Not Doing Well, Part One

We’ve got something different for this week’s podcast. When Dan Allender and Rachael Clinton recently sat down to record a conversation about a new topic, they realized that neither of them were doing very well and were not in a good place to engage the categories they had in mind. So they decided to talk about just that: what to do when we are not doing well. How can we continue to pursue the work we are called to, continue to seek healing and growth, and continue to love the people around us when it feels like things are falling apart?

Rachael: “I’m so used to having to manage not being well and holding all kinds of fragmentation, whether it’s mine or somebody else’s, and just having to get through it.”

Dan: “For many of us with histories of abuse, we have learned to tolerate, but far more to almost embed suffering into our way of living, where it’s so normalized that we can’t actually conceive what it’s like to not feel that.”

Rachael shares how the “no pain, no gain” mentality she leaned early on in cross-country has also been a familiar expectation in much of her life. Our culture so often celebrates the idea that you just have to push through pain and obstacles, keep going no matter what. When that becomes unsustainable, we’re left with two options: Either we power through, with a familiar refrain like “I don’t have the luxury of not doing we” because of our jobs or families or other responsibilities, or we isolate, hiding ourselves and fantasizing about escape.

I’m so used to having to manage not being well and holding all kinds of fragmentation.

Dan: “There are so few people who really know they’re not doing well. It has to be almost catastrophic for us to know that we are not well. And I think that’s so important, to begin to say, do you know when you’re not well? And what’s it like for you to begin to name that? The moment you begin to confess you’re not doing well, everything changes. Everything begins to, in some sense, collapse on itself.”

Rachael: “And can we just name, too, that if you only get to name that you’re not well when it gets so extreme, by that point—I’m definitely speaking from personal experience—it is so exposing.”

In so many of these patterns there is a false nobility. Whether we’re trying to shoulder all our pain and carry the weight of the world, or we’re removing ourselves from others, convinced that our absence is better for everyone when we are unwell. This sense of nobility and martyrdom is intimately wrapped up with our most well-worn structures of addiction and sabotage.

Dan: “The process of disruption is the gift that actually begins to stop you.”

Once these familiar spirals are underway, it often takes a moment of profound disruption before things can begin to change. Dan and Rachael refer to it as an intersection of spirit and spirit—our spirits with the spirit of God, more often than not expressed through those around us. Once that disruption has prompted even a brief pause, we are then ready to start exploring a new way to move forward—which is what Rachael and Dan will discuss next week.

Dan: “You need someone to contend with you. And that’s, not exclusively, but largely the work of the Spirit.”

Rachael: “Is there any possibility that you would let the Spirit contend with the agreements you’ve made around what kind of comfort is available to you, what kind of care, what kind of community?”