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Physical difficulty v emotional difficulty

Updated: Jul 6

Modern life is a wonderful thing in many ways. Encountering difficulty along the way however, is compulsory. The way you process the emotional kind can be the story of your life.

My mate Tom used to pause our street footy matches by sitting on the kerb to stop himself going to the loo. This was the mid 80's in the London suburbs and when I say “the loo” I mean having a poop.


He hated number two’s and every week or so, would put a tense match on hold between our mates including - Chris, Andy, and Jase, by literally trying to hold onto to his physical difficulty so to speak. His hope was it would disappear of its own accord so he could rejoin the game, recharged and smash the ball goal bound - he often did, the silky left footed sod.


He always lost the battle though - nature was on his side. His digestive system took over to process the food he consumed into good stuff to fuel and nourish his body and ensure the un-needed negative stuff was let go. His body connected to support and process what wasn't needed, and Tom moved forward unburdened.


During that time another kind of difficulty visited our neighbourhood. Jase’s Mum (Carol, a mum’s mum, a kind-hearted, smiley-faced force of nature) tragically got cancer and passed away within 6 months of the diagnosis. Jase was 16 years of age at her funeral.


The sense of injustice was devastating to us all. The emotional effect on Jase was unimaginable. Way too much for a 16-year-old to manage alone, but in reality that was how it turned out. Jase’s Dad had left home the previous summer and lost his way when Carol passed on, slowly estranging himself from Jase and his elder brother.


The neighbourhood and our crew of mates rallied as best we could - but we were woefully out of our depth. The only therapeutic help in sight came from the local off-license.


So - we bribed our elder brothers to buy canned lager and taught each other to drink - to ease our pain and prove our strength. What Jase needed was an emotional prescription of unconditional support and understanding to be taken 2 to 3 times daily. What he got was a 4 pack of beers, to be consumed 3 or 4 times a week.


The prescription had no end date. Emotional awareness simply wasn't in our vocabulary. The natural cure available to us all (connection and grieving) might as well have been located in ET's spaceship. That's how far away from our comprehension it was. An outward expression of emotion with another could involve tears. In our world that equated to one thing, and one thing only. Weakness.


So Jase walked on wounded, carrying his emotional difficulty and burden as best he could. Initially, it only leaked out - he lost his warmth and lovable sense of humour, trading them for guarded defensive behaviour. He started lifting weights and put on a chunk of muscle. Building strength. Banishing weakness. We were all doing the same in our own ways. We stuck by him, but as time ticked by, slowly and surely he withdrew and disconnected from the group. We tried, but life got in the way.


One Saturday night in August 1989 things changed. A house party found the old crew back in one place. Good times - drinking, dancing, snogging, the usual script. Until a pizza delivery driver arrived with what turned out to be the wrong order. I never did find out the detail but Jase wasn’t happy and exploded in an angry rage. He beat up the delivery guy badly enough to put him into hospital and guaranteed himself a police cell for a bed that night and a court appearance a fortnight later.


Reflecting on recent events in Florida, I can't help but wonder how his anguish and anger might have played out if the ovarian lottery had found our crew being raised in the US rather than the UK. Gulp.


Weird though it sounds that pizza saved him. As a result of the court case, he was mandated to see a support counsellor weekly to avoid a custodial sentence and slowly but surely things started to turn around. In time, parts of the old Jase emerged - not completely but enough to start moving forward. That supportive connection worked.


Jase's circumstances were extreme. The truth is though, that difficulty in life is compulsory. It visits us all in many ways. In moderation, the physical stuff will take care of itself - the emotional stuff won't. Isolation can't remedy emotional pain.


Left Unsaid these negative emotional feelings breed anxieties and defences that disconnect us from ourselves and the things we love. You need to move it, to reach out and process it to avoid infecting the rest of your life.


If you’re feeling anxious, low, angry or confused. Look for ways to move and unstick yourself. To connect with others or with nature or simply just to talk.

To a friend, family, colleague or a stranger - whatever works for you - and if that feels too exposing to begin with, then Google ‘counsellor or therapist near me’ and trade some material budget for a therapeutic connection for a few sessions. Think of it as an investment in your future self.


Human connection is how we get here, it's how we grow and it's what we need to survive and keep growing. Without it, very little matters.


Jase was fortunate and after his blow up he found some. Amongst other things, he was persuaded to start kickboxing classes and began expressing his anger in a managed way, and through his renewed sense of self, he met a girl a couple of years later. With more connection and support together, he was able to embrace his vulnerability bit by bit, to begin processing and making sense of his grief to move forward and write a different ending for his life.


Twenty years later they are still together, with two daughters and a trampoline in the garden.