Everyone has something in their life that they would like to change. Some really big goals include overcoming addiction, achieving and sustaining weight loss, attaining inner peace, manifesting health, or becoming more successful. We are born to continuously expand our abilities. The beginning of most goals is exciting. Visions of triumph flourish in the minds of those starting a path of change. Each new day brings energy to chase down the most elusive of goals. But what if you’ve been working on manifesting the same dream for years? And one day, despite your optimism, despite the effort of applying the tools of empowerment, you realize that you have not acquired the goal which you set for yourself.
Encountering an obstacle, even a seemingly insurmountable obstacle doesn’t mean you are on the wrong path. We all experience despair and doubt. Times where we question the worth of what we do. Moments of temptation to give up. I have them, as does each person I work with. I would wager that everyone striving to become more than they were before, reaches a critical time of choice. Feeling sorry for yourself is not a wrong action. What we often fail to see is the value in this pit of despair. This experience of despair is precisely what is necessary for the breakthrough to occur.
Belief Systems and Internal Tapes
The dark experiences of despair are not logical, nor solved intellectually. These moments of darkness mean we have brought ourselves back to the core of what we believe about ourselves. Deep painful beliefs that we would rather keep hidden from ourselves and from others. The pain of not yet achieving our goals forces us to look at what we believe to be true about ourselves. Limiting beliefs are varied, but can include the following:
“Something is wrong with me.”
“I never get what I want.”
“I cant’ get what I want, no matter what I do. It’s hopeless.”
“Who I am is not enough.”
“I don’t belong.”
When we are undergoing change, the realization we must make is that is it not what faces us that is the problem, but how we are reacting to it. How we react to the situation is based on our inner beliefs about ourselves. The despair is felt because you have increased inner conflict. Conflict of what you want to believe versus what you actually believe. This conflict must either be suppressed (by giving up the goal) or the conflict must be resolved (goal is attained or a new belief system becomes integrated.).
It is at this very pressure point, giving up or moving forward, that allows the choice to step into a new belief about yourself or to reinforce an old belief. Just because things seem insurmountable right now, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be following this path. It only means you are face to face with what you believe. And an inner belief system being threatened can result in a variety of symptoms, the most common being negative thoughts, suicidal thoughts, hopelessness, low energy, panic or anxiety, or worrying about small details.
With great change comes the risk of facing the darkness of what we believe about ourselves. Sometimes it’s fairly easy to face the darkness and bring light. But sometimes we fall directly into the pit. If you fall in, take a breath and know this experience has great value. You are only here because you are ready to explore and encounter a horrible idea that you have about yourself. An idea that you can’t have what you want, that your best isn’t good enough, or that no matter what you do things remain hopeless. Inside the dark hole are ideas you made up about yourself when you were a child as an attempt to explain the experience of growing up. Your spirit is hiding in the darkness, waiting for your return. So if you are in the dark pit of despair you are in a place of blest fortune. You have reached the place in which you have hidden your spirit. Only you can choose to bring your spirit back into the light. As you face the darkness, will you decide to heal your spirit by offering it encouragement? Will you reassure your spirit and bring new information?
Let’s say you decide to be with your darkness? Now what? You must sit with it. Sit with the pain of what this darkness represents. Yes, it feels overwhelming. Confusing. Hopeless. In the darkness, there are only dark thoughts. Do not fight the darkness with more darkness (anger, frustration, threats, hopelessness . . ). It would only create larger darkness. ACCEPTANCE alone is the key. The darkness and despair fight with all their might to keep us believing that we are weak and defective. Not because it is evil, but because we put these beliefs into place to keep our spirits safely hidden in the dark. As an adult, you now hold the key to accepting the darkness, accepting all the dark thoughts, and offering it love and light. Listen to your spirit. Let it speak its words of fear. Then offer your spirit comfort and acceptance. After all, your spirit went through some pretty tough times that it decided hiding was the only safe option.
You have traveled quite a distance, only to come to a dead end. Accept that you do not have what you want. Accept this. Not with anger, not with frustration. Simply breath and accept. It doesn’t matter why you are at this point. It is as it is. Now go more deeply into it.
This point of transition can provide an opportunity to strengthen your spirit and not let outside circumstances throw you off balance. This is a pivotal occasion to choose empowering thoughts, practice gentleness and reassurance, and reinforce your belief that you can have what you want. Accept the experience as best you can. It will lead to insight. Acceptance of what is, even though it might feel terrifying, is the way out. Acceptance is not apathy. Use acceptance to allow you to go deeper. A journal, a therapist, or a trusted friend may help as you sit with these questions:
- What am I experiencing right now?
- What are my thoughts concerning this experience?
- What am I feeling?
- What do I believe about myself, and my place in the world, as I encounter this dead end?
- Is this similar to how I felt in certain situations as a child?
- What does my spirit need to feel safe and trusting?
- If I was wise and loving, how would I comfort myself?
Which Path to Choose
Go forward or give up? There are no wrong choices. At this point of transition, do not force yourself. Do not inflict judgment upon yourself. Realize that you have invited yourself to question an essential belief you hold to be true about yourself. Maybe the time is right to sit with this, maybe the time is not yet right. If it is your destiny to allow yourself to have what your goal represents, you will create the opportunity once again. Relax. Recognize how terrifying this moment is and find compassion for yourself. What path should you choose? Carlos Castaneda wrote in, “The Teaching of Don Juan”, “Does the path have heart? If it does, the path is good; if it doesn’t, it is of no use. Both paths lead nowhere, but one has heart and the other doesn’t. One makes you strong; the other weakens you.” Perhaps the real transition at this choice point is the courage to open your heart to yourself as you witness yourself experiencing what you fear most.
Sitting With What Is
To move through this doubt and despair, sit with what you feel. Speak the words of frustration and anger. Write them down. Often times what we most need is someone else to allow us to fully be in a place of utter hopelessness. For them to say, “I see you there, and it’s okay.” And to know they won’t attempt to fix it or make it better.
We need to offer ourselves the same compassion. To look at ourselves in our moments of despair and say, “It’s okay that I feel this. It’s okay that I am experiencing this.” To offer ourselves the love and compassion of not trying to fix ourselves. If confusion is what you feel, fully feel confusion, with love for yourself as you feel it. Open your body and let confusion expand within you. Experiment (with a therapist if this is too difficult) with not being afraid of your own emotions. Avoid the temptation to retreat into old patterns of starving, overeating, bingeing, or numbing out with other addictions. The fact that you are feeling such confusion is not a sign of failure. This is a sign of growth and courage.
Even though the feelings are difficult, recognize the value of being exactly where you are. Attempt to be with your feeling without judgment. Feel what you feel with acceptance. Accept that you are experiencing despair, hopelessness, or frustration. No need to judge it. No need to defend it. No need to analyze it and figure out where this came from. It is acceptable to feel misery. It is acceptable to want to give up. We’ve all felt that at times. Your task at this critical point is to find a way to open your heart and receive your own despair. Cry the tears, shout the anger, give witness to the unfairness of it all. Then decide. Even though you are at a dead-end, what can you do right now? It might seem so much easier to go back to food, bingeing, alcohol, starving, exercise, or diversions for comfort. But is that what you really want? Refocus your thoughts away from the future and bring yourself back to right now. Bring words of power and encouragement. “I possess the gifts of inner belief, patience, conviction, and discipline. I can choose my goals and I have the strength and stamina to reach for them. I am a working and viable part of the world and I have an important job to do. I am not afraid to believe in my inner strength or my power.”
As I continue on my journey, I have learned that achieving greater faith is an ongoing journey. and not just a one-step process. Each of us has many limiting belief systems that must be faced, accepted, and released. Faith in anything, including myself, is an infinite and ever-expanding experience. There is a passage in Betty Eadie’s book, “Awakening the Heart” where she describes faith as an ongoing process. First, we have knowledge. Then belief. We practice belief over and over again, and eventually, faith begins to develop. Whether you are talking about faith in a god or faith in yourself, it is not something you wake up with one day. At least that is not my experience. It takes going back to dark places to re-establish faith. Learning to be kind to our spirit that may be scared, stubborn, and even defiant.
Although it is painful and we may desperately want to run from what we feel, only by sitting with our spirit that is hiding in the darkness and bringing it love that we can re-establish faith. I have often wished at times it weren’t so. It is excruciatingly painful to uncover what hurts within us. But we eventually discover the truth: it is only our own misconception, our own belief, our own judgment, and punishment, that we are not worthy. The reward is deciding, to our amazement, that it really is okay to open our own hearts to all aspects of ourselves.