We have been discussing the Grief Threshold in different capacities over the last couple of weeks. Recall that we lower it when we don’t let our grief show up in the daylight, we often react inappropriately to stimuli in our environment. When our behavior doesn’t fit the circumstance, we can learn to recognize this as a call to spend some time with our grief (and thereby raise that threshold by giving ourselves love and attention.)

There was a very public display of this disconnect between environment and stimuli just recently in Hollywood. With no judgment and without naming names, a now a Academy Award winning actor assaulted the Host of the Awards when he realized his wife was upset about a joke that seemed to be completely appropriate given the situation and the circumstances.

This actor lost control. And it happened on possibly the biggest night of his professional career, as he was being honored for achieving one of the highest accolades for his work. It happened at the very moment he was soaring. I don’t have any personal knowledge of this particular actor, so I am unaware of what grief threshold he may have crossed over in that moment that he lost control.

Maybe he lost a loved one, and was holding the pain in his bones, like I used to, before the threshold was crossed and the assault gave way. Maybe he was stuffing down another kind of pain, like shame, insecurity and/or especially FEAR. But whatever broke that levy that night at the Oscars, did so in the most public and heartbreaking way we can observe.

Aside from the obvious poor choice of resorting to violence, and the fact that we shouldn’t ever, put our hands on another human being in a violent way, I felt saddened for the award winner. Here he was in one of the most glamorous and peer filled rooms in the world. All of his colleagues front and center. And plenty of technology to capture the threshold break, to keep it going in the media for several days after the fact.

I think and write a lot about the seeming contradictions and duality of life.  As my frozen and grief stricken heart started to thaw, over time, I started to learn that love and pain are two sides of the same coin. I was repeatedly surprised that in moments of joy, I would get blindsided and derailed by overwhelming pain. Until I took that step back, and realized my guard was up so much of the time that in the beginning, the only way my pain could get my attention was to piggy-back onto some “positive” emotion I let through. Once I realized it needed space, fewer and fewer moments of joy were hijacked by the lurking pain attack.

I don’t know much about this Actor. But I can surmise, that it was not his intent to degrade himself in that moment by striking a colleague. I can’t really put together a scenario where that action was anything but the breaking of the grief threshold. Whatever emotional bag he is carrying around in the world, it is begging, yelling and pleading for his attention. Hopefully he is getting the help that he needs.

But let’s not wait until we go to this same extreme to pay attention. Blowing up our night of professional accolades at our weakest moment, and showing the world that we are stuffing pain down, is not the way we want to go. That is one way to press the relief valve, but now this actor will have the trauma of this experience to process on top of what was already there.

Let’s try to bring awareness to our own emotional integrity by allowing ourselves to recognize, and feel compassion for such an unfortunate outcome. There may be a lot of people who wished they could be this specific Actor, but I don’t imagine that is necessarily still the case. We can use this scenario as a reminder to handle our grief, before it handles us.

We do this in big and small ways, by allowing it to have a place in our lives that doesn’t require a physical assault or public self humiliation as a means to an end. We can keep our Grief Threshold high through awareness, meditation, self-care (especially rest and nutrition) and presence. We lower it when we are not allowing all the parts of us to exist.

And if we take away the lifeline of our grief, and stop noticing, honoring and respecting it, like all powerful forces of love and pain, it will find a way out and break the levy without a care for where we are, what important meeting, presentation or performance we are engaged in. Grief doesn’t care if we are alone, or in front of millions of people. It only cares that we make room for it. And when we don’t, the Grief Threshold is overtaken, and when that happens, it’s anyone’s guess how damaging and dangerous the fallout will be.

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