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Elisa Goldstein, Ph.D.Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.
A blog about mindfulness, stress-reduction, psychotherapy and mental health.

Handling Difficult Emotions: The Path Less Traveled

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. Updated: May 9th 2009

 Often times our distress comes from an unskillful understanding of how we relate to our discomfort. Throughout the course of a day we have various interactions with people and media that trigger different thoughts, feelings, and physical sensations. These different phenomena come and pass through us here and there coming for a visit and then eventually leaving. However, for many of us, when physical or emotional discomfort comes to visit, it's almost as if we get shocked, feel threatened and will do anything to get away from it. However, what we fail to understand is that when this discomfort is within us, it is a guest and when we send hate and judgment to guests they can get kind of rowdy and make our experience even more uncomfortable.

The 13th Century Sufi Poet, Rumi, says it well in his poem "Guesthouse":

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!
At this point you might be saying "What, are you crazy, welcome and entertain depression and meanness?" The logic behind this is that what we really need in that moment is understandings that these feelings are temporary and what is most healing is sending ourselves love. Think about it. What is going to be most supportive to you, love or hate?

Rumi continues:

Even if they are 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.

Coming to terms with the way things are can be powerfully healing. In the midst of coming to peace and letting the struggle be, a greater meaning and purpose will follow and that is what he may mean when he says "each has been sent as a guide from beyond."

As always, please share your thoughts and questions. Your additions here provide a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist in private practice in West Los Angeles and is author of the upcoming book The Now Effect, co-author of A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook, Foreword by Jon Kabat-Zinn, author of the Mindful Solutions audio series, and the Mindfulness at Work™ program currently being adopted in multiple multinational corporations.

Check out Dr. Goldstein's acclaimed CD's on Mindful Solutions for Stress, Anxiety, and Depression, Mindful Solutions for Addiction and RelapsePrevention, and Mindful Solutions for Success and Stress Reduction at Work. -- "They are so relevant, I have marked them as one of my favorites on a handout I give to all new clients" ~ Psychiatrist.

If you're wanting to integrate more mindfulness into your daily life, sign up for his Mindful Living Twitter Feed. Dr. Goldstein is also available for private psychotherapy.

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