We’ve all had those moments when we stared dumbfounded at a partner, before we retaliated. Remember that time she lost it and turned into somebody you didn’t want to know? The time his countenance actually changed right before your eyes — as if with special effects?
Are we all capable of turning into monsters?
That’s one way to say it. According to Eckhart Tolle, in his much acclaimed “A New Earth,” we have a “pain-body” that can, at a moment’s notice, erupt like a dormant volcano.
Tolle explains what he calls the “pain-body” as the accumulation of old emotional pain that we carry with us, because of our tendency to perpetuate it. He uses an example of “the duck with a human mind” to make his point.
After two ducks get into a fight, which is always short-lived, they separate and float off in opposite directions. Then each duck vigorously flaps its wings a few times, releasing the surplus energy that built up, and continues peacefully, as if nothing had happened. Ah, but if the duck had a human mind, it would keep the fight alive.
Tolle says the duck’s story would sound something like this: “I don’t believe what he just did. He came within five inches of me. He thinks he owns this pond. He has no consideration for my private space. I’ll never trust him again. Next time he’ll try something else just to annoy me. I’m sure he’s plotting something already. But I’m not going to stand for this. I’ll teach him a lesson he won’t forget.”
The voice inside our heads just keeps going and going. We’re so used to the ego’s chatter that we may be unaware of it…but, nonetheless, it can continually add to our “pain-body.” In fact, if we were conscious of the ongoing voice, we could filter it.
We could recognize it for what it is, much the way you probably recognized the duck’s chatter as an overly sensitive over reaction! Instead, day after day, year after year, we accumulate negative emotion and pain.
And then one day, perhaps when a partner least expects it, something triggers all that pain…and we turn into a monster. Well, really, our “pain-body” just lets out a yelp — erupts, if you will.
Maybe you’re at a charity event and pay some pretty young woman a compliment. You think it’s innocent enough, your wife is right there at your side. And, clearly, the compliment is deserved. But your wife has now left your side — with the car keys in hand.
All the pain of all the times she ever felt inferior to a “clearly” deserving young woman has just been triggered…but neither of you knows that.
Or maybe you’re playing volleyball on the beach — fun in the sun for all, well, almost. You just, even to your own amazement, gave the bare-chested, athletic stranger a hug…only after he scored the winning point. And your husband immediately had to go back to the blanket for something.
He was already feeling a little less virile. Ouch.
So, what can we do?
We can become more conscious of our thoughts and the emotions they prompt. When we face negative emotion and give ourselves permission to feel it, we deflate it. Then, we can let go of it…the way we imagine the little duck to let go of it.
But what about that monstrous “pain-body” that’s already there?
Tolle says that once the “pain-body” is recognized, it can no longer pretend to be you and live and renew itself through you.
Your present doesn’t have to be distorted by your emotionally charged memories of the past. You’re not really a monster, and neither is your sweetheart.