When fog freezes over, not Hell, the tiny droplets of water forms a layer of white ice over whatever it touches. This is called hard rime ice. Soft rime ice is the same thing, I think, except it is frozen by wind only the windward side of objects. Even though we are 98.6 degrees inside, our emotions can become frozen over and covered in rime.
Almost anything, if we neglect it, can cause a layer of numbing agent to seize up our complex network of emotion and form a hard or soft layer of distance.
Some things don’t even require neglect.
Grief does it naturally; just seeps in and coats every living thing inside and numbs us. It’s good at first because we are in such pain over loss, but if it is allowed to solidify it becomes trouble. Normally grief melts in places by the natural course of events, over months and even years. Eventually, when grief has gone well, it is reduced to icy spots we slip over now and again – welling up with tears without the least warning and seemingly unconnected to anything in particular. But with neglect it can harden and leave a deep freeze around the heart.
Anger, of course, is famous for such hardening of emotional arteries.
Anger hardens into an aggressive resentment or an inwardly pointed depression. Either way, one day we may suddenly recognize just how numb we have become, walled in by a frosty anger about something that has long since past. It fills us with trepidation because the only way to go from air-starved inside where we live, to the vibrant world on the other side, is through – through the rime.
The only way out is through.
We have to go through all those feelings we neglected in the first place when we were avoiding the hurt. But doggone it, we still don’t want to hurt, or burn, or grieve. But the only way out is through. When our emotional arteries are covered with a hard or even soft rime of anger, hate, resentment, grief, regret, shame, fear (you name it), the only way out is through.
We reach for something to take the edge off but unbeknownst to us at the time, it actually makes things worse.
The little buzz induced to soften what we have to go through actually hardens it. Worse, if we keep using something to soften the pain it actually takes us further and further away from the source. There is no bullet to bite, no analgesic or palliative to put us to sleep during the surgery, only the caked on film of previously avoided yuck we have to go back through.
What I worry about most, is that with all the sleep aids, anti-depressants, diet pills, skin creams, legalized numbing agents, and illegal hollowing substances available and used, we simply will not be able to go through the pain we need to travel in order to recover a human society with a foreseeable future. We have already become hazardously numbed by pharmaceutical hawkers and a cultural encouragement to wakelessness, imagine how much worse it could get as we create and market ever more powerful and distorting pills and “medications.”
I’m sure I sound like some kind of crazy crank tilting at windmills. No one in their right mind goes cold turkey against what hurts when they don’t have to. Still that is what I am proposing. Face what hurts inside, feel it all the way through to the other side. It is not only our personal wellness at stake; our capacity to build and nurture a livable society depends upon it.