I watched Oprah’s “Super Soul Sunday” this morning. It was her interview with Michael A. Singer, the author of the book “The Untethered Soul,” which is one of my favorite books. I decided to flip again through my copy of the book to review passages that I had underlined when I read it.
Singer’s premise is that we all carry around an internal “thorn”–that which causes us to react, to feel sensitive, to be upset by things. If we continually work in life to make sure everything we do helps to avoid touching that thorn, we will avoid its pain. Unfortunately, this technique only serves to keep the thorn embedded. Avoidance does not heal.
On p. 61, Singer writes:
Life becomes stagnant when people protect their stored issues. People say things like, “You know we don’t talk about that subject around your father.” There are all these rules about things that are not supposed to happen outside because they could cause disturbance inside. Living like this allows for very little spontaneous joy, enthusiasm, and excitement for life. Most people just go from day to day protecting themselves and making sure nothing goes too wrong….The longer you live like this, the more closed you become.
Personally, there are some very important people in my life who live that way. Around them, I am not allowed to express emotions, feelings, or insecurities because those expressions will cause disturbance or discomfort. Yet for me, the inability to express anything leads me to feel extreme awkwardness. I cannot ask, for example, why they don’t want to talk ever on the phone. I cannot ask what one of them is so angry about. I cannot ask what I could do to mitigate this anger because anger that is not talked about festers but cannot heal. These repressed emotions are their thorns, thorns that have become intractable.
I, too, have my thorns. Singer says the thorns are the times when something happens outside of ourselves that pricks the nerves around the thorn. Someone says something, someone does not communicate with you as you think they should have, someone does not behave as you think they should, and the inner discomfort swells to the point that it is all you can think about. What are my thorns? Feeling inadequate, unsuccessful, as if I missed life’s “train” to the picket fence and the travel trailer. Feeling that my inability to play political games has led to problems with my career aspirations. Wanting to be genuine above all else has cost me.
Do you ever feel this way? Do you know people who go through life avoiding the issues that fester inside of them? Singer maintains that if we are able to notice what causes our thorns to be irritated and take a mental step back to that consciousness behind our everyday consciousness, we can observe the irritation as separate from who we really are and can feel peace. Over time, allowing ourselves to detach from the consciousness that holds that thorn, it will begin to work itself out and eventually be gone.