Published March 26, 2017
dailyom , health , learning , life , psychology
Tags: addiction, awareness, dailyom, growth, habit, health, learning, life, psychology
Whenever we make the effort to free ourselves of an addiction or a habit we no longer need, we are often surprised to find ourselves missing the old pattern as we would a familiar friend. This sounds counterintuitive, because we think we should instinctively gravitate toward that which is good for us. And yet, it makes a lot of sense when you consider that we humans are creatures of habit. This is why we gravitate to people and places—and patterns of behavior–that make us feel comfortable. Therefore, many of the habits we form are not conscious and are based instead on learned behavior from role models who were not always making the healthiest decisions.
Most addictions begin as a way of avoiding feelings that are extremely uncomfortable, so it makes sense that stopping the addiction means, for a time, a fair amount of discomfort. The same, of course, is true of habits that we have developed over time that we are ready to release. Just knowing that this is hard, and having compassion for ourselves as we work through this process, can help us to stay the course when we feel the urge to backtrack. It’s also helpful to remember that in time we will establish new, healthier patterns, and the yearning for the old ones will disappear. Eventually, we will instinctively reach for things that are good for us, and the longing for positive change may form the basis of a new habit.
The only way to get to this new place is to endure a time of difficulty, which is a challenge we can confidently handle, if we remember that it will lead to the change we seek in our lives. Our bodies, hearts, and minds always need time to adjust to a new way of doing things, but they will adapt, and even become our allies, if we remain true to our vision of a new way.
Most of us have had the experience of tackling some dreaded task only to come out the other side feeling invigorated, filled with a new sense of confidence and strength. The funny thing is, most of the time when we do them, we come out on the other side changed and often wondering what we were so worried about or why it took us so long. We may even begin to look for other tasks we’ve been avoiding so that we can feel that same heady mix of excitement and completion.
Whether we avoid something because it scares us or bores us, or because we think it will force a change we’re not ready for, putting it off only creates obstacles for us. On the other hand, facing the task at hand, no matter how onerous, creates flow in our lives and allows us to grow. The relief is palpable when we stand on the other side knowing that we did something even though it was hard or we didn’t want to do it. On the other hand, when we cling to our comfort zone, never addressing the things we don’t want to face, we cut ourselves off from flow and growth.
We all have at least one thing in our life that never seems to get done. Bringing that task to the top of the list and promising ourselves that we will do it as soon as possible is an act that could liberate a tremendous amount of energy in our lives. Whatever it is, we can allow ourselves to be fueled by the promise of the feelings of exhilaration and confidence that will be the natural result of doing it.
Whenever a word is overused, it is most likely being misused, and over time, it begins to lose its meaningfulness. For example, we often refer to a fleeting feeling of depression or a period of confusion, as a dark night of the soul, but neither of these things qualifies as such. A dark night of the soul is a very specific experience that some people encounter on their spiritual journeys. There are people who never encounter a dark night of the soul, but others must endure this as part of the process of breaking through to the dawn of higher consciousness.
The dark night of the soul invites us to fully recognize the confines of our ego’s identity. We may feel as if we are trapped in a prison that affords us no access to light or the outside. We are coming from a place of higher knowing, and we may have spent a lot of time and energy reaching toward the light of higher consciousness. This is why the dark night has such a quality of despair: We are suddenly shut off from what we thought we had realized and the emotional pain is very real. We may even begin to feel that it was all an illusion and that we are lost forever in this darkness. The more we struggle, the darker things get, until finally we surrender to our not knowing what to do, how to think, where to turn. It is from this place of losing our sense of ourselves as in control that the ego begins to crack or soften and the possibility of light entering becomes real.
Some of us will have to endure this process only once in our lives, while others may have to go through it many times. The great revelation of the dark night is the releasing of our old, false identity. We finally give up believing in this false self and thus become capable of owning and embracing the light.
Sometimes we have so many varying responsibilities in our lives, ranging from work obligations to caring for children to running a household, we feel we cannot possibly make it all work. We may feel overwhelmed in the face of it all, ending each day feeling hopelessly behind schedule. However, regardless of how frustrating this can be, these are the parameters that make up our lives, and we owe it to ourselves to find a way to make it work. Rather than buckling under the pressure of an impossible to-do list, we might take a moment to view the larger perspective.
Like the president of a large organization, we must first realize that we cannot do every job ourselves. The first step to sanity is learning how to delegate some of the responsibility to other people, whether by paying someone to clean our house or trading childcare duties with another parent. In addition, we might find places where we can shift our expectations in ways that make our lives easier. For example, expecting ourselves to create a healthy home-cooked meal every night after a full day of work, errands, or caring for an infant or toddler may be a bit excessive. We might allow ourselves to order in food once in a while without any guilt. Accepting the adjustments needed to make our lives work is an essential ingredient to being at peace with our situation.
At the end of the day, we must come to terms with changing what we can and accepting what we cannot change. Sometimes the laundry piles up, a sick child demands more of our attention than usual, and we temporarily get behind with our schedule. Accepting this momentary state of affairs and trusting in our ability to get back on track when the time is right, we gracefully accept our life as it is, letting go of perfectionism and embracing life as it stands.