Part 6: Embrace Obstacles – by DEFINE’s Emotional Wellness Expert, Jessica Pass, LMFT
From a young age, one of the most important lessons we can learn about life (in my opinion) is that it will let us down. A lot. We will experience failure, disappointment, rejection, grief, sadness, anger and resentment. Inevitably we will struggle to get back up again after a hard fall. At times it might even feel as though the fall has paralyzed us. The most important aspect of this lesson is not just the let down or the fall, it is the repair that takes place when we stand back up, acknowledge the feelings we have and then take the first steps towards trying again and embracing the road ahead — flaws and all.
Naturally, the word embrace means to hold tight, to wrap our arms around, to include as a part of a larger, inclusive whole and to readily and gladly take up. In contrast an obstacle is something that stands in the way, hinders growth or movement and prevents progress. So why put those two, very different words together? Obstacles aren’t exactly something I want to hold, cuddle or include in any part of my life! I mean come on… who does? Who wants to readily and gladly accept a huge loss, layoff, economic hardship or a broken relationship? I don’t. It’s easier to believe that will never happen.
My favorite aspect of looking back on difficult times in my life is remembering where I was before and reflecting on how I moved through them to better understand exactly where I am today. It’s in our history, both positive and negative memories, that we can really appreciate life.
Whether you find yourself facing an obstacle right this moment or are still recovering from one in the past, try these few techniques that I have personally used to embrace where you are, where you have been and where you are going.
(1) Give Yourself Permission to Feel
Many of us find ourselves struggling to allow ourselves to feel our emotions. And, no, “FINE” is not a feeling, it is a mask, covering our true feelings underneath. Many times we just want to move on to the next thing or throw in a new distraction to lessen the intensity of the pain, but really all that we are doing is putting off the inevitable. The more we ignore our emotions they louder they can become. The intensity can build and the smallest, insignificant event or word can send us straight over the edge, perpetuating the belief that our feelings are too much or too intense. However, letting them out gradually helps to not be so overwhelmed by them.
Likewise, when we continue to stuff our feelings over time they all clump together in one huge ball of emotional mess and chaos, so entangled that we can’t distinguish what exactly is triggering our short fuse. Taking the time, in the moment, to acknowledge our feelings and surrender to what is happening within us gradually allows the intensity and pressure to decrease, relieving us of the burden that can build over time.
(2) Stay Close to those You Love
One of the worst things we can do in a time of need is to disconnect from those we love and who love us. Isolating perpetuates the feelings of defeat and negative self-talk by taking away the voices that are there to help us see the brighter side. Supportive loved ones will provide the reassurance, validation and space for us to process through our feelings without falling too far into the “what ifs” and “should have beens.” Try not to be afraid to ask for help and communicate how you want someone to respond. If all you need is a shoulder to lean on or an ear to listen, say so.
Doing this doesn’t negate the help, if anything it gives those around us what they need to be the help that they really want to be. Be choosy about who you entrust your vulnerabilities with and recognize that true unfiltered airtime with a close friend or loved one is therapeutic – it relieves the soul.
(3) Focus on Gratitude
Often times when we’re experiencing something difficult it’s easy to be consumed by what is not going well. We’re not this, we don’t have that, we’re far from where we want to be or someone else has it all together (Facebook is a good example of how these false beliefs occur). We’re inundated with what life could be like and it’s challenging to remember that we don’t have all the information about the private lives of others.
Focusing on the things that you do have will counter these false beliefs and re-direct your thoughts in a more positive direction. Gratitude has a powerful effect on the body and can physiologically change our mood just by actively recalling or writing down what it is you are grateful for. Try it.
(4) Create meaning with where you ARE
Focusing on the meaning behind where we are and what we are going through can add a different lens with which to look through. If we can find purpose in the hard times, holding and embracing the obstacle becomes easier. Meaning in our lives produces passion, drive, motivation and empowerment. It enhances our experience and creates depth, wisdom and vision.
Think about those things in your life that give you the most meaning, provide strength through struggles and encourage you to keep going. Reflect on how powerful it can be to reframe something overwhelming and challenging in this same way and feel the difference that occurs. It’s important to remember that meaning isn’t something that is forced, it’s felt.
Moving through obstacles in life and embracing them for what they are, seeking to learn as much as we can to enhance our life experience is daunting. It can challenge every aspect of who we believe ourselves to be and at the same time force the necessary change that needs to occur in order to live out the life we so desire. It’s this process of moving through challenges that teach us perseverance, build our character and strengthen our self-esteem. When we feel good about where we are and who we are, we radiate inspiration to those around us, letting our light shine ever so brightly and pave the way for others around us to commence their own journey toward self-love.
Live a life that you are inspired by and that inspires others to do the same.
DEFINE’s Emotional Wellness Expert, Jessica Pass, LMFT Jessica Pass is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and Instructor at DEFINE body & mind. She has a private practice in Houston, Texas, specializing with children, adolescents, individuals, couples and parents. Jessica’s approach incorporates mind-body integration, education and practical strategies to improve emotional wellness, emphasizing all aspects of who we are to live fully and thrive in our relationships.
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