We live in a society which at times likes to make too many excuses; often blaming others for our rude behavior or lack of motivation. Stoics would say those who live like that, choose to do so. This may sound cold at first but let’s not take it out of proportion. Stoics aren’t saying we deserve bad or toxic situations to happen. They are not negating how such situations may have impacted us; what they are trying to convey is that in order to live life, at one point we will need to step out of the victim seat and rise as our own heroes. This attitude in life is what will give us a better chance at recreating our whole existence. However, it is imperative to understand Stoics are not advocating for “negation” but rather acceptance of what happened and a plan to live again. They are not saying “you need to be positive and focus on the positive only” as to Stoics there is no real positive or negative sides to life, there are only situations which can affect us one way or another; ultimately however we choose how we will respond. Although Nietzsche disliked some points of Stoicism, he had respect for the idea of a human being taking control of his or her own life. Stoics then are simply people who don’t deny their weaknesses or dark side but who have a plan on how to heal and who also work on expanding their gifts and talents (personal development).
We all have gone through negative moments in our lives; some more than others. What differentiates the person whose life was a series of toxic events yet everyday chooses to wake up and put one foot in front of the other, committed to creating a beautiful life, from the person whom life threw a curve ball and decided to let that one time define his or her own existence? WILL POWER. It is our will which will determine how far we will push ourselves towards our own healing and our own evolvement.
A few times I have heard people tell me “you advocate for self development too much. We are not heroes, we are humans and deserve to simply be”. If that is your stand and you are content with your life, then all the more power to you. I advocate towards self development because I believe in it. I don’t believe we are just here to survive, I believe we are here to live the life we always dreamt of. I don’t believe just thinking “positive” will accomplish anything. I believe developing one’s gifts, healing (action) plus believing one deserves a “happy” life is what will get results. I am not being callous; I simply BELIEVE we can be and do more than we have been taught or conditioned to accept as our “normal”.
From a therapeutic point of view I would not ever counsel someone who has lived pushing themselves and over stressing to keep working without rest. I would let that person know balance is key. Learning to know when to take a break and enjoy life is important; learning to recognize when to simply do nothing and let life take its course. However, if I met someone who is always looking for a “reason” not get out of his “stuck” mode, where one would rather continue simply doing the same thing; which hasn’t work; blaming the circumstances for one’s own lack of action, then my advice would be different. Every person is unique, every case is unique, proper assessment of the situation and the time which has transpired since the “event” needs to be taken into consideration. It is not about pushing a individual to join the rat race, it’s about helping someone lead a successful life; success according to what that looks like for them. Not everyone defines success as monetary and they shouldn’t. Success is simply the accomplishment of aim or purpose; each person chooses what that is.
I promote self healing and self development because in life I have seen too many people give up too easily or chose not to grow up while hiding behind the old saying “I am only human” , as if being human was to live mediocrely. Aren’t we supposed to be at the top of the food chain? Aren’t we supposed to be the most evolve specie? In my life I have witness too many people ;whom life was kinder to; complain the most. I also know of those whose life story could make you go down on your knees and cry, yet they choose to go on. Like in math, sometimes a negative and a negative result in a positive. For those in second group, those negative events resulted in people with more resilience and true empathy. It doesn’t mean empaths are saints, all forgiving and don’t feel anger; that is an immature and distorted way of looking at things. Being an empath means one can relate better to the feelings of others; even when one doesn’t like a situation or a person, one strives to do the most appropriate thing for that specific moment. It means learning to differentiate when to be supportive, when to stand up and when to walk away. It doesn’t mean the “helping” of others in order to build popularity. Nor do empaths hide their anger while secretly punishing others; that is usually the result of negating emotions.
Maybe you have valid reasons for feeling the way you feel, it is possible you have gone through a situation that you didn’t deserve. Maybe you were abuse sexually, mentally or have had to suffer a deep loss or had to battle with chronic illness. Maybe someone took advantage of you, maybe someone stole money or other assets from you; you can’t let that define you.
I am not trying to diminish what happened to you; firs of all my life growing up was less than ideal, therefore I am the last person who should be judging anyone’s pain. I am however, trying to mentally shake you and maybe help you recognize the beauty and strength life has waiting for you. I am trying to help people understand how a life of punishing others because life didn’t go as you planned doesn’t help; at the end, the only person who will pay the high price is you. Life gives many chances but it stops for no one. Maybe you are letting your life pass you by, maybe you are letting opportunities you may never get back pass you by; that is something which most of the time is under your control (unless you are a child or are living under duress).
It’s time to start healing the emotional wounds, to forgive ourselves for our mistakes and to forgive others for theirs as none of us are perfect. Let me be clear I am not advocating for dismissing, burying, pretending to forgive, much less for asking anyone who was mentally or physically abused to build a relationship with the abuser as a sign of forgiveness. That is when we should say “I am human”. For example, I try to teach my daughters to not ever pretend to forgive but to assess a situation. God or life will not punish them for struggling to forgive, so long as they are doing the best they can to let go of the hold the pain or the situation has on them. I try to teach them to asses the situation and look for what they may be responsible for in order to apply the same understanding they expect from others. In cases were circumstances may have been harder, I tell them is okay to feel as if you can’t forgive so long as you are striving to do so in the appropriate way; acknowledging not negating. I also let them know they are times when the damage can be great (physical and mental abuse) and it’s okay to feel like you can’t forgive; and they don’t have to; it’s more than enough to not seek for vengeance. Standing up is one thing, vindictiveness’ is another. Example: Sending a rapist to jail is one thing (standing up), punishing people because one doesn’t like their choices is another.
It’s time to leave the victim mentally without negating our pain; walk through it, feel it, heal it, release it. No one, not Life or God promised life would be easy. Let’s stop comparing our lives with the life of others. Let’s stop living in what could have been; life in its infinite wisdom unfolds as it wills. Stop ruminating on thoughts that lead nowhere like “why did that happen?” “Why me?” It’s okay to have those questions when the wound is fresh, it is however toxic to your soul to keep asking something you will not get the answer to. For years I lived wondering “why did I have a childhood full of abuse?” “Why did I have to witness my best friends be killed?” “Why me? what is wrong with me?” or “Why did I make some colossal mistakes?” “Why did I hurt that person?” The truth regarding the first is this: I won’t ever know why exactly life chose to unfold the way it did for me. What I do know is because of some of those things, I am stronger, wiser and can guide my daughters perhaps with better perspective than I would have had I been over shelter. Maybe I would have never chosen my calling, maybe I would have grown to be sympathetic but unable to relate. Regarding the second, all I can say is this: I needed to heal, to grow as a person, to mature, to become more considerate. Having made mistakes of my own taught me when to show leniency vs. growing up rigid and inconsiderate of anyone who makes mistakes. Perhaps, had I not made mistakes I would have grown to be self involved or to see people from a place of false “altitude”, as if somehow “I was better than” someone else. Reality however; at least for the second part; none of us go through life without making mistakes or hurting someone, so why not get off our high horses and understand sitting on them will only prolong the pain while deluding us with a false sense of “holiness”. Such attitude only causes dissonance within our minds, for how can anyone who maliciously judges others and punishes them, believe in something greater and pure?
It may be the case where you have deep emotional wounds, please don’t let the past dictate the beauty of your future. We cannot change what happened in our pasts but we can determine what we will do with our future. What is the point of living with anger and vengeance; it only poisons you and at some point life will even itself out. What is the point of living punishing yourself even more than those who abused you? the only one losing is you.
It’s time to choose yourself and work on yourself, heal yourself and release all that which is keeping you stuck. To choose to live in our pain or blaming others will only attract more of the same; then we start to feel resentful with life, thinking it has a personal vendetta against us….it doesn’t. Life is simply giving you more of what you consciously or unconsciously are attracting. Life doesn’t unfold on “good” or “bad”/”positive” or “negative”, those are human terms. Life has no favorites, it only gives out according to our actions or lack of. Do you want to be known by your inner self and by those you love as the person who lost the job, went through a break up, a divorce, was abused, etc. and lives in the victim seat? or do you want to be known as the person who overcame those things? Life isn’t asking you to compete with anyone, the only other person you have to outgrow is the old you.
It’s natural to feel loss, angry, confused, hurt but you should not live your whole life mourning; as long as you can breathe, there is pure life energy within you. If you want to feel complete, if you really want to be healthier you need to invest in yourself. Too many times we live reliving the past (I have done this and at times I too struggle) but then I remind myself how I deserve a life not the old movie; besides when we focus on the past vs. using the past as a compass to guide us towards a better future, we forget about the present and its endless possibilities.
Our brain does not recognize past from present and future, it only recognizes what you are giving your attention to. Therefore, if you keep thinking about the past vs healing the past, you will continue feeling the same old emotions, tearing up at your wounds even more; at that moment you become your own abuser, perpetuating what was done to you. There are times however, when your mind will push for memories or emotions to come forth, no matter how much you want to push them away it will not work; those times are what is called “the dark night of the soul”. Those moments you have no control over and at those times it is not your mind choosing to punish you, it’s your mind and soul choosing to release emotions. At those times, it’s good to let emotions flow so you may heal. Depending of your experiences and the type and consecutiveness of the traumas, you may undergo many “dark nights of the souls”, these are natural when we are working on healing and the more you heal, the less they will become.
One day I woke up from a nightmare; they are less frequent now than they were then. Everything was so vivid, when I woke up I felt shaky and scare. Later that day I had to go to an appointment, my usual driver wasn’t available so they sent someone new. The new person was very talkative and inquisitive which on a normal day would have not bothered me, however because of the nightmare, I felt as if he was invading my space. I felt as if I could not breathe and felt vulnerable. Somehow I made it through my day; when I got home I decided to start preparing dinner, for some reason my cat and dog got at it and that set me on edge. I let them out to the backyard, decided to play an old tune which I had not listened to in a while, hoping it would calm me down while I cooked. As I was cutting the meat I accidentally cut my finger which started bleeding. At that moment I couldn’t hold it anymore, I broke down; heart wrenching sobs. As I sat on my kitchen floor crying, trying to think of all the good things in my life and trying to understand why I broke down like that, a realization hit me. I was already on the edge from the nightmare, the tune I had chosen was the same tune which for a while was my favorite tune growing up. It was the tune my friends and I had dance to at a play, except later on that night I was subjected to sexual abuse. It was the same tune I was listening to the day my friends were killed. The same tune I had listened to as houses blew up around me during a terrorist attack; the same tune reminding me of blood and pain. When I realized that, I cried some more; the only difference was I was conscious of why I had been triggered. When I let go without judging, I was able to slowly bring myself back and tell myself “It’s ok, that was then, you are safe now. It’s okay to have felt so afraid, you are not a coward, you got hurt and you will have good and bad days but life is different now”. I got up exhausted, cleaned my kitchen, took a bath and ordered in. When my loved ones got home, seeing them helped me ground myself. That night before going to bed I asked myself “what are you going to do Sofia?” and said to myself “I will give myself time and room to breathe. I will take some time for me. I am not a coward nor lazy for doing so and then, when I feel grounded again, I will keep on going. I may not be able to change the past but I sure as hell can change my life now and when I life calls for it, help others understand life goes on”. The point of my story isn’t to get your pity, I don’t like it nor do I need it. The point of my story is to help you see how our minds at times will focus on the past (as it did when I was in the taxi) and at other times the mind simply demands your attention so YOU may acknowledge and release the pain. It is not about you feeling sorry for yourself, it’s about you being gentle with yourself. Is not about looking for pity, for pity will get you nowhere; it’s about surrounding yourself with people who are compassionate and who will encourage you to move forward when you have renewed your strength, or if necessary push you forward when you have been stuck for too long on your own pity party.
I don’t pity the young me who had to endure those things. I don’t punish the young me who also made mistakes of her own; I now am who I am because of them and the lessons learned. Although I haven’t arrived yet (I doubt any of us do) I am happier and content with the choices I am making and the life I am building. That is what I want for you, to find your center, to dare to believe in yourself when no one else does. To heal the pain, and push past the self doubt and past anyone who mocks you for trying. That is what I advocate for, because I do believe in the power of the human spirit. I want you to shine, because damn it, YOU DESERVE IT!