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Letters from Zeynep: Toxicity & Suffering


Letters from Zeynep

May 15 · Issue #9 · View online
Weekly letters that nurture you to find everyday wellness.

Photo by Tom Mussak on Unsplash
Photo by Tom Mussak on Unsplash
Dear friend,
A new phrase came into our language recently, did you notice? Toxic people. The internet is full of titles like “7 Types of Toxic People and How To Spot Them” and “Toxic People: 12 Things They Do and How to Deal With Them”.
Toxic means poisonous. Something that comes in and and takes away the integrity of other things. Something that turns all pristine beauty into opaque nauseating gas.
It started out with labeling situations, thoughts and emotions as toxic. Then, the label expanded to people. It makes me cringe every time. I don’t see how people can be toxic. I see people as pristine beauty. All the time. Even when they are difficult.
Because, really, who isn’t difficult?
Do you know a single person who hasn’t got a taste from the heart aches of life? Even if you do know someone like that (maybe they are young?), don’t you have the sense that they too will taste heartache one day? They too will lose someone they love, they too will lose health or money, they too will have to choose between two very important values, sacrificing one big thing to gain another?
The heart aches of being human - this is our common ground. And the difficulties of being human, the difficulties we inflict upon ourselves and others, they come from the heart aches. They come from having suffered in insufferable ways, from not naming the pain, from not knowing what to do about it, not being able to contain it.
To say some people are pristine beauty while others are nauseating gas is, first of all, wrong. When you take the long term view on life, we can’t say that some suffer less and some suffer more. We all suffer similar amounts. We all have moments of not being able to contain pain, when the pain is too new, too raw, too unknown.
Then, to label people as toxic is alienating. It turns those suffering people into aliens, undefined objects, foreign items. It takes life out of them, reduces them to gas. It cuts them off from the source they need the most: connection, belonging, acceptance, compassion, love.
I have the sense that those who talk on and on about toxic people - they are the ones engaging with harmful behavior.
It might not always be possible to see people as pristine beauty. If someone abuses me, I might not have the will or the heart to see their beauty. But there would still be a deeper knowledge inside of me that knows they too are human. They too came from a broken life, a broken marriage, a broken heart, a broken something. They too are holding things they don’t know how to hold.
It might not always be possible to forgive people. If someone abuses me, I might not be able to say “I forgive you.” But there would still be a deeper source in the universe that might be able to forgive him. Like his mother, maybe? Surely his mother could forgive him? I can lend his forgiveness to a container greater than me. I can ask that he is forgiven one day, by someone, by something, other than me.
Come, let’s change this language. Let’s stop alienating people who most need our help. Let’s lend them out to greater sources if we can’t hold them. But let’s see their pain and suffering as a bursting volcano, equally dangerous maybe, but so much more about potent and expansive, and you have to agree, so much more beautiful.
Photo by Marc Szeglat on Unsplash
Photo by Marc Szeglat on Unsplash
My Manifesto
I wrote a bit about why I made everyday wellness my field of work, how I believe we should approach it and how all this translates into my day to day actions. In other words, I wrote my manifesto. I’d be happy to know if you have any comments or questions on it. (Do you remember the why-how-what?)
Cultivating Mindfulness
The Introduction To Mindfulness courses are starting again - in Paris and online! These 6 week courses will introduce you to fundamental practices of mindfulness in supportive small groups of 8 people. To ensure everyone can find more wellness, there is a sliding scale: you can pay what you can afford to pay.
Here are some more meditations from the course:
My Journey To Wellness
The transition from a 9-5 job to being self-employed had many struggles for me. One of those was, and still is, the blurry boundaries between what constitutes as work, and what doesn’t. Trying to avoid work spill over, I’ve been experimenting with some ideas and guidelines: the language of work, routine vs. flexibility, the boundaries and definitions of work, listening to the body, and a continuous discernment of where you are coming from to work. Read more
The Journeys of Others
“It is always hard to believe that the courageous step is so close to us, that it is closer than we ever could imagine, that in fact, we already know what it is, and that the step is simpler, more radical than we had thought: which is why we so often prefer the story to be more elaborate, our identities clouded by fear, the horizon safely in the distance, the essay longer than it needs to be and the answer safely in the realm of impossibility.” - David Whyte

  • This and many other wonderful words were in David Whyte’s Consolations. I will keep revisiting his lyrical essays that must have been written thanks to decades of searching for meaning and wellness.
  • The encouraging possibility of a first gentleman in the US, Chasten Buttigieg.
  • I took pages of notes from Brené Brown’s Call To Courage. Her main point is that vulnerability is what brings us courage, intimacy, creativity, equity and diversity. My favorite line: “The person who can see another person in shame, fear, vulnerability and just be with it, and not be Oz, the fixer of all things, is a person who’s done her work on herself.” (I’m still not there, friend.)
  • Başkalarını iyileştirmeye çalışmaktan bahsetmişken, Mine Özgüzel’in yeni çıkan kitabı Edebiyat Terapi muhteşem. Büyük yazarların hayatlarından ve eserlerinden yola çıkarak çok önemli bir ders keşfetmiş ve bizimle paylaşmış yazar: Yaşadığımız travmalar, talihsizlikler, yoksunluklar, yoksulluğumuz değil, varlığımız, zenginliğimiz, varoluşumuz.
Spreading The Nurturing
Thank you for reading! If you’ve enjoyed this letter, I hope you will consider sharing it with friends to help me reach more people. :)
From the cold winds, rainstorms and salty sea of Greece,
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