Once upon a time I was sulking about… My father had just listened to me rant on about my inner fight, plight and pain. He was listening. He was taking it in, detail by detail, all the gore and drama and ache. Then he looked at me and in a nonchalant kind of way and said
“All of this may be true. Or maybe you’re just refusing to step up to your dharma and you’re wasting everyone’s fucking time with this shit.”
Woah. Go dad. My brother and I have always been better for these bitter little nuggets we get tossed from time to time.
So how do we know? When is there darkness that really needs to be tended to and when are we having a pity party? When do we need to stop and give ourselves a break and when do we need to soldier on?
While our own unique lives require our own unique recipes, the answer is almost always…both.
Sometimes we to break down and sob, scream into the ocean, break something. We need to thrash in angst and feel the deep suffering that simply comes with being alive. We need to grieve…all those losses, from the huge heartbreak to the day that didn’t meet our expectations to the death of a pet to the ending of a job we didn’t even like in the first place. We need to hide under the covers or watch three movies in a row and not get out of our pajamas for two days.
Other days we need to clean house, literally and figuratively. We need to shine our boots and go the extra distance, pick up the phone and make that difficult call. We need to say sorry or thank you or please or fuck you. We need to suck it up, push through, get it done. We need to notice our resistance and step into who we know we are and what we know must get done and bloody well do it.
For most of us though, these go on simultaneously. How then, do we know when the choices we’re making our actually supporting our growth and our goals and when they are digging us into the trenches of our own destructive habits?
The key is habit. Knowing yourself. What are your habits when you are in self-destructive mode? Stop answering the phone? Drinking beer at noon? Watching hours of TV? Surfing online till 3am? Blaming your partner for your dissatisfaction? Get super and compulsively busy? Make exciting and lofty goals that stop you in your tracks?
As humans, we’re amazing at self-deception. AMAZING. We can all find a way to justify our predictable patterns and habits as ‘what I need right now’, to escape, numb out or relentlessly try to get to that place we think will make things better.
New moves are counter-intuitive. If you predictably smoke grass and lay around all weekend, try getting out for a hike instead. If you predictable bust out of the house at 7am in a whirlwind until you collapse late night, try a slow and mellow morning, y’know, with tea and meditation.
In times of stress, we go to what we know, we go to our habits to soothe us…which just causes more stress. Trying new moves to break a pattern will grant us opportunities we couldn’t previously see.
There’s no easy way out. If you think you’re getting away with something, the cost will sneak up on you sooner or later…