Lately I have been thinking about the struggles we face on the journey of life. As a counselor I am often tasked with sitting and listening to my clients talk about their struggles. On a day-to-day basis I can see the human condition struggling to make ends meat, put food on the table, find recovery, and so on.
I bet if we took a second to pause we would notice there are a lot of people in the world who are struggling to stay afloat. Perhaps you might be the one struggling or a loved one and it is my hope that this post will bring you some inspiration to get through the tough times.
When I was a child it was often said to me to keep my chin up and things will get better. Or I often heard when life beats you up, you have to fight back harder. While these sentiments are seemingly innocent they are fraught with problems. From my experience personally and professionally it can be difficult to fight back in some instances. For example, when depression sets in there is a lack of energy that occurs and leaves one feeling debilitated. Or in the experience of trauma one can feel frozen in time. These experiences make it difficult to “fight back”. A better way to look at adversity is to admit that there is a problem in the first place. Acceptance that there is a problem is the first step to real change. Life often knocks people down. As my favorite movie Forrest Gump would say “It happens”. We cannot let life or bad experiences set us down a negative path.
In order to change the direction we are going, we must admit that something has gone wrong. Our preconceived notions about how the world is to operate have failed us. We need to admit that the way we expect to the world and others to be is not how it exists in reality. This admittance can be earth shattering for most people and especially for those I work with.
We must also admit to ourselves our real feelings. In our typical parlance we find people saying “I’m Good” or “I’m OK” as a means to avoid expressing that underneath the surface there is something wrong going on. In therapy I often work with my clients to remove these terms from their vocabulary. These ideas are predicated with the assumption that I have to be perfect for people to like and interact with me. The ability to get up from an experience that life has knocked us off our pedestal is no easy task. The ego takes a hit when life gets tough.
We develop unhealthy coping mechanisms called defense mechanisms to keep the psychic structure going full force. For some people, denial is the form of defense to keep the mind off of the problem. The idea behind denial is if I do not have to admit there is a problem then I do not have to do any work. The issue here is that people suffer as a result of this. For the people I work with this is where addictions arise and find their happy hunting ground.
You and I are not unlike the people I serve. We all have our addictions. We have places, things, and experiences we turn to when we need to escape our problems. Escapism has become our default mode. People turn to Netflix, YouTube, Facebook and other sources of entertainment to avoid dealing with painful experiences and emotions and to create a new identity for his or herself.
How do we deal with our problems in a more direct way?
The answer to this questions is not simple. One approach I know that works for some people is psychotherapy. Meeting with a counselor to discuss problems and gain perspective over how life has roughed us up. Therapy also provides tools to avoid spending time in our own misery. With these tools and insights, we tap into our inner wisdom and make choices that help us out of the hole of negative emotions and experiences. Like a child who has a Band-Aid on her arm we sometimes have to rip off the protective material quickly in order for real change to happen.
We all have choices to make in this life.
We have the choice to get up after being knocked down or to stay in our own misery.
The only person responsible for our success or unhappiness is our self. What I teach my clients is they are in some control over how they feel and live life on life’s terms. What choices we do have can be the difference between whether or not we stay in depression or find happiness. My hope in writing this is that someone may find the strength needed to do the hard work required to change when life beats you down. The benefits of change always out weigh the costs associated with staying the same. Finding the inner strength to do the often hard work that is at hand can be a daunting task. Therefore, I recommend staring slow.
If you are just beginning this work, have compassion for yourself. Take your time to discover what needs to change in your life. Then make a list of the top 3 things and slowly work through that list. Repeat the process as many times as needed until you have reached the end of the list. When life inevitably knocks you down, allow yourself some time to get back up before tackling more problems. The way of self-compassion is the only way to make real and lasting changes happen.
May you find peace where you most need it.
Thanks for reading. As always feel free to leave a comment in the section below.