This, Too, Will Pass.

this too will pass

I once heard a story that goes something like this: in an unknown country on an unknown continent there once was a tribe that had taken members of another tribe as prisoners. They pleaded for their lives and the King of the victors said he would spare their lives if they within a week could give him one thing that would make him happy when he felt sad and sad when he felt happy. The prisoners spent the week thinking, debating and arguing and eventually found a solution. When the time was up they were summoned before the King and he asked if they had an answer for him. The elder of the prisoners stepped forward and gave the King a ring. On the ring was inscribed: THIS, TOO, WILL PASS. The King acknowledged that they had risen to his challenge and let them all go free.

Facing our emotions.

This, too, will pass. In the end this is true of everything; from our fleeting feelings, and daily joys and troubles, right down to our life itself. Everything in this life is transient, but that doesn’t mean that our experiences, feelings and troubles are meaningless. We all go through times that are good and we all at some point in our lives have to deal with pain, loss, depression or other difficult emotions, where we find ourselves in quite a dark tunnel with no light visible at the end.

Through these dark times sometimes the only thing that keeps us going is hope that things will turn out for the best in the end – that this, too, will pass. We can somehow put a lid on the difficult emotions we are experiencing and think ourselves into a future where our situation has changed, we got what we wanted, and we are happy and fulfilled. Hope that things will be fine in the end can be an important factor in just keeping life going through the turbulence and troubles, but it can also become a bit of a cushion; it can work as a sedative, a shot of morphine for the pain we are going through right now and puts our focus firmly in a future that we in the end can’t predict or control. It can also prevent us from taking the steps that we need to take now in order to improve our situation, even if those steps just involve us paying attention to and being kind to ourselves.

Through these dark times sometimes the only thing that keeps us going is hope that things will turn out for the best in the end – that this, too, will pass. We can somehow put a lid on the difficult emotions we are experiencing and think ourselves into a future where our situation has changed, we got what we wanted, and we are happy and fulfilled. Hope that things will be fine in the end can be an important factor in just keeping life going through the turbulence and troubles, but it can also become a bit of a cushion; it can work as a sedative, a shot of morphine for the pain we are going through right now and puts our focus firmly in a future that we in the end can’t predict or control. It can also prevent us from taking the steps that we need to take now in order to improve our situation, even if those steps just involve us paying attention to and being kind to ourselves.

this too will pass

“Bad times have scientific value. These are occasions a good learner would not miss.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

There are people who advocate non-attachment to emotions, and while it can be of great benefit to be able to step back and take on the role of the observer of ourselves, there is also a danger that this can lead to not dealing with the issues that arise and thus missing the potential of transformation that is inherent in all difficult situations in life. Being plunged to the depths of despair, depression or pain – or to the heights of anxiety and fear – with no glimpse of hope of it ever ending can be a soul-destroying and paralysing experience and something it can take a long time to recover from. But the feelings are very real and if you can find the strength to stay with them rather than distance yourself from them there is a lot of learning to be had and you can potentially come out of the situation a stronger and more compassionate person.

I would in no way advocate wallowing in your pain (tempting as it may be) and cultivating feelings of self-pity, but I would encourage anyone who is going through a difficult time to find the courage to stay with the difficult emotions and not to try to gloss over them, intellectualize them or run away from them. Only by staying with how we are in the present can we begin to slowly understand what we are going through. We may not be able to understand why it is happening if the situation is caused by things that are not within our control, but we can slowly develop an understanding as to why we are feeling like we are about it; why is it causing us so much pain, what fears and unresolved past issues is it triggering in us and what do we need to do to begin the healing process and get our strength and joie de vivre back.

Finding the way.

Sometimes the only way out of a difficult situation is to simply put one foot in front of the other. We may not know where our feet will ultimately lead us, but as long as we are staying true to ourselves and acting with integrity and authenticity we can trust that we will be able to cope with what we meet. When the pain or despair gets overwhelming, taking a moment to pause and bringing your attention to your breath can be really helpful. Breathing in and breathing out. Focusing on something so fundamental and physical can stop us from spinning out and prevent fear and anxiety from running completely riot. It can also be helpful to remember the things you have to be grateful for and to spend time in places where you can appreciate the natural beauty around you such as beaches, forests or parks. Be kind to yourself rather than punishing yourself for not coping; we all go through difficult times at various stages in our lives and there is absolutely no shame in that.

Finding your own ways of coping and helping you recover is sometimes more important and potent than following the advice of others – as long as they truly help you move forward in the healing process. Whichever way you do it, slowly, but surely, coping will become easier and the future seems brighter even without it being fixed and it is possible to feel happy – even if only slightly or momentarily – without your situation having changed. And then one day, you might stop to take stock, look back at the last months and realise that – maybe without you even noticing it – this, too, did pass.

© Saraphir Qaa-Rishi

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