With the sudden passing of Whitney Houston and the subsequent media coverage of her life and death – a spotlight has been shone on celebrity, stress and how people cope with intense, unresolved emotions. Whitney, no doubt, possessed a rare and magnificent talent – her voice. And with such a gift must have come unimaginable burdens. Her life points to an impressive lesson about the ill effects of masking emotional pain. It has made me reflect on the ways in which I undoubtedly do the same – when certain feelings of pain, anxiety and shame are too much to bear.
Drug and alcohol abuse are obvious examples of escapism. They are potent aids in achieving an altered state of being that allow for a reprieve from emotional awareness. But they are certainly not the only ones. Food, sex, obsessive exercising and shopping are all great examples of how we can detach ourselves from spirit.
My favorite is food. Food for me is a welcome distraction from painful emotions. When enjoying a dark chocolate brownie or half a pint of cookie dough ice cream, stresses all seem to magically disappear. The joy I feel when eating comfort food, although fleeting, is very real. It allows me to detach from thoughts of inadequacy or feelings of insecurity for at least a moment. For many of us, this is enough time to get distracted with other things in life – taking care of the kids, cleaning house or running errands. These distractions do not serve us because we miss the golden opportunity to bring consciousness to our painful emotions by truly feeling them. It is only by accepting the emotion exists and truly feeling it with non-judgmental awareness that we can diffuse the negative charge and limit the impact it has on our being.
Painful feelings that go unexpressed and ignored do not simply vanish. They reside in our mental and physical bodies. Their negative energy houses itself in our minds and fuels our next emotional outburst. Or the unresolved feeling seeps into the cells of our bodies, causing disruptions, inflammations and imbalances that negatively impact our health.
Whitney Houston was a gift to us all. Not only because of the music but the way she lived her life. Her life reflected the choices she made and I can see her choice to escape and avoid pain. It serves as a reminder to me to live life fully by facing my feelings of insecurity and shame. Painful emotions are opportunities to bring consciousness to areas of my life that are dark. Where there is light, there can only be love. I wish for Whitney nothing but love and light.