Sunday, September 30, 2012

Bad Must Come Before Good?

Hoo boy this summer has been intense!  So much time just riding the waves, or deep underwater, or feeling like the world is turning on it's head that I haven't really had the ability to sit and write here.  But tonight I'm feeling it so out some words come.  :)

Have you ever heard the phrase "Suffering is optional"?  Or been told that you can have and create wonderful things without struggling to get them?  That life can be all ease and grace even while you're learning new things?  That you don't have to work hard for what you want, you just have to allow it?

Those are common themes in self-help materials, especially those focused towards the Law of Attraction and energy/vibration.  I've read and heard those types of things for YEARS.  And while part of me has said "Oh yes, that makes perfect sense!" another part of me has crossed her arms and said "Bull S#%t".

I've pondered on this many times, this subconscious dedication that I seem to have to suffering.  I've felt for a long time that part of me has actually enjoyed the suffering, not because of how it felt but because of what it meant.  It meant that I was getting to see how strong I was.  It meant that I was learning or growing or developing a lot.  It meant that I deserved any help that others might be willing to give me.  And it meant that I was REALLY earning any good things that were coming to me after the suffering was over.

Take someone who appears to have easily gotten everything good in their life.  More than their peers, even.  They just seem to walk through life with gifts laid at their feet.  They tend to be the target of resentment and jealousy, snide comments behind their back about how it's not fair how easy life is for them.  But people who have suffered or whose good things have come after a horrible event, they are looked upon with love and comfort that at least they got some good after the horrors they endured.  At some point I saw these two patterns and subconsciously (or maybe even consciously depending on how old I was) decided that it is safer to get good things AFTER bad things happen.

And really, that message is prevalent in our culture, too.  Bad first, then you're allowed to have good.  "No pain, no gain".  The idea that if you work hard for 12+ years in school, especially if school is hard for you, then at the end you will have earned yourself the ability to have a good life in the "real world" and then you can be happy.  The harder you work, the better your reward.  I got the message in church that life was meant to be endured, the more you suffered on Earth, the more you would be given in heaven.  "Keep your nose to the grindstone".  (Can I say ouch?)  You have to punish children and make them feel bad about themselves so they will grow into good, kind adults.  You must deprive yourself of the things you like to eat so your body can be beautiful.

I was thinking about this the other day, and some phrases came to mind.  I used EFT to work through them, and felt much freer afterwards.
-I must always be working hard for good things to happen.
-If I slack off and do something I enjoy then good things won't happen because I haven't worked hard enough.
-If it's fun and easy then you're not doing enough.
-If you're poor and smiling you're not doing enough, only rich people are allowed to be happy.
-Your life has to be struggle, struggle, struggle until you have earned good things and then you can be happy.
-If I want amazing things in my life, I must first go through amazing pain.
So, in a nutshell, everyone has to start out miserable and working hard at whatever it is that someone else says they should be doing, and then eventually, if you toil enough, someone will come along, tap your shoulder and free you from the pain so you can skip off and be happy and free.

Yeah, I realize it may sound crazy, but subconscious beliefs often are!  I really enjoy uncovering these beliefs, because it helps me see with greater clarity WHY I often do things that make no logical sense ;), and gives me the opportunity to chose something different.  How do I want bad and good to relate to each other?  Do I want to struggle before good things can happen?  Can I allow good things to happen without being required to get mired in muck first?  It also gives me the opportunity to thank a part of me that has been working so very hard for so very long to keep me as safe as possible.  Even if I don't like what has happened because it was trying to keep me safe, I can love it and appreciate its hard work.  And find a greater capacity for compassion for myself.

Then again, maybe that belief that I picked up wasn't just crazy old me jumping to conclusions.  We talk about how we must finish our work before playing, students in school who have demonstrated extra effort may get to take some time to do something fun that others don't get to do, heck, isn't that the whole concept of retirement?  Work hard at something that you may or may not enjoy for 40+ years and then you earn the right to do what you want with your time? 

So is there a different way?  Is there another option?  Is it possible that those phrases at the beginning of this blog post could be true?  And if so, how would that look?

Do you have anything that comes easy to you, that you love so much that working at it is more like play?  And when other people go on an on about how wonderful and amazing it is, you feel a bit guilty that you didn't work HARD enough on it?  HARD WORK should be unpleasant, yes?  The more you want to run away but stick with it, the more value it has?  The amount of blood, sweat, and tears you put into it determines its worth?  A project that you worked on for two days straight is inherently better than one that took you 30 minutes?

What would life be like without those beliefs?  What would "work" look like if we didn't believe that we HAD to endure a period of intense unpleasantness before we could get to the good stuff?  Sometimes it may happen, yes, and maybe the project we put the most blood, sweat, and tears into ends up being our favorite.  But it doesn't HAVE to be that way!  It could be that the project that just effortlessly flowed from our fingertips ends up being the favorite, and most impactful, and most celebrated.  But we likely won't even allow ourselves to see it that way if we keep focusing on work=amount of uncomfortable effort=worth.

I love this quote, and my level of understanding continues to deepen the more I try to live my life by it-

“Instead of wondering when your next vacation is, maybe you should set up a life you don't need to escape from.” 

                                        - Seth Godin

What if my greatest gift to the world, the greatest impact and service and place within humanity is that which comes easiest to me?  If I believe that work has to be hard to do any good, I'll likely look elsewhere when choosing my career, to something else that I struggle with more.  Or if I do go into the field that comes easiest to me, I will probably undervalue what I do because it is just so much fun.  What if we judged our true vocation by how much fun it is?  What if the more we enjoyed working on a project the more worth it had? 

Oooh, so many "What if. . .?"s!  The more I ask the clearer my own path is becoming, the more options and opportunities I see.  Yay for getting closer to a life that has new good things without HAVING to have bad things first!  Heh, I can feel myself becoming more open to new things in general since loosening the need to have the bad justify the good!  Mmmmm, it will be FUN to see where this goes!