. She woke him up, the situation degenerated into a quarrel and he slapped her. What she did next? She went to the pub to drink beer, to drown it all away. She didn’t seem to reflect on the fact that her father had just shown her what a bad way of handling things that was.
Our society has a deep fear of anything unpleasant. Even when an infant begins to cry, many people’s instinctive reaction is to try to distract the child. We continue to program one another to avoid, distract and numb ourselves, rather than to face fears and unpleasant things in life. And what happens then? Well, we shy away from life, try to escape anything unpleasant, we swallow our discomfort so that our stomach curls up in a knot and we build walls around us to avoid feelings.
– Drink alcohol in order to get over the shock.
The teacher must himself have been a very frightened man, to think that was a sensible piece of advice to give young people in a period of life when many start abusing substances.
I want to offer you a different kind of advice.
Meet the discomfort head on. Feel it. Examine it and label it. Say “oh, this is what discomfort feels like. I’ll try to remember that. ”
Don’t try to defend yourself, hide from it, dodge it or sedate yourself. Go straight into it, even if it scares the crap out of you. Because if you go into it, you will also eventually come out of it. When you do so, you will be a bigger and wiser person. However, if you duck and flinch, you will prolong the discomfort and feel bad for a long time to come.
All situations have something to teach us. We attract them to deal with our life lessons. Seize the opportunity to grow.
And I promise you – nothing in life is permanent. Everything changes. What is extremely uncomfortable right now will also be nothing but a memory soon enough. The question is what kind of memory you would like it to be. Should it be the memory of something that taught you an important life lesson and helped you grow? Or should it be the kind of memory that you still have not dealt with, that you have stashed away in a dark corner of your stomach where it still makes you feel bad?
Photo: drunk by peter castleton on Flickrby