In America everyone is indoctrinated to believe that doing well ensures a good life. Certainly, it’s satisfying to succeed, whether at work, school, relationships, sports, or anything else, but even if you do everything according to society’s plan, there is no guarantee life will be peachy.
At various times you may find yourself facing unexpected challenges. Perhaps, your work ceases to have meaning, your children disappoint you, you or loved ones face health issues, you have major financial losses, or your mate leaves or dies. Even the strongest soul can feel rocked to their core under such circumstances.
When life is going along fairly smoothly it’s easy to ride the smaller ups and downs, but when things fall apart, and the ups and downs are no longer little waves, but tsunamis, your resilience is really tested.
If you have had, or are now experiencing, a bracing life transition, you may want to ask yourself the following questions:
What has happened to my sense of self?
How am I re-grouping?
If I am an introvert am I getting out enough? If I am an extrovert am I taking time for solitude?
Am I asking for help?
Am I giving myself emotional support?
How do I deal with my deepest feelings? Can I embrace them without judging myself?
How well am I caring for my physical self? (Sleeping enough? Eating healthily? Exercising?)
How do I cope with feeling groundless? (See Grounding Techniques.)
These periods can be very frightening; but, one way or another, you will live through everything that doesn’t kill you.
By embracing all your thoughts and feelings, even when they are dark and threaten to annihilate you, you start a conversation with yourself that reveals inner reserves you didn’t know you had.
Keeping a journal, a dream journal (see Dream Journaling for suggestions), meditating, or working with a therapist, helps avoid the tendency to suppress unpleasant feelings, like depression, anxiety, doubt, guilt, grief, loss, loneliness, etc. When you delve into the dark recesses of your heart-mind, you befriend the shadow aspects of yourself, those challenging emotions most people like to avoid. I would be a big advocate of suppression and repression if they worked. Unfortunately, all they do is move you towards addictions, and postpone feeling better in a deeper, more reliable and authentic way.
What we resist persists; so, in the long run, courageously facing one’s demons will pay dividends the rest of your life. By integrating previously repressed (shadow) aspects of yourself, like anger, jealousy, greed, etc., you become more self-accepting and less afraid. You are less likely to project your own unconscious issues on others, and you grow into the complete person you were born to be. Neither good nor bad, just human.
The more you accept yourself in all your humanness, the more compassion you will have for others.
If you retreat from your fears with addictions (whether gambling, cutting, alcohol, drugs, pornography, overeating, shopping, exercise, or anything else), you delay learning some of life’s most useful lessons:
You can stand what you don’t like.
You are here for the whole enchilada. Not just the appealing parts.
The tendency to catastrophize is lessened when you remind yourself you have survived, even thrived, through some hellacious times.
You may want to write a list of 10 things you have endured that, at the time, you never thought you could stand. No lessons are more valuable than those from your own experience. Reviewing your list helps you remember you can stand far more than you realize.
When your heart is heavy, when you feel alone, when life looks bleak, open your arms and say:
“It’s OK sweetheart. I am here with you. We have faced everything, so far, and can manage this, too. We don’t have to like it, we just have to take a breath…and another…and another. It will pass. Life can feel good again.”
When you feel something scary or unpleasant tell yourself, “It’s OK to feel this. Let me feel this. I can handle it.”
It’s natural to want others to reassure you. Hearing these words from a friend, relative, or therapist, can be very helpful. Learning to speak gentle, loving statements to yourself, and believing them, fosters emotional self-sufficiency, deep peace and serenity. It’s not that you don’t need people; we’re all interdependent. It’s that you can self-soothe. Be patient. It takes years of practice to get there. Years of experiencing the futility of ranting and railing against what is, of demanding a quick fix, of feeling your tenuous ability to handle life; and, years of loving, supportive self-talk to change your course. (See Affirmations, Litany of Love, and Manifesto for Emotional Self-care.)
Stick with your new paradigm. What could be more important than learning to cherish and calm your own sweet self?
Copyright Nicole S. Urdang