Fighting the Good Fight

Hercules Fighting Achelous by Nicolas Bertin 

“What would have become of Hercules do you think if there had been no lion, hydra, stag or boar – and no savage criminals to rid the world of? What would he have done in the absence of such challenges? Obviously he would have just rolled over in bed and gone back to sleep. So by snoring his life away in luxury and comfort he never would have developed into the mighty Hercules. And even if he had, what good would it have done him? What would have been the use of those arms, that physique, and that noble soul, without crises or conditions to stir into him action?”

Epictetus

So you’ve succeeded in listening to your inner voice and following that down the path to your once obscured dreams, and you’ve managed to overcome the Attack on your first endeavor to create. Maybe you’re a new blogger, and you’ve crafted four blog posts acceptable enough for your impossible standards to share with the world and stake your name on. You might be starting to feel pretty proud of yourself even. Until you try to keep up the pace…

If at this point you haven’t realized the ‘you’ in this scenario is in fact me, then we must have a lot in common, to which I say congratulations and I’m sorry. Indeed, the ‘you’ in this scenario is all of us, whether it be with writing or making music or becoming a doctor or whatever it is that has been revealed in your deep searching as your greatest calling. These are the things that we aspire to that bring out both the best and the worst in us.

I have found it to be true, based on my observations of many people, young and old, that you can brazenly live your life whatever way you want for as long as you want, given that you are okay with what that will net you. Once you are able to see past your unconscious desires and incessant need for escapism, and are able to really want something, something you see as necessary for the betterment of society and for the uncloaking of your own soul, then and only then can you no longer live however you want.

Before, it was easy for you to give in to escapism, because you didn’t want to face yourself. Who does? But now, you can’t get where you’re going without fully facing who you are. Only the depths of your truth can take you there, because that’s where the dream came from to begin with. We were able to catch a glimpse of this truth, and that’s what made us turn our trajectory. But it takes a lot more work to fully reveal the whole truth of ourselves, and to create lasting change in our lives. Everyday you strive for your dream, a new obstacle will reveal itself to you. It is a hint that you are on the precipice of change.

This obstacle is the key to your growth. The obstacle will reveal an area of lack within yourself; something within you that is holding you back from being able to do great things. You won’t have to search far to see what that is, but you will have to be brave enough to face your inadequacies and search the darkness inside that has been untouched and running your life for so long.

I thought I had already crossed this point once I built up the courage to start my blog and share my writing. It was momentous for me, yet after my fourth post, I was hating everything I was writing, and nothing seemed to compare to my previous posts. I felt like I was back at square one all over again, and that my blog would be over as soon as it started. After some days of reflection, it hit me. As far back as I can remember, I’ve had this strange habit where any time I feel like I’m doing something really great I freeze up and retreat. I was extremely shy as a girl and I always hated having the spotlight on me. I preferred to put my focus on others, making sure they felt good and comfortable. There was something deep inside me that knew that my greatness would make other people feel uncomfortable, and that’s why I stopped every time.

Seeing somebody’s greatness can be extremely confronting for people. It serves as a spotlight to their own inadequacies, which is something the unconscious mind avoids like the plague. So the question is, why was (or is) it so important to me to make other people comfortable? So important that I would sacrifice my own potential? For that answer, we must venture back to my origins, the most vulnerable time in my life, as a fresh human observing and taking in the nature of beings around me, and using that to form my perspective of the world…

I would describe my dad in the worst sense as immature, hedonistic, and reactive. He was also extremely caring and wanted the best for my brother and me. The combination of these traits played out in my childhood, when he was around, as slightly tyrannical and sometimes abusive, mainly to my mom and brother (I was always far too agreeable to incite any real anger). He was not the type to be overly concerned with people’s feelings and comfort, as he was far too focused on his own, and I more than made up for that. I never wanted to make anybody feel the way my dad made us feel. I took this too far in the other direction, though, as this trait overshadowed my entire personality. The pain I felt from his actions essentially ran my life.

I had this incessant need to go out of my way to provide extra reassurance to people. I believe that what we give to others is what we lack, because of our own conceptualization that perhaps everyone is lacking what we do and we attempt to balance that. I cannot imagine the pain and betrayal my mom had to deal with in seeing the man she married become an uncontrollable manchild who threw tantrums and cheated on her. I always felt like I had to be the perfect child for her, to take away any other possible factors for pain, since my brother, later diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder was already proving to be a handful. My mom was a very conservative women who kept to herself, and understandably so, was quite withdrawn. She always took excellent care of my brother and me, but in terms of emotional support, she could only give as much as she had, which was sparse.

The source of my reverence to other people’s comfort is clear. I didn’t receive the reassurance I wanted a child, and so at the very least I could make sure I gave that to everyone else. I thought it a noble cause. I never stopped to think that maybe that’s not even what other people wanted, or better yet, needed. I learned later on, in my relationship with my boyfriend, that my definition of love was not so refined as I thought. After many arguments that stemmed from me getting upset at him for not reassuring me enough and even challenging me (how dare he), I realized he was in fact loving me. He didn’t want me to be comfortable, he wanted me to be better. My primary juxtaposition of making others feel good was now in conflict with the new goal of mine to love fully and have healthy, functional, adult relationships.

Growth does not occur with justification. If you truly care about someone, you won’t allow them to live in their delusion, no matter how painful or uncomfortable it may be for them to face reality, or for you to be the messenger. If you have wisdom and something important to say, you should never let any person or convention stop you. Neil deGrasse Tyson, famed astrophysicist and author, was recently on Joe Rogan’s podcast. This is a man who is extremely intelligent and has a lot to say, and understands the wide reach of Joe Rogan’s podcast, so he went all out, no holds barred to express all of the knowledge he wanted to express, while in the process, interrupting Joe quite frequently. Personally, I didn’t mind it because I was genuinely curious in what Tyson was saying, and thought it was all extremely important. Whereas when Joe speaks, a lot of the time he can go on long random tangents. I highly suggest you take a listen to this podcast, and if you go look at the comment section you will be very entertained by all the jokes other listeners made expressing their outrage at Tyson’s “narcissism.” 

I think this is the perfect example of my conflict. I act in a complete opposite fashion that Tyson does in the podcast. Nobody calls me a narcissist, but at the same time nobody says anything at all because I’m not making myself known. My constant need to provide comfort for others is really just this cloak of comfortability for myself, in an attempt to create a “comfortable” world where I don’t have to show myself. If I don’t have to show myself, I don’t have to do the hard work of challenging myself and my thoughts and refining those thoughts to the point that they are sharable.

Once I began the hard work of actually challenging myself, I could no longer sit back and let others live in their delusion since I’ve seen the other side. As long as I’m putting energy into bettering myself and the world, I won’t have the energy to worry about how other people are feeling all the time. It may seem cold, but it is what produces meaningful change, while the latter option will only produce more pain since it comes from a place of pain. I can no longer censor or minimize myself to make others comfortable, because that goes against the very mission of this blog and my life — to impact and empower. 

Taking control of your life’s trajectory means taking control of the obstacles that come your way when you attempt to change. At the other side is meaningful, lasting change, and with that a meaningful, lasting impact. As existential psychologist Rollo May says in his book Love and Will, “No human being can stand the perpetually numbing experience of his own powerlessness.” Instead of pushing down this extreme discomfort of seeing your life pass you by and things happening to you all along the way and getting by through escapism, try embracing the pain.

You have been on my journey with me, and have seen my attempt at sifting through the messiness and pain to the truth, following one of my seemingly impossible (and once unknown) obstacles to its origin to discover that there is indeed power in understanding and in braving the discomfort. The more you try to escape it, the harder it will chase you down. The good news is that we don’t have to face it all at once, for the human psyche couldn’t possibly handle that. We simply must get up and fight the good fight each day — see what new piece of our dysfunction has been revealed to us on our task for that day and tackle it one at a time. Sometimes it will seem like you’ve gone so far backwards that there’s no way you’ll ever get to where you want, until your attempts to wrangle the beast show fruits in your life, in the lessons you learned along the way, and the things you’ve made and done. And this, I believe, is what living is about. 

“Our weaknesses are always evident, both to ourselves and others. But our strengths are hidden until we choose to reveal them–and that is when we are truly tested. When all that we have within is exposed, and we may no longer blame our inadequacies for our failure, but must instead depend upon our strengths to succeed … that is when the measure of a man is taken.”

James A. Owen

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