December 12, 2014

No Feeling is Final

When we're depressed, anxious, or otherwise feeling bad, it's often compounded by the belief that our mood is stable or permanent. Even if we remember that we felt differently yesterday, and logically conclude that we'll probably differently again tomorrow, it doesn't seem that way in the moment. 

I'm reading a book on mindfulness and psychotherapy (see sidebar), and a sentence that addresses the fear of enduring emotion jumped out at me: “No feeling is final.” I love it! It’s from a Rainer Maria Rilke poem (copied below) and it made my day. I happened to be feeling sad at that moment, and was pleased and relieved to be reminded that emotions are transient by nature.

Emotions trick us with their pain and intensity. We can feel so angry, so depressed, and so scared that it seems implausible that we'll ever feel differently. "No feeling is final" reminds us that emotions will move through and move on if we let them, easing the unnecessary secondary emotion (e.g., fear about anxiety; anxiety about anger). That doesn’t mean that the intense anxiety you feel during breakfast won’t return at lunchtime--or even as you do the breakfast dishes--but it does mean that the world has other emotions in store for you: sadness, happiness, envy, exhilaration, less intense or more intense anxiety, and a whole host of other feelings. The current emotion is not your new life

The next time you're displeased with your current emotional state, remember: no feeling is final.


God speaks to each of us as he makes us,
then walks with us silently out of the night.

These are the words we dimly hear:

You, sent out beyond your recall,
go to the limits of your longing.
Embody me.

Flare up like a flame
and make big shadows I can move in.

Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror.
Just keep going. No feeling is final.
Don't let yourself lose me.

Nearby is the country they call life.
You will know it by its seriousness.

Give me your hand.

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