A sampling of questions I get quite often in my job:
“How do I feel better?”
“How do I stop being so anxious/depressed?”
“How do I get over him/her?”
“How do I figure out what I want?”
My clients look to me, the trained professional, for help. They need answers. They’re in despair, wanting to grab at anything that might help. It all feels so chaotic, so unfair, so painful. The thought of being stuck in that place forever is too daunting and overwhelming. And so they look to me to help them fix it.
There are so many times I want to have the answers. So many times I wish that I could push them into happiness, to wave my wand and have it all be ok. I want this power. Unfortunately, I do not have it. So my answer to that question is this: I don’t know. I don’t know how you are going to get through this. I don’t know when and I don’ know how to stop life from hurting. It just does sometimes. I don’t have a how to list. I wish very much that I did. I wish that it was that simple. I wish that all those self-help books, articles, blogs really did have the answer. “If you just do this for 30 days, you can be thin/happy/have a better relationship.” Life is just more complicated than that.
But life is also simpler. And so the second part of my answer is this: but you will get through it if you choose to. Every second of every day you can choose to be in your life. It is not a matter of stopping an emotion or calling up one that you judge to be better. That is not a power we have (the power of denial is a different matter). The power we have over our emotions is the power to let them be. To let them come in, feel them, and then let them out the same way- spontaneously. We have the power to be present in our life in every second we live. Not to be in the past or attempt to guess what the future will look like. We have right here and right now always. It is all we have and yet it can be so much.
I don’t like how to lists. And clearly I don’t like those who try to sell them and make a false promise to cure some mass public demand to be happier. Life isn’t that simple. It takes a lot of really difficult work. And that work starts with the easiest yet most difficult thing you can do- be present in your life as it is unfolding. The more I do this, the more I see that the most pain I feel in life comes from that which I create. In most moments I’m perfectly ok, but when I live somewhere outside of that moment (in a painful past, in a worry about the future, in a thought about how something isn’t going the way it “should”), I create struggle for myself.
Life hurts and life is joy. Each one will come and each one will go. We believe that by trying to hold onto the joyous parts and push out the hurtful parts, we are ensuring our chance at a happier life. But we’re actually ensuring that we will find less joy. When we just let things be as they are, without trying to hold on or push out, I think we will find more pockets of joy than we ever knew existed.