Unhooking: Letting Go of the Story Line

By KM Huber

Far too often we get sucked into our emotions, stuck in story lines that repeat and repeat. It causes us pain, emotionally as well as physically. There is a Tibetan word, shenpa, that is often translated as attachment but Pema Chödrön maintains that shenpa is more: it as “…the all-worked-up feeling of…getting hooked on a negative emotion.”

We all know the feeling of tightening when we become upset. Words and thoughts thud inside us, and we tighten up to greet the invader. It is the same with any physical pain that nags us. We get hooked in the sensation.

In order to loosen up and unhook ourselves, we must go deeper than what has been said or done to us, deeper than what we have told ourselves about our pain. We must immerse ourselves in the current of energy underlying our pain, foregoing its story line.

What we release is the drama surrounding the pain as well as what we have told ourselves about it. Our story line is what hooks us but when we sit down in the middle of what is hurting us, we forsake the interpretation for the reality of it.

Anyone who has ever experienced chronic pain—physical, emotional or both–knows that shenpa can easily become the only story we ever live. Yet when we focus on the underlying energy of our chronic pain, we give up its story, no longer content to live the drama.

Unhooking ourselves from shenpa does not mean that we will be completely pain-free—pleasure and pain are part of life–but it does mean we focus on living the lives we have, accepting impermanence as the nature of existence.
Meadow just above East Tensleep Falls

Essential to all life is water; it can be solid as well as liquid. Mark Nepo suggests that how we deal with our pain resembles both forms water takes. “For when trees fall into the ice, the river shatters. But when a large limb falls into the flowing water, the river embraces the weight and floats around it” (The Book of Awakening).

If we view our pain as ice, jagged and hard, we risk living shattered lives of fear and worry, tightly wound in shenpa. However, if we go to the energy underlying our pain—its source–we learn to release it in small amounts so it is a burden we can bear.

In letting go of the story of our pain, we immerse ourselves into the energy of our everyday lives. In releasing the drama of our pain for the experience of it, our pain flows with us and not against us. “Once given full attention, you will come back—one drop at a time— into the tide of the living” (Nepo).

Like the river’s path, our lives wend in ways we never imagine. It is life’s way, and pain is within the flow, even if it lasts a lifetime. It is up to us whether it remains sharp, jagged or within the deep current of our lives.

It is ours to show up for the moments of our lives, to trust that we will absorb our pain and not be shattered by it, no matter how long it takes. There is no limit on our courage or on our love for one another, none at all.


KM Huber is a writer who learned Zen from a beagle. She believes the moment is all we ever have, and it is enough. In her early life as a hippie, she practiced poetry, and although her middle years were a bit of a muddle, she remains an overtly optimistic sexagenerian, writing prose. She blogs at kmhubersblog.com, may be followed on Twitter @KM_Huber or contacted by email at writetotheranch[at]gmail[dot]com.

© 2013 KM Huber. All content on this page is protected by copyright. If you would like to use any part of this, please contact me at the above links to request permission.

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