This girl I know needs some shelter
But she don’t believe anyone can help her
She’s doing so much harm doing so much damage…
Now you can’t change the way she feels
But you can put your arms around her…
–Protection, by Massive Attack
This is one of my favorite songs by the British band, Massive Attack. It carried me through much of graduate school, on long lonely days sitting in the library until the wee hours of the morning. So, when it popped up on my playlist the other day, I was transported back to a time in my life when there was a lot of pain. And I re-experienced it somewhat, though from a distance and not as viscerally.
And that was timely—especially being here in Israel—where we recently observed Tisha B’av, the Jewish Day of Mourning, regarded as the saddest day in the Jewish calendar, and a day when we remember sad events in the history of the Jewish People. We are invited also to reflect on many of the current problems or challenges facing our world, our communities, our loved ones and even ourselves.
Dealing with the sadness is not easy. Very often we react either by getting stuck in pain or by denying it altogether, but somewhere in there is a balance. Massive Attacks’ words offer a sane and loving approach to dealing with pain. The song tells us that we can’t change feelings but we can embrace them.
When comforting others, we need to remember that we can’t remove their pain, but we can love them and console them. We can remind them that they are not alone. And when comforting ourselves, we can exercise self-love and non-judgment and create space for these very uncomfortable sensations. We can throw our arms around ourselves and remind ourselves that we can persevere.
Creating space for the reality of pain might seem ridiculous and somewhat counterintuitive, but it will open us up to deeper parts of ourselves and deeper levels of love and compassion for others.