I am not what happened to me, I am what I choose to become.
I admit it. I’m a binge-reader, and whether my current fascination is with Sylvia Plath or narcissism or the global economy, I read everything I can get a hold of. Lately, it’s been fear, which probably has something to do with my son (whom I am extremely proud of!!) enlisting in the IDF…
So I found myself reaching for everything from “how-to” books to psychological and spiritual books. And, what I discovered taught me a lot more about the different ways we process life’s challenges rather than about fear per se.
I turned first to the psychological books, which initially offered a great deal of comfort. However, in their exploration of the root causes of emotions, many of these books delivered the fatalistic message that you are the sum of your parts, and no matter how much work you do on yourself, you will probably always have these particular issues, anxieties, and neuroses.
So then I turned to the positive motivation and uplifting spiritual books. Many of these books offered promises of success, happiness and the realization of all your deepest desires and dreams, either by repeating slogans like just think it and it will be or by providing how-to lists.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I love affirmations and believe in the power of positive thinking. I’ve got positive affirmations taped to my fridge. And I love lists! Anyone who knows me, knows that I’ve got dozens of lists—from the big life goal lists to my running shopping list. But when it comes to dealing with deep emotions like fear or facing challenging situations in life, I agree with Brene Brown, who said, “How-to doesn’t work. If how-to’s worked, we wouldn’t be struggling.” Just saying a positive affirmation or making a list won’t make the emotions or the thoughts or the challenging situation go away.
So, what do we do?
I think we need to start by accepting that life is a mysterious and beautiful and often challenging and sometimes terribly painful journey; and simultaneously by accepting that we are fluid, imperfect creatures, capable of the highest highs and lowest lows. Maybe we’d find life a little less stressful if we let go of any idea that life is or should be perfect and that we are or should be perfect. And maybe we need to see ourselves, as Carl Jung states in the above quotation, as “I am what I choose to become”.
We can’t look to positive affirmation books or psychological books or spiritual teachers to erase life’s challenges or answer all of life’s questions. In the end, I believe it’s up to us to find a method, or what I call “life strategies” that work for us. I’ve found that what works for me is to begin everyday with a time of meditation and prayer, when I remind myself of three truths that are the foundation for my life:
1.I am a spiritual being created by a loving God;
2.Everything in my life offers me opportunities for growth and I remain grateful for these experiences and people;
3.I understand deep desire as the Divine seeking expression through me.
When I ground myself in these three precepts everyday, I feel equipped and empowered and energized to face the day.
There’s no quick fix. There is just living—mindfully, lovingly, and maybe in the words of the well-known Eagles son, we should “Take it easy…”