Permission to feel.

I love Intervention.

It might be sort of sketchy for a TV network to allure an audience with an hour-long docu-drama that mildy exploits people while they hit rock bottom.

It might be sort of sketchy to be that audience.

But I find the show really moving. Last night, I watched an episode about a girl named Jennifer in Arizona. In her childhood, her parents divorced. She stayed with her mom. Her little brother moved in with their dad. In her early teens, she fell in with the wrong kind of crowd. She was all about sex, drugs and alcohol by the time she got to college.

Then, she had an accident. On the way back from an alcohol binge in Mexico with friends, the vehicle rolled. She was ejected. That she lived might be a miracle.

She spent a month in the hospital. The day she got home — or shortly thereafter — she got the shock of her life when her little brother rolled up on a moped. She hadn’t seen him in awhile. They never really got along. The probably 14-year-old boy sat by his sister and hugged her. Their mother almost got the camera.

The siblings hadn’t hugged in years.

The family believed the short visit would be a breakthrough.

Things would change, they thought.

Then, they got a call.

On his way home from visiting Jennifer, a car struck and killed her brother. Two days later, Jennifer started drinking again. She hasn’t stopped since.

Her story is sad and unpleasant but not uncommon.

Bad things happen. To everyone.

We get dumped and fired and terminal illnesses. Friends abandon us. People and pets die. We’re let down and shut out and screwed over.

How does it make us feel?

Empty.
Lonely.
Overwhelmed.
Confused.
Angry.
Anxious.
Depressed.
Rejected.
Humiliated.
Used.
Devastated.
Defeated.
Helpless.
Hopeless.
Ashamed.
Sad.
Heartbroken.

It’s uncomfortable. Let’s be blunt: it frickin’ blows. Most of the time, while you live it, it is the worst thing that could happen. None of us want to feel the way the worst thing that could happen makes us feel. Jennifer certainly didn’t.

Toward the end of last night’s episode, she walked into the conference room where her family waited to start the intervention. She stopped short when she saw them, went to the bathroom and chugged a bottle of vodka. Drunk but stable enough, she sat down to hear her family.

I can’t remember who said what when it happened, but when Jennifer found it hard to keep composed, she looked straight at her father.

“Please,” she said. “Don’t make me cry.”

Jennifer didn’t want to feel bad.

None of us do.

So we shop or eat. Others of us don’t eat. Sometimes, it’s sex or drugs or alcohol. We feel bad so we do something that distracts us from that. When the distraction wears off, we still feel bad, so we distract ourselves again.

Maybe we hope if we ignore how the worst thing that could happen has made us feel, it’ll go away. But it doesn’t. We have to cry. Pray. Hug it out. Journal. See a counselor.

We need to get it off our chests and on the table. We need to acknowledge and express it so it isn’t inside us all our lives.

We need permission to feel.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • SVB

    Honestly, I think Intervention is the best anti-drug campaign ever. It shows just how ugly drug addiction and its effects are, and it’s a program everybody should watch at least once–especially those who are impressionable and susceptible of falling into that lifestyle.

    I totally agree with you on the “permission to feel.” I think our society puts a lot of emphasis on being happy, which is fine, but I think it’s at the risk of ignoring all those other, more uncomfortable feelings. I think that if equal focus was put on acknowledging those uncomfortable feelings and dealing with them, we would be an overall happier society. I actually wrote something similar about this awhile ago on my blog: http://svb-thatswhatshesaid.blogspot.com/2010/07/why-i-love-this-video.html

  • LOVE IT. I remember that post, now that you’ve reminded me of it. This culture really is obsessed with feeling good and being happy and you’re right: that isn’t reality.

    I also agree that everybody should watch Intervention a time or two. It’s eye opening. Until last year, I couldn’t watch an episode without crying. It really hurts my heart to see how addictions rip apart families.