So often I hear people talk negatively about themselves in respect to challenges or situations they are struggling with. The myth being that, in order to fit the category of “doing well” we are not struggling or don’t have difficulty. Truer, is that to live is to struggle in some capacity, always, and I say this dialectically because of course, life if not just to struggle. Life is to live, connect, be vulnerable, get knocked on your ass, get back up and keep running at something meaningful. Life is all these things.
Often, I have clients come to session and report some really challenging experience they had over the last week and feeling disappointed or frustrated with themselves for having difficulty. The myth again arises that if we are in therapy, working on ourselves, and doing it “right” or doing it “enough” we won’t struggle. Truer, is that the more we learn about ourselves and ways of coping more skillfully, the less we will struggle unnecessarily, but not in general.
I love when a client comes in with a story about how they got through something really difficult. Yes, you guessed it, I say: “I am so glad this happened!” The goal is to struggle skillfully, the goal is to learn how to deal with difficulty, go through painful experiences and not further the pain or hurt ourselves, make situations worse, or cope in ways that keep us stuck destined to repeat said struggle. The point is to be in your life and awake enough to be in the struggle. When someone talks about how they ran right up against some deeply painful experience, felt the pain, reached out for support, were gentle with themselves, used 10 different distress tolerance skills and now here they are with the report... THAT is crushing it!
Asking for help is one of the most challenging tasks, especially when we are already feeling vulnerable. The in the middle space between when something happens and when we know what is going to happen because of it, is one of the most intolerable places in the human experience. My greatest teacher so far: Uncertainty. The alternative is something I like to call “presenting” which is when we go through something real difficult and then once we are through to the other side, talk about how difficult it was but here we are, and we got through it just fine, thank you. Ultimately, getting through challenges and struggle the hardest way possible: ALONE. A great teacher of mine used to say, "This is one of the hardeest things you will ever do, why on earth would you want to do it alone?" Brené Brown calls this in the middle phase being “face down in the arena.” Those face down moments are the ones we are most compelled to have as few people (none if possible) know about. It is hard enough to tolerate the uncertainty and feel powerless, letting others know we have no clue what to do next feels like way too much.
Bottom line: It’s true that those moments of raw vulnerability feel unbearable, but it’s one of the few places that the real magic happens. Connection like no other connection, repair like no other repair, because the parts of us that we struggle so ferociously to protect are available, and only then can we have exposure to a new experience. I saw this quote on Instagram this morning and said out loud, “YESSSS.” Sometimes, “crushing it” means asking for help. Sometimes “crushing it” means saying no, saying I was wrong, or being vulnerable when you want to harden up and hide. I see people crush it all the damn time, it’s why I love what I do. Keep crushing it guys…