Have you ever had one of those times when you just can’t seem to catch a break? When one thing after another just seems to be going wrong? That you pick yourself off, re-focus and get moving again only to have another obstacle thrown in your path?
I certainly have known those times. Feeling isolated, hopeless and even helpless. The exhaustion of getting up and pushing on through another day feels futile and fruitless but we do it anyway. Yet with every step the our identity and life that we once knew seems to dissolve in front of our eyes and despite every attempt we find ourselves unable to hold onto what was. And so we find ourselves lost, the beliefs that we once clung to have been shattered. The people we would normally call upon are either not available or unable to relate to what we are going through.
Some would call it ‘The Dark Night of the Soul’ others might say they are experiencing a ‘Mid-Life Crisis’ or even a ‘Quarter Life Crisis‘ (yep they’re starting early nowadays!). Whatever you call it it is a period of inescapable suffering that forces you to challenge and change the way you view the world, the people in it and most importantly how you see yourself.
And while the unbearable wrenching of these times seems impossible to survive I have learned to hold onto a few things in these times of darkness
Trust your Struggle
I heard this for the first time a few months ago in a TED talk by Zain Asher. It immediately struck a chord. I personally do not believe anything happens for a reason but I do know that pain is an indicator. Whether it be physical or psychological pain is there to direct our attention to the immediate issue at hand. It forces us to become aware of whatever is going on and to do something about it otherwise the pain persists, or it leaks out into other areas of our life. It makes us get clear about what the issue is and motivates us beyond our fear to take definite action.
Often when I am stuck in the stormy soup of life I find it hard to see what is at the end of my struggle or that there will be an end. But life is change and that we can depend on. So trust that at the end of your struggle that you will develop a strength that you needed, or the assertiveness that you always wished for, or a new direction or simply peace after chaos. Would I wish this kind of opportunity on anyone? No. Do I think everything happens for a reason? No. Yet I am amazed at the strength of the human spirit amidst adversity. When the dust settles there will be a gift in the rubble, sometimes it can be hard, sometimes it takes a while to find it but it’s in there somewhere.
Stay connected to your physical experience
So what the heck do I mean by that? Well what I find when I am speaking with people that is it is all too easy for people to stay locked in their conscious rational mind. By intellectualizing and rationalizing we avoid being engulfed or paralyzed by grief, fear and despair. So we push it down and push through. The end result is exhaustion, agitation and frustration.
The secret to managing pain is that the pain itself is not the problem, it’s our ability to manage it, to feel it and then release it.
Step 1 – Feel it like a faucet ….
That is allow yourself to feel it bit by bit, not all at once otherwise it can be overwhelming. Sit with a trusted friend or therapist and honestly share how you are feeling and allow yourself to be comforted and reassured by them.
Many people avoid their feelings because of subconscious beliefs humming along in the background such as “Only weak people get sad, angry, depressed” or “If I allow myself to go to that upset place I’m scared that I will get stuck there” or even “There is too much pain to process I will never be done”. Check in with yourself right now, did any of those statements relate to you? If so how did that feel in your body? Tight chest? Heart racing? Or did you start to feel numb or stuck? All very understandable responses. The trick with feeling is to notice it without judgement and to extend to yourself the same loving compassion that you would a dear friend.
Step 2 – Notice your bodily experience ….
Again bit by bit. If you are feeling an emotion where does it sit in your body? Chest? Head? Lower back? Are you feeling any muscle tension, aches or pains? Do you feel tired or wired? Notice your bodily temperature as compared to the environment around you. Check your breath is it slow or fast, deep or shallow?
Just notice and permit it to be part of your experience of the present moment without assessment, interpretation or rationalising. This one can take some practice but it brings our awareness to what is really happening inside of us, doing this allows the physical experience to pass through us and not get stuck in our physiology.
Step 3 – Manage your faucet …
Get good at turning the tap on and off. If at anytime you start to become uncomfortable with the intensity get up, go for a walk, drink some water or take some deep breaths. While we may not be able to halt or even moderate the sh!t storm we can take control over how we experience the intensity (this is one of the techniques that I love helping people with). Get good at managing your faucet and you never have to fear your feelings again.
Remember the goodness in and around you
While life can appear to want to tear us down and turn us inside out what I do find during these times is that the true gold tends to rise to the surface.
You know, like those people who just seem to be there for us no matter what. I call these people true friends.
Or that part of us that gets us out of bed and helps propel us forward even when we want to pull the covers over our head. I call that true strength.
What I know to be true is that the parts of us that remain are the most solid parts of who we are. In turn the parts of us that we discover like expanded levels of compassion, sensitivity and honesty are the parts of us that have been waiting for us all along.
There is a beautiful Japanese form of art called Kintsugi in which they mend broken pottery with gold. The underlying philosophy is not to fix something that is broken, instead the aspiration is to make it better than new.
I truly believe that when life breaks us apart we have the opportunity to fill those chasms with gold. That this gold starts to fill the fault lines that have appeared in our lives and ultimately can guide our way out of the storm.
Whether you are wanting to find greater ease in life, let go of the past or find your way through a difficult time I am here to support you. Call me for a free 15 minute consultation to discuss the ways in which I can help. Finding greater ease than ever before is often simpler than we think. So give me a call on 0419 101 665 or send me at email firstname.lastname@example.org