Living in Paradox

In Reflect

We have a guest post today from the wonderful Kimberly Knoll, LMFT, about how to live in the paradoxes we experience.

I remember sitting across from my practicum supervisor one day many years ago while talking about a relationship I was struggling with.  I was angry with this person and feeling tremendous guilt – guilt for being angry at this person that means the world to me.

My supervisor stopped me in my tracks when she said, “Kim, I think you are struggling with two opposites.  You are feeling anger for this person and tremendous love at the same time.  You’re not holding space for both of these emotions at the same time.”  She was 100% right.

I was beating myself up for feeling a valid feeling and it felt like I couldn’t be angry because I also had a ton of loyalty and love for this person.  Little did I know that much of my work with clients has been about this truth.  The ability to live in paradox.  To experience two opposing viewpoints, ideas or emotions.

There is a paradox involved in emotional suffering.  The more we attempt to suppress painful emotions, the more likely we are to experience it and have it hang around for a lot longer.

I was trying to suppress my anger with this person.  I didn’t want to feel it and in my attempt to suppress that emotion I made it a whole lot stronger and it lasted a lot longer.  The moment I was able to accept that emotion, my suffering disappeared.  I was still feeling hurt and pain from my experience but I was no longer suffering and stuck.  I could process my experience and decide what I needed to do with this situation in a way that aligned with my values.

So much of the suffering we humans experience has to do with our strong innate desire to push away or judge normal emotions that are not pleasant. It’s counterintuitive.  It’s paradoxical.  But if we can lean into our experience of an uncomfortable feeling it will pass.  We are not walking around crying all day long because at some point, we stop crying.

Emotions are fleeting.

Allow them to flow through so that they can pass through.


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