Deep within myself have a sense of responsibility, to provide for my family, for me this is meaningful and rewarding. I do this by choosing to participate in a world that can be highly demanding of my time and energy. Yet, I also carry within myself an innate desire to be free of the limits that the world puts on me. As author and mythologist Michael Meade says deep within we desire “a freedom to live a passionate, imaginative, meaningful life right up to the last moment”.
How can I participate in the world with all its demands and yet live a fulfilling meaningful life of self-determination?
The modern world is full of people vying for our attention and if you are raising a family, or simply an active participant in the world there is often little time left for to be human. It can lead to feeling completely overwhelmed and exhausted.
To ensure we are not completely depleted, we may react to feeling overwhelmed and exhausted by shutting down or maybe strike out blaming others for the situation we find ourselves in. Maybe we seek solace in alcohol or activities that keep us away from the demands of our families, especially if you are a parent. This can lead to feeling even more tension as our partners are left to shoulder the burden of our home life. This can set up a circle of blame when partners feel resentful for being left with everything. Others might blame us for not being there and an internal voice can berate ourselves for not doing enough or feeling unappreciated for everything we do. No wonder when we are at war with the world, and ourselves, we will do anything to escape.
We can get stuck in patterns that limit us, when there seems no escape from external criticism, our own inner critic, and the demands of the world we live in. There is more and more that needs to be done, the day can be full of tasks, at work and at home, the list can be endless and somehow it needs to be all done within your waking hours.
Under these circumstances life can seem to be like being on an out of control runaway train, and a feeling that at some point we are headed for a crash. You may tell yourself I can’t go on like this, I want to live life at less than full throttle. You may have felt a strong desire to be on a deserted island, so you can be more authentically you. This isn’t easy especially if it you feel stuck on this train and it’s really moving. However you also might be really used to this train, it feels familiar, and at least it will take you to a known destination, quickly.
Life under these circumstances is a least predictable, even if life is moving at warp speed. It may be far too frightening to get off, yet deep down we may grieve, the freedom we seek is a bridge too far, not possible, and so we trudge on.
I’d like to offer an alternative to this perspective. Feeling stuck is our own natural way of letting us know that we may not have enough support to let go completely from what is most familiar and embrace a new way. It is a wisdom that we intuitively carry within, to pause when we are unsure.
When contemplating crossing a fast flowing river, we naturally stop and look around for opportunities to support a safe crossing. We could just jump in, hoping for the best, and try to get to the other side as quick as we can without drowning. It makes perfect sense to stop in these moments, stop for as long as it takes, to look around and see how we might cross without getting swept away. This is similar to when we are faced with a personal threshold of change. When we have decided we want to change a situation in our lives, it is easier when we look for support. If this is challenging for you a good question to ask yourself is what do you do to avoid getting support?
To appear that we might need help, could threaten how we imagine others view us. We might imagine that we are OK in their eyes if we are capable, strong, and can take ‘the bull by the horns’. Even the best bull riders have rodeo clowns waiting on the sidelines, who offer themselves as a target to the bull if the rider falls. If you were a General in the Army would you make an offensive on a target without reviewing and planning? Would you ensure the troops are up to the task? Would you ensure that your troops have all the support they need? So seeking support is not an act of weakness but a thoroughly sensible and pragmatic approach to life, and probably the most loving act that you can give yourself in times of change.
As a man when faced with change or a problem I can get into what is most familiar to me, that is, generally I love being in action mode. I love fixing and doing stuff, and making stuff happen. Like blindly jumping into a wild river, when we don’t have enough support we can choose keep going. We might be hoping that the situation will sort itself out, or we might try and do even more to see if we can move through a dilemma. If you like more of the same discomfort this can sometimes work, even if you end up feeling even more exhausted and depleted. Or, it might be a wiser part of ourselves trying to tell us to stop. It might be saying ‘I don’t know’, or ‘I need help’ or even ‘I’m stuck and don’t know what to do’. These are calls from within telling us that there is not enough clarity or support to move on.
Sharing our inner selves with another and acknowledging our own inner truth offers a potential pathway from a place of immobility, tension and agitation. The old saying when a problem is shared, a problem is halved, is a valid approach which research now suggests reduces stress and anxiety.
Choosing the right person to share a vulnerable part of our selves with is critical; there is a risk in sharing our inner world with others. Some I know are not able to fully receive what I have to bring, and like a turtle that sticks its neck out when there is danger I will retreat back into my shell. People who do not judge, or lecture and are receptive to my experiences are the ones I seek out to share what is a sensitive part of my being.
Consider finding a mentor, coach, fellow traveller, spiritual teacher, or therapist who is willing to walk with you. When we decide to change our lives and cross the threshold of change, its much easier when we are able to acknowledge that being stuck is an inner wisdom, telling us that we can’t do it all by ourselves.
A mantra I like to live by is ‘Honour thy resistance’, resistance is my own inner wisdom illuminating a personal threshold. Inviting me to look for a better footing before I take the next step.
Richard Prince is a Gestalt Psychotherapist in practice in Sydney, he works with clients that are interested in finding deeper meaning in their lives, and wish to explore what their life calling might be. He has trained in the United States and in Australia, completing degrees in Architecture, Social Ecology and holds an Advanced Diploma of Gestalt Psychotherapy. He balances his therapy practice with life in the professional business world as a creative practitioner, as a father, a husband, and as a full time human being. Richard’s practice is in the lower Blue Mountains. To learn more about working with Richard call 0403 393 474.