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self-discovery

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Your Strength Is Just Hiding Under A Pile of "Stuff"

It's wonderful to watch people go from strength to strength, taking the difficulties and wounds from their lives and chipping away at the healing and growth that come with time, practice and patience. We're really pretty amazing beings.

We can "take a licking and keep on ticking", as the advert for Timex watches used to say a million years ago.

People don't always react in the same ways to particular stressors. Some people seem to sail through extreme difficulties, whilst others crumble with fairly minor setbacks. What is it that makes the difference?

Well, there's no simple answer to that. Personality plays a part in it. Some people are just generally more easygoing than others, right from childhood. There are those little kids who never seem to get wound up, and others who come unglued over the littlest things.

So we've got a predisposition to cope well - or not - right from when we come out of the chute, so to speak.

Then you throw in learning and experience. Are you someone who has been through a long list of challenging events? Has the universe been hurling things at you over and over again? Have you been finding ways to cope with them through counselling, or support from groups or friends?

Or have you just slammed the door on all of that, and muddled through somehow, despite feeling completely overwhelmed?

People who have seen a lot of adversity may have developed some coping skills that those with less difficult lives haven't needed to use. It's the kind of practice no one wants, but whether we like it or not, some of us get anyway.

Whether your problems are enormous by someone else's standards or not is irrelevant. If they feel like they are to you, then they are. No one else has to live in your shoes or deal with your experience, just you.

So what do you do when you're overwhelmed by troubles? When you feel like you've had one boulder too many piled on top of you?

I've lived there far too often in my life, so I know what that's like. Sometimes I've bounced back quickly, other times not so fast.

It's always hardest when the only light you see at the end of the tunnel is the train coming at you.

There have been times when my usual tricks haven't worked. When it got really bad, I mean really, really bad, I couldn't find even a glimmer of hope, and that's a terrible place to be. I'd look down the road ahead and couldn't see anything positive.

All I could think was that there was no point being here any more, because it was just too much of a struggle with no end in sight.

It's not often that I've been in that place - thank heaven. But at least I've found something that helps me to get out of it.

When looking ahead doesn't do it for me, and in fact just makes it feel worse, I look behind me. I look at some of what I've been through in the past. I look at the traumatic and terrifying times, or the extreme financial struggle, or the life-threatening health issues.

I can look back through my entire life and see decades of difficulties lying there behind me, events I thought I'd never survive, struggles I thought would never end.

But here I am. I did survive, and those troubles did end. So when things get really awful now, I remind myself of that. I look behind me and see what I've overcome. I remember that I didn't think I could have done this or that - but then I did. It's like losing your car keys or that all-important pile of documents you need first thing in the morning. You know they're here somewhere, buried under a pile of 'stuff'. You just have to dig around a bit to find them.

When you're feeling like you can't go on, or you don't know how you're going to cope with the mountain of stress or problems you're encountering, you can reconnect with your strength by remembering that you've had it in the past.

You've come a long way, dealt with so much, and quite possibly with a whole lot worse than what you're going through right now. But you got through all of those hard times. And you found more of your strength with each problem you overcame.

Your strength doesn't leave you; it's always there, hiding under a pile of 'stuff'. You just have to remember it.

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The Most Difficult Journey is Inward

I find it interesting that many people are afraid of any meaningful self-analysis. They don't want to become any more self-aware than they already are, which is often on a fairly superficial level. They don't really know what makes them tick, nor do they care. They're content to just carry on doing whatever it is they do, whether or not they're happy, whether or not their thoughts and behaviour get them into trouble. They live on "leave well enough alone."

I reckon that's okay if it really is "well enough" but quite often, it is not. Quite often, they're wandering through life, dragging their emotional wounds with them, like steamer trunks full of pain, insecurity, fear and feelings of inadequacy.

On the surface, they think they're happy. Or at least they don't notice if they're not.

They don't notice how that steamer trunk is planted right smack in the middle of the road ahead of them, affecting various aspects of their lives. And it's also planted right smack in the middle of the road inward, the one that leads to self-awareness and understanding. The one that leads to healing.

They stare at that steamer trunk with trepidation, fearful of what's inside, as though they'll lift the lid and some horrible, creepy monsters will leap out at them and tear off their heads. "Better left locked up," they decide. They'll just park there, at the side of the road, and be content not to go any further. "Self-awareness? No, thanks. Too scary."

(Photo courtesy freerangestock)

(Photo courtesy freerangestock)

Beyond the steamer trunk is a big, dark closet. They peer past the trunk but can't see anything and that's okay because they don't really want to know what's hidden in that closet. They're sure it can't be anything good.

And in part, they're right. In part, there will be some bits that aren't nice. All of us have them. But there's also a whole lot of great stuff. There's wisdom in there, there are insights you didn't know you had.

So you bite the bullet; decide to risk it. At least a little. You're not ready to turn on the big, bright bulb that's hanging in that closet. Maybe just shine a flashlight in there as you journey inward. The further you go, the more you discover about who you really are, how you feel about things, honestly and bravely facing the truths about your Self.

Yes, it can be a bit unpleasant in there and you won't always find things you like. But being aware of them can make a monumental difference to how you live your life, how you treat others, how you treat yourself, and whether or not you move forward and progress to places of happiness and fulfillment.

And you can be sure you'll also find lots of wonderful goodies in there, too, places of beauty and strength, wisdom and insight and you will be amazed by how much you didn't know you knew. You'll discover just how far you've really come, just how radiant your spirit really is and you will be more willing and able to let the rest of us see it, too.

The journey inward is one of the most frightening journeys we can ever take, but it is also one of the most rewarding. Personally, I don't fear it. I embrace it. I love it. Muddy bits and all, I'm happy to keep discovering more and more about myself so that I can fix the parts I don't like (or stop letting them interfere with my life, at least), and I can make good use of the best bits.

I don't really understand why we should ever be so afraid of ourselves as to not want to know ourselves intimately. What makes even less sense to me is that in that state, so many people complain that their partners don't understand them.

Well, how could anyone else understand you when you don't understand yourself?

(Photo courtesy freerangestock)

(Photo courtesy freerangestock)

Most of us wish we had partners who will love and accept us unconditionally, flaws and all. But how can we expect anyone else to accept our imperfections if even we don't want to see them?

To me, that's about as hypocritical as one can get. "I don't love myself, I don't fully accept myself because there's no way I wanna dig around in the murky depths of my psyche, it's scary in there, but my goodness, I'm gonna find Mr/Ms Right to love me perfectly and no matter what, and he/she will always be there for me and will think I'm wonderful and will accept all my quirks and flaws, even if I'm too scared to find out what they are. I don't wanna know but he/she has to love all the miserable stuff that I don't dare look at."

Ummm...really?

Taking that journey isn't all that bad, when you balance the good with the not-so-good. It's just you in there, so how can it be that bad? Believe me, it's gonna be a lot of the same kind of stuff that everyone else has. We're not that different from one another. Sure, we share a lot of fears and flaws, but we can also be really wonderful.

Come on, be brave. Be willing to shove aside that steamer trunk and turn on that big, bright light in the closet. You're the only one who has to know what you find, unless you choose to share it. So what's to be afraid of?

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