Emotional Endurance

When you’re supposed to write but you feel sad, you have three options. First, you can write sadly and turn the sadness into meaning. Second, you can try to convert the sadness into another emotion. Or, you can just wait until the sadness passes.

The first option is often productive, but we can’t always bring ourselves to it. It takes courage, and that’s not in infinite supply. The second option is hard and seldom works, and when it does, it’s usually because we go and do something else — and that activity changes the emotion, but it also sends us off course. The third option is the path of emotional endurance, and that’s a hard-won but extremely valuable skill.

It’s tough to sit there and slog it out. You don’t know what thoughts you’ll have. It’s you vs. you, a sparring match with yourself inside your mind. Even if you’re good at accepting whatever thoughts roll over you, you still don’t know if the wave will wash you away, and that’s scary too. Sooner or later, however, the emotion always fades, so the bigger of a “later” you are comfortable with, the more reassurance you’ll gain that you can get through any emotion.

Tolerating “later,” enduring emotions, is a practice in and of itself, but there are other ways you can train. Meditation helps. Being self-aware is a must. And structuring your thoughts, via writing or otherwise, can keep you from acting out emotions without reflecting on them. Plus, as with any habit, the more emotionally challenging situations you endure and survive, the more your emotional endurance will increase.

It might not be the skill of skills, but it’s up there. Learn to let emotions come and go, and you’ll still be here long after both your brightest and darkest days have passed.