Not Believing Our Distresses

From a talk by Tim Jackins at the New York City, New York, USA, Teachers’ and Leaders’ Workshop, June 2002

Distresses that have become chronic run in our heads constantly. We have all been hurt. In addition, society is set up to restimulate us. There’s a steady rain of restimulation on us, all day, every day. We battle every day to pull ourselves up to where we can function. We work hard at holding down the “noise” of our distressed feelings—of failure, unworthiness, hopelessness, or powerlessness. And we wonder what’s wrong when we can’t easily access the distresses and discharge them.

Most of us have gotten so used to these distresses that we don’t notice them. They’re there all the time. It’s “just life,” so we don’t notice them awarely enough to remember to go against them, to attack them, to contradict them, to stop believing they are a picture of present-day reality, or of us.

These distresses cause us to forget how good we are—how marvelous and worthy and unique and valuable and loveable every single person is, us included.

My mind often wakes up feeling bad. This is, of course, because I was hurt. However, the pull is to hunt for what I did recently to make me feel bad: “Did I function badly enough yesterday that I should feel bad today?” I need to stop and say, “Wait. This is a distress pattern, and it probably comes from painful incidents that I simply need to discharge.”

Reliably, anything that’s making those noises in our heads is always distress—always. It’s perfectly reliable. And if it’s perfectly reliable, we can set a direction against it without danger of being mistaken. It’s always distress. It makes no sense to believe the “reason” I find for feeling bad, nor to allow my mind to stay stuck there. It’s never useful. It doesn’t get me out of distress, never brings me closer to reality, never gives me a more accurate picture of myself. I can refuse to let my mind stay there.

We each have old “comfortable” distresses. They are familiar to us and therefore seem less scary. We become “convinced” that they don’t feel as bad as facing our fears. Like other addictions, chronic distresses masquerade as comfort, even though they are horrible for us.

Interrupting these distresses will take repeated efforts on all of our parts. We can remember, every morning, to not let these recordings play out unchallenged in our minds. We can always take our minds somewhere else. We’re not helpless. We can think.


We need to push ourselves to face and discharge our chronic distresses instead of letting them run in our minds.

Facing and discharging our heavy distresses can seem almost unbearable. We feel things massively. It’s almost unbearable, but it’s wonderful, it’s exquisite. We know that something good is happening, but it can feel so uncomfortable that we shy away from it. It can feel so dangerous and unfamiliar that we avoid it.

However, this is when our minds are becoming free, when we are making gains and getting closer to reality. We need to hunt for ways to shed the numbness of past distress. As clients, we can learn to drive ourselves in that direction, against all the habitual hanging back and avoiding the discomfort of it. We can develop a sense of how to get close to that sharp struggle, to that exquisite discomfort. Then, at some point, instead of trying not to cry, our crying opens up fully. Something lets loose, and we have a sense that the discharge process is working fully. Things change when that happens. We are back out in the world and have access to it in a way we didn’t have before. We need to be hunting for that “discomfort,” instead of hunting for the reactively defined “comfort” we’ve known so well for so long.


You likely woke up with these struggles this morning, and because the circumstances here at the workshop were different enough, and you had people around you who were trying to be friendly, you may have been able to consciously push those struggles out of the way. You may have used the people around you to get your attention out.

It matters that you decide it’s within your power to not leave your mind there—on the recordings from all your individual distresses and from all the oppressions that have come down on you. You get to say, “No, this is my mind. I am not going to let distresses do that. I am not going to let that happen. I am never going to accept that happening again,” whether or not you can successfully do it all the time.

Making the decision to take back the power of our minds—consistently making that effort—is important. We can’t expect that some new information will contradict the distresses enough that we’ll then be able to make that decision. This is not about more information—it’s about deciding to have our minds, against whatever comes at us, whatever noises society and its oppressions have made at us, whatever oddities of our families got acted out at us. We still get our minds. They are still undamaged in there. They have the corrosion of distresses over them, but our minds are still there, still capable of everything.

Things gets clearer and easier when we discharge the distresses, but even when we don’t, those good minds are there and can fight against the distortions coming out of distresses.

We need to remind each other, over and over again, to do this work. So many of the distresses we carry have an element of making us feel bad about ourselves. To deny this, any hold in our minds is a place to start.

Last modified: 2023-10-02 18:50:20+00