We’re all the heroes of our own stories, but the heroes we admire in literature and on the screen find themselves undergoing spiritual and emotional transformations more often than they find themselves using the bathroom. If all of us are heroes, each going on a continuous, limitless, and recursive journey throughout the stages of our lives, then where are you in your journey? How does it relate to your current struggles? What lessons are here for you to learn?
Each journey has an inciting incident, we just need to be thoughtful enough to listen for it.
This feels like all there is. Everything is starting to feel off. Routine has become monotony. Despite all your hard work, you might feel dissatisfied in your relationships with others. You may even feel a deep dissatisfaction with yourself. You’re Luke Skywalker gazing off into the twin sunsets, wondering what more waits for him beyond the stars.
Harnessing your own creativity feels like a distant memory.
At times, feeling anything at all can be a struggle due to a pervasive sense of fragmented numbness. Self-awareness seems to be the only thing that comes to you simply and easily in this stage, but it seems to only bring you doubt and grief as you begin to recognize your own stagnation. You find yourself questioning the world around you in new and profound ways. If your life were a room, the wallpaper is starting to peel, and you’re not sure that you like the colors underneath.
When working through this phase, you may be finding it difficult to stick to your old routine now that the cracks in its facade are showing. You might feel out of place in once comfortable locations, or with once comforting people. When you look back to the past, you might feel a twinge of shame or confusion due to the developing self-awareness you are discovering within.
It is frustrating, more than anything, to recognize the inadequacies in our lives and in our coping tools. Questions pop up that nag away at your mind. What’s the point of all this? When’s the payoff? How do you make it stop? But perhaps the most vital question we can ask ourselves at this stage is: What is the message your brain is trying to send to you through your dissatisfaction?
This fog of the familiar that you’re working through is not as treacherous as it appears. With each step, you are further and further away from the way it’s always been. Some of the same instincts that are pulling you onward into the unknown might be anxiously pacing in the corner of your mind. Your feelings of numbness, confusion, and shame might give way to denial, anger, and defeat. You might feel resentment towards your growing self-awareness, as though your life would be improved by its absence. Do not be mistaken, this self-awareness is nothing to fear. Everything it shows you were already there in your day-to-day life. Your feelings of defeat do not mean that you are defeated. These growing pains are the presages of growth in your future.
If you are seeking the actions to enable your further growth, then the best thing you can do is widen your awareness. If you are feeling unhappiness with your career, relationships, or creative passions, then it can be extremely informative to make a list of your goals over the next one, five, and ten years. Knowing what you’d like to do differently is the first step to getting what you want, and by keeping your long-term goals in mind, you’ll have a better idea of what you need to include or change in your daily routine.
What else can lighten the burden of your burgeoning self-awareness? Here are a few ideas to get you going:
Listen to your body.
Frequently we ignore the sensations of our body out of guilt or responsibility to others, but that kind of denial is exactly what can keep you from awakening. If you are hungry, eat something nourishing to your body and soul. If you are fatigued, find time to rest and recuperate. If you find yourself feeling intensely, ask yourself where the root of your feeling has sprung up.
Call upon the wisdom of others.
Reach out to a friend, mentor, or teacher and share your recent experiences (good or bad). We tend to believe, as humans, that we exist singularly on our own, and that nobody could really understand what we’re going through. But if you have faith in the empathy of another, you might be surprised how similar we really are.
Book an appointment with your therapist.
If you are deeply struggling through the hours of your life, calling a professional is sometimes the most healing option we have. If you saw someone you love in pain or confusion, you wouldn’t hesitate to get them the best help you could, so you have no excuse not to offer that love to yourself.
If you’re seeking out any concepts for you to work on with your therapist, you can ask them about art therapy, mindful eating, and paired muscle relaxation. If you’re seeking a deeper relationship with your subconscious, art therapy can open up your subconscious like nothing else will. The sorts of things I have expressed subconsciously through art therapy are far more profound than my attempts at guessing.
If you are searching for a better understanding of your physical body, an excellent option is mindful eating. That’s where you take your time eating a meal, paying attention to every sensation in the present moment. If you are stressed out, or your anxiety is tying you into pretzels, paired muscle relaxation might just be exactly what you’re looking for. It’s a guided meditation where you take specific and gentle actions with your muscles to fully relax your body. This can be a life-saver for anyone who struggles with their bodies getting too “activated”.
The journey is long. So long that you’ll be traveling along its path for the rest of your life, maybe more than once. The pace can be grueling because we don’t choose when we need to grow, only if. The rewards are countless, endless, ceaseless, and priceless.
Counseling services at Integrative Counsel
Other mental health services Integrative Counsel provides are depression counseling, anxiety counseling, art therapy, improving codependency and boundaries, grief and life transition, accessing your body informed wisdom, and increasing mindfulness and awareness.
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Sunny Ebsary is a writer and singer-songwriter from Tampa, FL. When he’s not sing-songwriting or just regular writing, he’s probably drinking water with a lot of ice, having a staring contest with his cat, or giving people great ideas. You can listen to Sunny’s music here.