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Recently, I was chatting with the amazing group of women in the Deep Dive Group about how usually people start their personal growth journey by reading self-help/psychology books. We agreed it is easy to get stuck in reading one book after another looking for the answer. But the real growth comes when we move into practice. Practice in our real lives. Practice with each other. Practice with ourselves.
Self-help books are helpful because they introduce concepts of personal growth. With the goal of being happier or more content, we are encouraged to get out of pain and move to acceptance. They might even give us the steps to get to acceptance include soldiering on, thinking positive or being grateful. But before acceptance, there are 2 other steps: awareness and allowing.
Let’s say you want to be happier and yet you are struggling with your marriage, dealing with a frustrating health issue and working a job that isn’t all that fabulous. Want to be happier? Common wisdom will say, be grateful, enjoy all the small wonderful parts of your life,
This advice is true but not the whole story. To me, it is a band-aid on a gaping wound.
First, you have to build awareness of what is going on. Your marriage is struggling. Your health is frustrating, and your job is less than fabulous. No wonder you aren’t happier!!! You are experiencing pain in 3 the main areas of your life. For the sake of simplification…let’s look at one of these areas. Your health. So you start to build awareness that your current health situation is annoying and frustrating.
Then you have to ALLOW these things. And by saying allow, I mean FEEL. You have to face what having health concerns feels like for you: scared, angry, lonely, tired, apathetic, hopeless, courageous, strong, weak. You will probably have a large variety of feelings at any one time, and you need to give yourself room to feel those emotions. You need to allow them.
Allowing isn’t some magical process. Allowing means giving yourself permission to feel the pain and fear rather than immediately jumping to the place of positivity. You don’t try to control the weather why do you try so hard to control your feelings? Allowing doesn’t mean you live forever in pain and fear it is a temporary place. Allowing simply means being with your feelings. Paying attention to what comes up rather than immediately jumping to judgment or acceptance.
When we try to fast forward to acceptance, we miss the complexity of all those emotions. We jump from health frustrations and the initial fear and anger we might feel directly to ‘thinking positive,’ ‘soldiering on’ and ‘being grateful’ in an attempt to get to acceptance.
Acceptance can only happen when we have an awareness of our feelings and allow them. When we can cycle through these 2 areas with compassion and kindness, we can get to a place of acceptance.
I am not going to lie; this is where the messiness happens. This process is where it gets challenging. This challenge is why we want to fast track it. But THAT DOES NOT WORK. We end up stuck. When we are willing to embrace the mess of allowing our feelings….life is brighter and more authentic. When we are stuck, life becomes a place of black and white instead of the many many shades of gray.
This messy work is why we need the support of others. We need to move beyond just the reading of books. We need to reach out to others and ask for support with the messiness of life.