The classic AA slogan “This, Too, Shall Pass” has layers. Attributed to 12th century Persian Sufi poet, Attar of Nishapur, though quite possibly in circulation long before that, the phrase is popular both in and outside of recovery circles. In fact, our beloved sixteenth President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln, paraphrases it in one of his speeches.
Applied to the recovery path, “This, Too, Shall Pass” helps us understand that any given experience we may have to face can be counted upon to go away in its own right timing and way.
The Trauma Lens: Will This Ever Pass?
For women with addiction patterning, impermanence is especially important to integrate into our mental understanding. That’s because trauma is what we call it when bad feelings get stuck in our bodies, where they are frequently triggered and reactivated in such a way that we feel like we can’t get ever really over it.
To realize that the suffering isn’t actually a permanent state is often a cognitive link that we need to make. No matter how frequent our trauma episodes are, there is always a break from them in between. At some point the energy does indeed shift and move (even if we have a tendency to return to that pattern).
It helps when we can learn to gradually release traumatic experiences, the stress that was associated with those events, out of our body so that we don’t have to re-experience them so often. This is taking “This, Too, Shall Pass” more into our own hands, assisting some things to move along, perhaps through one of the trauma work modalities offered by Villa Kali Ma, such as EMDR.
Believe it or not, our trauma is finding a way to be released from our body, through constantly coming back to us seeking our attention and help, like a prisoner saying “Help me, let me out of here!” The energies, sensations and life force that got trapped and tangled up in those bad experiences still needs to be let out of the body.
In this sense, “This, Too, Shall Pass” is also an affirmation, a decision that I will allow this experience to pass out of my experience, at last.
Affirmation for “This, Too, Shall Pass”
You may want to experiment with writing yourself some affirmations to help integrate the wisdom of this powerful AA slogan.
I lovingly recognize that my body is healing me and moving me forward. I know these feelings are here in my awareness today because they are passing on out of me and completing. It is safe to let go of these feelings. Thank you, Body. I do not have to keep the past with me as fear, anger, or stuckness anymore. This is a wonderful opportunity to be liberated.
The Upside of Impermanence
When we realize that “This, Too, Shall Pass” is a chance to embrace the positive side of impermanence, we can see that the fact that everything passes on out of us sooner or later is a real comfort. We are evolving, we are growing, even if it’s hard to recognize in the moment.
Try out the following exercise and see what it does for you.
Something that Did Pass
- Think of a time in your life during which you experienced something that was very hard for you at the time, like a break up or disappointment. For now, don’t choose your deepest darkest moment, but a time when you do remember struggling.
- Identify a moment in time that came after that event, at which point the event was totally done, including the feelings about it. It’s ok to give it a generous window of time – maybe it took several years, but pinpoint when this trouble was no longer a burdensome presence in your life.
- How did you get from #1 to #2?
Ob La Dee, Ob La Da!
You may realize in your answer to question #3 that you’re not sure how it happened. Somehow life moved on in that intervening time period. Perhaps you did specific things to take care of yourself, but often as not we were assisted by time itself. Sooner or later, bad things fade out and are no longer active as sources of pain.
“This, Too, Shall Pass” reminds us that life will resolve its own tensions and troubles over time, if we can basically trust and allow it to. It means that no feeling, no matter how terrible, is permanent. Thank you God, that life goes on!