There once was a little brown rabbit that lived next door to a golden retriever. Every day the rabbit would crawl through a hole in the fence to go and play with the dog. Around and around they’d go and, after some time, the rabbit would crawl back under the fence and run home for the night. One day the dog came to the door wagging his tail with the drooping rabbit hanging out of his mouth. The dog’s people took the rabbit out of his mouth and placed its dead, limp body up high where the dog couldn’t reach. They then walked next door and told their neighbors what had happened. When the little girl heard that her beloved rabbit was dead she cried and cried. After awhile she and her parents walked next door to the neighbor’s house to retrieve the dead rabbit for burial. They rang the doorbell and the dog greeted them at the door joyfully wagging his tail. The little girl walked up to the dog, wrapped her arms around his neck and cried as she stroked him. When her parents asked why she was being so loving to the dog that had just killed her rabbit she replied that he had killed the rabbit but he wasn’t a bad dog. To the little girl, who the dog was, was more important than what he did.
I remember hearing in parenting classes that when a child acts out we condemn the actions but not the child. We address the child’s actions firmly but never undermine the essence of who they are. The little girl let herself feel the full grief of loosing her rabbit but she didn’t need to become spiteful to the dog. We can apply that same generosity to ourselves and others.
Pain is an unavoidable part of the human condition. We can allow ourselves to feel the full impact of pain without dragging that pain behind us like tin cans on strings. The hurt will always be a part of our psyche, but doesn’t need to color all of our future interactions. Do we want to give past suffering the power to make us sick and distracted from the roses in our front yard? From the dog’s wagging tail?
The little girl had a quick turn around time from sadness and anger to acceptance. Her heart was uncluttered, open and available. We may or may not integrate our pain so quickly. Unless we’ve been releasing pain as it arises throughout our lives, each new pain stimulates our storehouse of undigested wrongs. Feeling fully into fresh pain takes however long it takes. Allowing our pain to run it’s course is an act of great kindness to ourselves. We let ourselves feel what we are feeling, watch what it does in our body, and watch it fade in its own time. No one can tell us when to move past a betrayal or rejection. It’s unique to each one of us.
Betrayals and losses are not anomalies but inevitable parts of our delicate, amazing, complex human lives. We human’s hurt one another so it makes life sweeter if we can learn how to process those hurts and send them on their way to become fodder for a strong, empathetic psyche. A bitter life is not a happy life. It’s well worth the time and effort to develop skill at turning life’s inevitable slings and arrows into understanding and depth of character.