Editor’s Note: FII’s #MoodOfTheMonth for October, 2021 is Navigating Complex Emotions. The pandemic has interrupted our emotions in many ways, and added to the complexities of our mental well being. FII invites submissions on coping with these complicated feelings, throughout this month. If you’d like to contribute, kindly email your articles to email@example.com
I’ll be the first to admit that there is something really raw and authentic about a protagonist grieving the loss of their loved ones in movies. It’s a trope that I’m personally very attracted to. I remember watching Dil Chahta Hai for the first time, and wondering how it seemed easy for Sid to move on from Tara, for who he even put his friendship on the line. The ending left me unconvinced as a viewer. I wasn’t sure if it was his voluntary choice to move on, or whether it was the only appropriate, acceptable course of action.
Social media takes it upon itself to prove my unpopular opinion wrong by showing me a slew of posts about ‘letting go’, and ‘moving on’. While it is true that moving on from the past doesn’t necessarily mean deleting it from memory, hardly the acceptable time to grieve a lost relationship or emotional bond is hardly accounted for.
Often, one is expected to ‘return’ to normalcy after some time has elapsed. Stressful events make an indelible impact on us, and so, it becomes quite impossible to remain equanimous. Processing sudden and painful loss can take months and years since the experience can be painfully slow.
In veteran South Korean film making legend Kim Ki Duk’s Time, Ji-Woo is unable to process the abrupt loss of his girlfriend. When he meets his friends over dinner, they tell him to stop moping and ‘move on’. Not having had the time to heal, he unsuccessfully tries to fill that void with other women. Or, as depicted in the Japanese film Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles, the grief may get displaced, and manifest in other relationships.
I have seen in my parents, and grandparents the preference to not talk about complex events in life, because they have repressed their emotions around it. For them, catharsis is possibly a luxury or privilege since they lack the time and space to confront it. Time tries to heal all wounds, but a part of the wounds always remains septic. Unprocessed grief can potentially affect how we relate to the world, and people that occupy it.
At a time, when we are faced with a pandemic, it is debatable whether we will ever be able to move on from the grief of lost time and opportunities. Lives that we had painstakingly built for ourselves crumbled in front of our very own eyes, as we watched on helplessly. When the pandemic confined us within our homes, and the world was unrecognisable, I remember there being a flood of posts on social media about how it was the best time, since nature was ‘healing herself‘.
We could whip up ‘summer bods’, and do things that we hadn’t attempted before. Often, the narrative of positivity becomes singular and overwhelming, as it tries to superimpose itself over existing pain, without resolving the pain first. The pattern of replacing grief with something more desirable(positivity), almost invalidating the grief itself, does not allow any time to actually experience and process it. The outcome may be more painful and perplexing than the cause of grief itself, since the individual may feel split between what they are ideally ‘supposed’ to feel, and what they actually feel.
As the proverb goes – Once bitten, twice shy, forming grudges against people who hurt us is perhaps also a natural outcome of a bitter experience. If we explore our grudges, they perhaps tell us what attributes are red flags for us in relationships. The need for certainty is a very human and necessary for consistent peace. On the occasion that this sense of security is breached, it can never go back to the way it was.
Grief, as taxing as it is, also provide us the wisdom of establishing boundaries with people – boundaries that are lowered only when they feel trusting of the relationship. While trying to move on from a turbulent past, we all exhibit a tendency to dwell in painful emotions and develop strong feelings of negativity towards other people. For some time, that seems to be the only thing that is certain, and hence we resort to finding comfort in the certainty of our rage and pain.
Grudges which often start with resentment, can gradually also transform into self-preservation mechanisms that ensure that we don’t get hurt the same way again by similar people. Grudges are a result of being denied, ignored or taken for a ride in most relationships. We must channel them in healthy ways to examine what our blind spots are and what we find non-negotiable in relationships.
Most often, grudges or remorse in relationships are shoved under the carpet and they build up to violence and revenge. We must remember that no kind of pain or grudge entitles us to harm someone else. But if we sit with our grief and ponder over the source of our aversions, it can also inform us as to how much of ourselves we want to make available henceforth. This becomes possible only when one has completely, or mostly processed their feelings and emotions pertaining to the past, and is willing to learn from them. In that way, we can transform our complex feelings into self-preservation mechanisms, thereby moving on with a stronger, healthier emotional core.