I lately have been contemplating the fine line that lies between allowing and wallowing. In fact, there are four lines—they form the letter “w.” How does this one seeming insignificant letter (as compared to let’s say the ever-popular “e” or “t”) distinguish between these two quite common states of being? What difference does that initial “w” make? After much consideration, I have come up with the following explanation.
To allow is a healthy and necessary stage of emotional processing. I must make time for leaning into negative feelings as they arise—whether fear, pain, anger, whatever. They are signals that point the way to my welfare. I must accept the temporary discomfort that carries with it a valuable lesson. When I allow, I am bending toward an experience, giving myself space in which to feel the gamut of my emotions and permitting them to run their course. When I allow, I can move on in time.
Wallowing is when allowing becomes no longer productive. When I cross the line (all four of them) from allowing into wallowing, I hold onto the feelings, rather than let them pass through me. This is fruitless and, in fact, destructive. When I wallow, I am immersed in, covered with. There is a sense of suffocation, of drowning. When I wallow, I remain stuck in emotional mire.
I don’t believe that a clock or a calendar determines the initial “w” in question. In other words, a week at home alone does not equate allowing, and a month under the covers does not necessarily constitute wallowing. So, how can I tell when I’ve crossed those four little lines?
When, even in the midst of my inner turmoil, I know there will be a “payoff” for my pain, that’s allowance. When I see a “wall” of resistance in front of me blocking my way to healing and reconciliation, I know I am wallowing. The “w” is significant after all.
Be enlightened! ~ M