Recently a colleague made an insightful suggestion about my running practice. She suggested I run to deflect feeling emotional pain. My first instinct was to strongly deny her suggestion. I am a highly trained, self-aware person, familiar with exploring all facets of my personality! Surely, I know myself best!
And then I stopped that movie. Huh. How might I be using something so seemingly healthy as an avoidance tactic? And yet, the more I sat with this uncomfortable feeling, the more I realized she might just be correct. Especially as I looked at how my running has evolved over the years.
Instead of being a runner who wants to improve her pace, I am all about distance and logging the miles. I realized there was a correlation between the emotionally turbulent periods of my life and the number of miles I was running during these times. The greater my emotional distress, the more miles I tended to run.
This is a good example of how something can have both positive and negative qualities. We are so conditioned in our Western culture to be dualistic. We think in terms of either/or. Running (insert any other word here) is either good for you or bad for you, depending upon your perspective.
What if we looked at it from a different place? What if the things we think of as all good, or all bad, might actually be a bit of both? My running was good for me at the time, because it provided a healthy outlet for emotions I did not understand, could not, or would not express. Running was perhaps bad also, for precisely that reason. I deflected emotional pain by enduring physical pain. Emotional pain meted out in every pounding, pre-dawn 10-mile run.
So the next time you want to categorize something as either “bad” or “good,” think again. Could it be both?
I’d love to hear about your experience of looking at things from a different place. How has this worked (or not) for you? Send me an email or comment below.