Finding Inner Balance: Tools for Strength Building
This is sort of a follow up to the “emotionally raw” episode – and it’s for Emily – I hope you like it! And if you prefer to listen, here's the podcast version of this post.
This is a follow-up to "Emotionally Raw" because, if you just went through a major traumatic life change like a breakup or a betrayal, in a more pervasive sense you are in a stage of reintegrating your knowledge of life, yourself, and also healing from trauma, while growing into fortified new and improved version of your self. So if you are reeling from a recent discovery or the life you planned fell apart- this is for you. It’s a framework I would like to present to you in the hopes that it gives you a point to focus on as you move through this time. Because – yes, this time is painful, but it’s also a time of growth. You’re growing right now whether you know it or not. So this is my way of saying, “Hey! Look over here! Grow in this direction!”
I know this time is sad and painful, but consider that this is all part of the path. It leads you to a better place that you’re meant to be in, that you would not have reached otherwise. Because of a breaking down of structures in your life, a big window just opened and there's a wonderful opportunity sitting there. What is it? A permanent approach to life that comes from a very rare and valuable perspective. Think of it as a new program that you can upload into your brain that gifts you relief from all self inflicted pain that results from the desire to predict and control. That means living with an innate understanding of the difference between what is, and is not within your control. It’s also an innate grasp on what it means to be you – as your true and best you, a person who remains on stable ground at all times. This program you are going to upload? Let's just call it your inner balance.
It’s key to living a totally present and meaningful life, but many of us chase this grounded-squarely-in-self-perspective, getting trapped in needing external things so badly that we can be crushed by the power they have over us.
This program called “inner balance” simply takes the pressure off life. It allows us to be at peace with life in all of its ups and downs– with the knowledge that we can and will take care of ourselves and because of that – we can let go of knowing and controlling the outcome. It also comes with an understanding that inspires us to maintain a “peak level” of self – one that creates state of clarity that allows you to live your life fully and forgive yourself the duty of worrying about it. You can just be.
This state is what many want but few can understand how to attain. Because there is a lot of built in muscle memory working against you! That super powered brain that simply can’t and won’t stop solving. When your brain is chattering you want to shut it up, when you’re worried, you can’t stop rethinking the circumstance. When you are suffering, you want to figure a way to help yourself. In all cases, the instinct is to do something about it! To solve it! To resist that thought pattern almost feels wrong - like you’re not being self-loving or self-protective! All of this painful, obsessive thinking is a result of the lack of this program called inner balance. And for you, in your time of great rebirth, it’s something you have a rare window of opportunity to reach – right now. It’s because you are in this window of great and dramatic change that it is much more attainable.
But instead of simply addressing the wonder of this opportunity – I want to acknowledge what you might be feeling right now, because it’s not easy. So to remove some of its power, it might help to look at it from a new perspective.
PART 1. What you might be feeling now, post-trauma
If you just went through hell, you’re like a beaten puppy – waiting for the next shoe to drop. Logically, you might be feeling like life just might destroy you. “Wtf is going on… I can’t take another blow. Please – no, no more…” You are likely feeling two kinds of horror or dread. (Those obsessive solving thoughts that bring you waves of anxiety and pain.)
• The fear and dread of intense future pain: Basically imagining this loss in its entirety as it pertains to your future, and also mourning your past life being gone.
• Fear that you cannot trust anything about your hopes or your projections of self: The feeling that all you had built is lost. You failed at planning this life and therefore things will not work out for you – because look what happened! “I trusted that things were perfect and going to work out and I can’t rely on anything I thought, at all.” All faith in yourself and your path, is gone, therefore the future looks bleak.
In both of these cases, you have a very valid reason for feeling this way. No doubt. But what you must know is 99% of the pain is coming from your brain’s simulations. They are not accurate or existing in reality – they are imagined calculations that result from intense trauma and emotional pain.
In the case of a fear of the future pain: the dread of this change and the loss that goes with it, this is actually you pre-planning for pain out of anticipation of it – but the actual pain you are envisioning will not exist. You will not feel that way in the future or even be like the person you envision. This mourning of the past is simply the familiar being taken from you – that is something your brain hates.
If you're fighting with accepting where you are, that's natural: it’s a part of shock. But know that it’s exacerbated by the fear around unknown. It’s the fear that is manufacturing this pain in your mind and making you live it as though it will be true. The real pain you might experience in the future will be manageable – and you will be able to live through it a little at a time, with much happiness sprinkled throughout.
The pain felt as a result of not trusting yourself or believing that things will work out: this is shock – trying to make sense of it all, plus a resistance to the unknown. If you're in the pain state, you're likely worried to let go of trying to plan things and anticipating them. Makes sense - you're raw and you’ve been struck by quite a blow! But the unknown and unforeseen existed all along. You just could not perceive it as such. You had an illusion of predicting and cementing the outcomes to be exactly as you hoped. In truth, life will always be unpredictable. Especially when we least expect.
I know that this unknown is overwhelming when you feel vulnerable, so for now – just begin to think about embracing it. Be open to it and let go of all expectations and simulations. Know that all of them are false and your future is completely unpredictable to you right now. Think of that fact as something comforting and beautiful. Something limitless. That is leading to a life that is grand – beyond what you could comprehend right now, from this place. This “letting go” and embracing the unknown is part of the inner balance you can begin to grow. So let’s move on to part 2: Creating the new framework for your window of opportunity.
Part 2: The New Thought Framework
In the context of a blow, you are likely craving balance: no highs, no lows – you just want to be “safe” and “okay” and not have to be so much pain. Which is a good thing – you’re naturally craving this stability inside yourself. A lot of us know we want to be that way, (to not suffer from resistance and instead just "be") the hard part is we end up trying to muscle our way there and end up getting nowhere. Often that’s due to the fact that we are unconsciously making choices that are not aligned with our highest values for our life. We are not demonstrating – to ourselves – that we are really committed to ourselves, or we are not aware that our decisions are not aligned with our values, or we are too afraid to act in alignment with them because we think we can’t get any better. This is also often just the result of our daily practices and focus in a broad sense: we’re not totally guided by our truth because it’s not top of mind at all times.
As you heal and move forward in your life – very simply, you are going to make your life’s perfect balance and harmony the bar of measurement for all situations and decisions. That is your goal. You must choose above all other factors, any individual, any specific result, the goal of wanting to do what’s best for yourself, holistically, based on your values. You must make that goal your golden rule for everything. You obey it at all costs. And that is what leads you to your life's happiness. To everything you want. That is the key to this framework – you look at EVERYTHING in life that way. Not “What do they want me to do” or “…but what if I never meet someone again..” or, “I am never going to be able to change…” (The only exception to this would be if you have growing children – you must care for them first before yourself.)
This framework begins with you deciding that for yourself: letting the goal of perfect inner balance and stability be the guide and the motivation for everything you do. You can let go of thinking the future over. The only thing you have to do is stay conscious. Stay in your life and don't bury your head in the sand. Be brave and choose to take the gift that sits in that open window.
Make your goal pure, and you’ll start to see that everything will go your way. Let go of how life will get you there. Let go of what life looks like when you get there: this goal needs no terms because it will lead you toward what will make you the happiest, minus you trying to steer it from a compromised perspective. And once you commit, decisions become simple. The questions you ask will be, "Will this support my balance?" “Is that what I need to take care of myself?” “Is this what's best for me?” “Is this coming from the right place?” Once you honor yourself above all else you can let go of the rest.
If you’re thinking this sounds selfish, it’s quite the opposite. You are putting on stable shoes so that you can spot the others in your life in a totally different way. The only thing changing is your footing in yourself. So enough of the sell – let’s get started with Step 1.
Step 1: Creating Your Framework for Perfect Balance: recording the values that you will act in alignment with moving forward.
Grab your journal. Based on your new knowledge, you get to decide what it is you want. What you didn’t get – and deserve. YOU get to decide all of it moving forward. Write a list of your highest values for yourself. What you need, what you want, what is essential in your life – that is a value you hold for yourself. Your personal priorities in this life. As an example, they might include:
Health, chemical balance. Honesty and trust, relationships that I can rely on. Kindness and good treatment from others. Mutual respect and relationships that value my time and my gifts. Whatever they are – these values are your guide for your decisions moving forward. Everything will be decided by this.
Step 2: Create your best-self routine.
This is your routine that supports your highest values for your self and your best state of being. It’s what allows you to feel sane, stable, empowered, and chemically rational. It might take some fine-tuning just to figure out what works for you, what you enjoy, and what soothes you. Whatever you resolve to do that works for you, stick to it for at least 2 months: everyday, like your life depends on it.
Just like a muscle breaks down when you work it out, you’ve been torn down and because of that you can rebuild stronger and better! You are rebuilding the muscle that is your true self at your resting state, with this practice. As you create this best self-routine, you should try to address all facets of yourself – a lot of will be related to soothing pain and creating chemical balance – but also take into account your social, educational and spiritual self.
• Chemical means creating a daily exercise routine and creating a stable healthy diet.
• Social means surrounding yourself with people and groups that affirm your highest values and also give you support. That could be 2 friends that really “get” you and a support group or a class. Choose deliberately based on positive influence.
• Educational means gaining objective perspective on your life, plus furthering yourself in the right direction: books that empower you, podcasts, therapy.
• Spiritual – this can mean a lot of things, but the best definition is a part of your routine should be dedicated to broader life understanding. That can mean getting in touch with yourself – allowing yourself to heal and regenerate. That could also mean listening to things outside of yourself – looking for new and greater.
One important rule: throughout this 2-month (minimum) routine you are going to be completely committed to your needs. That means treating yourself as a temple, a wise voice that needs to be listened to intently. That means allowing yourself to relax and supporting yourself when you need a walk outside. Just being super sensitive to your own needs and obeying your needs as the highest priority.
You want to be implementing good and positive habits up the yin-yang. The power of this change comes with the all-in approach. Go for all of it at once and be consistent. Respect the routine! It’s essential that you don’t stop. I don’t mean you can’t sleep: there will be a balance, but be aggressive. Don’t get lazy about the items you know deep down are helpful to your balance and health. Do it like your life depends on it. Be honest with yourself about your goals and commitments - because in truth, everything is a decision. You decide how you lead a day in your life.
These are the two steps for fortifying your new framework. That is what will create your new way of being. You have to keep them up with fervor for at least the first two months. It gets easier after that.
If you’re worried that when you start to act in these ways – it won’t stick. “I’ll fall into old habits eventually – we all do.” Not in this case. The great thing about this growth process is that it’s permanent. Because it’s knowledge. It cannot be unknown. The value it brings to your life is so profound that you cannot just return to the way you were before – because you are finally happy and confident and you know that you don’t want it any other way. You essentially finally start living as the person you are. It’s like it all finally makes sense – your actions and decisions get simple. And it’s such a powerful truth – and such a relief, that you would never have reason to be any other way.
The next two tools are for when you are struggling to act in alignment with your highest values.
1. The Magic Box
This is if you are struggling with making hard decisions. There will be times when you are afraid to act in alignment with your highest values. This will help you solidify them so that you know you will not shy away from what you must do.
Get a box – one that feels kind of weighty or important, or at least nice (not a crappy shipping box). This is a box that will hold your statements of your true intentions, as written by you on small pieces of paper.
A lot of the struggle and pain you feel will likely come from the resistance to know and accept what must be done. So this is a tool for you to confirm aloud and on sacred paper, these truths – so that you might stay the course. For example, you might say aloud to yourself – in the face of a very difficult step: “I just want to do what’s best for myself and take care of myself.” Writing this down and saying it aloud to yourself will help you to act in alignment with that value, despite how difficult the decision might be. And it might be really hard! I know how that is – when it’s about something you can’t bring yourself to admit yet. That means you have to let go of someone or something you love. Once you say it out loud – you almost hand a bit more power to your “highest self” that knows deep down what is best, but your fear of loss is fighting desperately with. It’s the ambivalence that drives us crazy – “but I don’t know if I want that – I will miss that, but I can’t I just can’t!”
Let it go and give the decision over to fate and this higher truth. Embrace that what is meant to be – will be – and all you have to do is act in favor of what is best for you. It’s to help you remember to be strong and make sure you hear your own true goals loud and clear.
2. Play a New Character
This is a mantra/visualization tool for changing your mindset if you’re in a particularly tough state of wallowing and pain. Just like in a video game, you can choose to play as someone else. A different role. You have power over the position you assume in your life. How you choose to play this part in your life can change everything about how you approach it.
Quite literally, you tell yourself how to feel. Even if that original feeling starts with a truth – it’s not ultimate. It is based on how you TELL Yourself to be. Like when you are tired, once you say it, you almost tell yourself to be tired in the rest of your thoughts for the rest of that day. So right now - How you move forward is up to you.
• You can be broken as a result of this instance in your life and focus on the fact that is totally deserving of your tears.
• You can laugh at yourself and how amazing this pain is, but be a tough and strong conqueror. Hurting, but relentless and aggressive about healing. In a state of total and utter empowerment – someone that’s chugging along in a marathon with mud in their face and their make-up dripping down their face yelling, “Yep! I’m human! This blows but I’m going for it!”
TOOLS FOR AMBIVALENCE
1. The Emo-Loaf of Bread
This is a visualization for torturous ambivalence. Picture yourself as a loaf of bread – right now. Yes, you are in pain, but you are still baking. You are growing from dough into a perfectly shaped loaf of bread: you are rising and expanding and the crust will soon be crispy and perfect.
If you start to notice yourself spinning around, like your head goes into torturous solving mode – it’s because you’re in the discomfort of the unknown: of course you want that pain to be over! The oven is hot! But you can’t skip this part. Emotions are not rush-able. They must be processed by all of you – not just your computer of a brain. In other words – your truth and your answer has not been resolved, so you need to take a step back. Soothe your physical self as much as you can, and remind yourself, “The answer is not baked yet.”
If you are struggling with a foggy conclusion and you think you know what you want but you can’t tell, you can write this truth down for yourself:
You can’t think. You can only know.
When you know something, it will be clear and resolute and you will feel it in your gut. It will be undeniable and heavy. So if you’re struggling to hear your own voice and know where it is coming from, try sensing what part of your body it is coming from.
If you’re trying to decide if you think something – you still need time. It’s likely your brain is struggling to solve it for you and help you out of the pain. The truth doesn’t need encouragement. Only some soothing and strengthening support – so that you may bravely accept it. So right now, it’s very important to connect to others outside of this situation, who love you and can support you.
Just understanding you're still processing has a powerful affect and can give you relief. The rest of it is just about doing what you need to in order to take care of yourself and get yourself the most soothed as possible.
2. Wise Mind
This is to help you step back from the spinning or from an emotionally triggered mindset. Wise Mind is a tool I’ve talked about before but it’s a good one. Draw 2 circles that overlap in the center. Over the right side, write “Emotional” and over the left write “Rational.” In the center, write “Wise.” Inside that left circle you are going to write in objective information – stuff like, “I am in a room with a chair and a bed” or, “Today is Sunday the 15th of February, I am 30 years old,” etc. On the right, you are going to write in your feelings, so things like, “I am devastated,” “I am afraid to be alone” etc. When you’re emotionally overwhelmed this side can fill up fast – but try to switch off back and forth between left and right. After a while, you will be able to fill in the center – which is where the result of both sides. It is your “truth” based on both your feelings and your reality. This process can help you get more grounded and remember that you are okay.
If you are having trouble filling out the center, continue writing in the rational sentences. Add things like, “I have a good job.” “I have friends who love me and support me,” etc. Ideally, the center will have things like, “This is one day in my life,” “I am a smart and capable person,” “I can take care of myself,” “I have much life to live and I have strong goals,” “This is a tough time but it will pass.”
Here's a secret about the pain.. The worst of it- you're in it right now. The fear you feel over the future or the past or what may or may not be, is already happening. And most of the resistance you feel is just mourning, the "But can this really be true? No it can't. It can't be. I will fix it‑" That’s you knowing. Fighting but digesting. And soon – all will be understood. The pain you are fearing - that's what you are in now and you are tolerating it. You are okay. It hurts but hey, you are moving through it and you are capable of this and more.
If you feel your life shouldn’t have fallen apart and you are trying to reverse the effects - I will offer you this - the result you face now is not an accident. It’s not your fault and it couldn’t have been avoided. And whether you would have chosen it or not, it has opened up a window of potential with a gift to be learned. Just know that. Stay open to the learning and insights it might give you about yourself, and proceed humbly. And know that pursuit is the right and only path. This one you have chosen – and are already walking. It's this profound approach to a lifetime that gives you its greatest wisdom: A comfort with everything as it happens.
The best part is….it’s your natural resting state. You just don’t know it yet. The beginning of this is about maintenance and effort: training in the new habits and maintaining your balance – almost out of fear. Once you live as that person for a while out of constant effort, you realize it’s who you are and have always been. It’s not just a fad or a phase – it’s you. The real you, who respects what you need to be that self. Who only feels correct and normal when you are maintaining that state – it’s not a struggle or a fight anymore. It becomes effortless. It’s part of you – synonymous with you. It’s not “I have to” it’s “I do” “I am” – there’s no more thinking it over. Ever again. The other awesome side effect of this practice is that you grow so capable of self-care and so comfortable in that ability that you can now very easily let go of all attachments to external things. You literally can be at peace with all of the “stuff” that floats into your mind and used to pester you to fix it or fear its loss.
It doesn’t matter anymore – because you will always be okay. You’ve proven it to yourself. You’ve been through pain and helped yourself. You KNOW for a fact now that you will always be okay. No matter what. And it is this knowledge – this truth - that allows you to accept, at all times what is out of your control, and also embrace what is. It's like choice without the struggle with fear and resistance. Just picture it: the rest of your life is lived without the ruse of being fixed to something. It's so peaceful. If you start to fear or fight, you remind yourself – it doesn’t matter. What will be will be, and I will be okay, no matter what. Because I have myself. And that’s I ever need to be okay.
So with that, know that you will be okay and you are already on your way. Just come from the right place, always. And that is self-love. Don't be afraid to let go of the people and things that were in the future you planned. All is not lost- the happy moments you fear you will miss would have not existed as you pictured them, and the reality of your future will be quite different. In fact, your happiness in life will very likely increase. Why? Because new growth in you- has come to light. Your capacity and understanding has expanded. Be ready to become the best you ever and go for it. The best is yet to come.
I send you my love and vibes of positivity – and I will be thinking of you – cheering you on. And Emily – I hope you liked this!
Featured image via flickr