Hi Kelli! I love all your podcast and content. I’ve struggled with serious mental health since the age of 12. I feel like I’ve done nothing over the last 10 years but be proactive and look for solutions. It seems like everything I have tried fails me and my mental health is only getting worse to the point I can barely function.
My question would be when you’ve spent so much emotional energy and time trying to help yourself but everything makes the situation worse what should you do. Just stop trying altogether?
This was a question very near and dear to my heart, especially over this last year or so, where I have gone through some really deep ick, where I have gotten more deeply in touch with some serious pain that I had been addressing to some degree over the years, but not totally.
As many of you know, this journey is interesting in that as over time you can see you generally feel better, but the process is far from linear.
As you go along, you touch on deeper stuff that you either didn’t know was there at all, or you did, but weren’t quite ready to go all in on dealing with it. You revisit certain issues, seeing the emotional fallout hasn’t been resolved quite yet. External circumstances may trigger something previous challenges didn’t, and it is no longer dormant.
You see how the ego slows us down, and we remain entrenched in certain ideas, and ways of being, even if we are now acutely aware of the problems that result. We may resist deeper transformation no matter how much we want it.
Like many people, my main motivation to do all the inner work was to change the outside in some way. Freeing ourselves from the delusion that molding our outside circumstances to our ego’s liking is the key to our happiness takes some time.
The changes we are called to make to gain any real degree of lasting peace ,and well-being, are terrifying to the ego, and there is a huge amount of resistance to them.
And in resisting these changes, we prolong our suffering. And because we are more tuned into our inner world, we are more tuned into the suffering, more tuned into the tension, which just makes it all the worse.
Chances are, anyone called to ‘work’ on themselves, anyone who develops an interest in exploring spirituality and personal growth, is doing so from a place of feeling some sort of pain.
It’s probably a rare person whose life is going grand ,and they just want to kick things up a notch, so they get into all this stuff to totally maximize their well-being and awesomeness.
And because the pain is the motivator, making the pain go away is the goal. And what we don’t realize, sometimes until much later, is trying to simply make pain go away is a very different goal than trying to cultivate more positive emotion and facilitate healing.
The journey of pain-minimizing will be much harder in countless ways–it keeps us externally focused when we need to be going within; it keeps us from dealing with the pain which is the only way to get the relief we seek; it keeps us from doing all these things that would be really good for us to do.
Another thing that trips us up is our distorted idea of what ‘happiness’ and ‘healing’ may look like. We often envision reaching some point where we feel ‘done’ with our shit. All is well and nothing will bother us anymore. We will handle every challenge in life with total grace, and respond in totally enlightened ways.
And then when the pain comes back, or something happens, and we feel all sorts of terrible feelings, we think we have ‘failed’ somehow. We are so sick of dealing with the pain, we feel a sort of resentment towards the whole journey, and decide we aren’t going to do it this time.
I would have moments of total breakdown where I felt like all my ‘work’ wasn’t amounting to shit. I felt like the best all my ‘effort’ would get me is making my pain more tolerable, maybe feeling a little less miserable and uncomfortable in my skin, in this world–actually truly feeling better was not in the cards.
And that was a terrible feeling. And ultimately, I knew that wasn’t true. I knew I did make tremendous strides over the years. I knew I had changed in significant ways–I could see it in how differently I responded to different circumstances in my life.
But I also knew I was resisting certain things, and that energy was growing and growing, and it had reached a point I really couldn’t ignore it. I also knew I was still letting my ego run the show to a large extent, and buying into a lot of its bullshit.
I have had issues with depression and anxiety; I feel shit deeply. I have struggled with very dark thoughts, and thinking there was something fundamentally ‘wrong’ with me that couldn’t be fixed.
There was this ‘heaviness’ I felt permeated my being. I believed there was some sort of darkness in me that was impenetrable.
I have known great mental and emotional pain. I would often cry to my husband that my mind was ‘torturing’ me and how I just wish I would die sometimes.
But at the same time, I generally enjoyed life and felt lots of happiness. I wasn’t some dour person. I loved my traveling and my work. I felt great satisfaction from helping people. I wasn’t ‘faking’ any of that.
But if I had the option to just make myself disappear permanently in a painless way, there are probably many times I would have opted for that route.
It was like I was two different people. Us humans are a complicated bunch that is for certain.
I attempted suicide when I was 20 years old and I had many periods in my life where I would have obsessive thoughts about killing myself–I wasn’t super depressed, nor was it something I was seriously contemplating again, but I just felt so much pressure and tension, and naturally that would be a way to end it.
These were times when that aforementioned ‘darkness’ and ‘heaviness’ would seem to surface more strongly.
I had this experience again in recent months after my mom died–it wasn’t her death necessarily, but it triggered a lot of that deeper stuff that I hadn’t dealt with. I got very real with myself, and said a lot of things out loud I never had, admitted things I always knew on some level, but couldn’t bring myself to actually acknowledge.
And it hurt like a bitch, but opened something within that I knew would lead me to a much better place, that would allow me to ‘level up’ in a lasting way.
And I was right about that. I have reached a new level of ‘something’…words can often fail us in this journey. It is hard to verbalize many of the experiences we have and the realizations we make.
I shared these very personal thoughts and experiences to make it known I get it, that I have been there, and that there is hope, that all that ‘shit’ is fixable, and not something you are doomed to suffer with, that there isn’t something inherently wrong with you.
So in this post, I want to share the insights I had in my own life when I felt like nothing I did was ‘working,’ where I felt like I wasn’t making any progress, where all my ‘trying’ didn’t seem to bear any fruit.
This could probably be 10 posts so I’ll just focus on some of the broader ‘strokes’ that supported the deeper change and healing.
This Journey Isn’t Action-Oriented
The journey of emotional healing, inner transformation, and all that wonderful stuff, is not action-oriented. That can be really hard to grasp because we are so used to thinking action is the level of ’cause.’
We want something , and we go make it happen through some series of actions–we plan, we strategize,etc…We believe as long as we keep trying, something will eventually happen.
And we take that mindset into this inner journey. And right from the start, we are off on the wrong foot. But this is one of those things where we kind of have to experience the ‘wrong’ way to know for sure it’s not the way and then we can let it go.
This isn’t to say various ‘actions’ aren’t helpful. They certainly can be in profound ways in that they help us manage our energy, and give us some emotional stability, which makes it easier to do the ‘work.’ Someone might get great benefit from yoga, vigorous exercise, guided meditations,etc…
I love yin yoga and my daily walks. I meditate.
But at the end of the day, these sorts of things can’t really make us change in any way. A deep sense of brokenness, or severe anxiety about the state of the world, probably can’t be totally fixed by trying to realign your chakras, or doing some 30-day program to becomes your best self.
You may learn very helpful coping strategies for that strong wave of anxiety that overtakes you in a moment’s time, but that won’t actually get at the root of the anxiety.
Our feelings don’t come out of nowhere–they are a result of our belief system. They come from how we see the world, how we see ourselves, the stories we tell about our circumstances both past and present, the meaning we have assigned to certain experiences.
This means the key to feeling better is exploring the lines of thinking causing that pain, and questioning their validity. We must have a willingness to release them, to trust our feelings as a guidance system–things that feel good are true, things that feel badly aren’t true.
Some things that feel good–you are loved and supported by the Universe, you are not inherently broken or incapable of being happy, your past experience doesn’t have any bearing on what is possible for the future, you are perfect, whole and complete as you are now…nice right?
Wouldn’t you like to believe these sorts of things are true? Can you trust at least a little they might be?
So if the root of our pain, and therefore the root of our healing, all lies in our belief system, we see the crux of this journey boils down to conscious choice and nothing more. Technically, nothing else is necessary. We don’t have to ‘do’ anything. There are no ‘solutions’ we need to find.
And while we may know this on some level, if most of us are honest, this conscious choice about what we believe (which needs to be made continuously, not just once) is not really factoring in in any real way.
We are still focused externally, in a very action-oriented way, always looking for some new tool, technique, hack or healing modality to take away the pain, to get us what we want.
We are looking outside of us, desperately hoping this next retreat, program or form of meditation does the trick. We are always looking for that magic bullet.
And like I said before, all of this can have great value, but we aren’t seeing the role of these things in the proper context.
We are looking for them to do something we can only do for ourselves by way of conscious choice to reject the beliefs causing our suffering, and embrace the ones that will not only alleviate it, but bring us greater peace, joy and contentment.
These days, unless I feel a strong intuitive pull towards any external resource–book, video, particular spiritual teaching,etc.., I am not interested.
At this moment in time, I don’t care about my chakras, inner child, past lives, inherited trauma, spirit guides (I’m sure they don’t take this personally,) or anything else. If that changes at some point, I’ll honor the pull and see what is there for me.
I may read about different subjects, healing modalities,etc..but it is more from a place of curiosity, not from that place of desperate hope this will be ‘the’ thing. And if I learn something helpful, great.
I no longer get sucked in by slick marketing that plays to people’s ‘pain points’ or promises them the world.
So if you are someone who is sick of ‘trying’ to feel better through some form of action, who is sick of looking for the ‘solution, you can stop. You don’t ever have to ‘do’ a damn thing again, unless it truly makes you feel good, unless you feel it truly has value for you.
All you have to do is make that conscious choice about your belief system–over and over and over and over. Like many aspects of this journey, it is simple but not easy. Inherently the steps are not complicated; our conditioning and resistance is what complicates things.
Just is what it is ,and making peace with that reality makes it easier to contend with.
So, how do we make it easier to choose in favor of truth, of believing the things that will make us feel better, that will heal the pain, that will allow us to move forward?
Part of the answer was already mentioned above–trusting your feelings as a means to evaluate what is true and untrue.
Without trust, this sort of journey is just not possible because you are being asked to believe all sorts of things for which you may have no evidence for in your own life, that make zero logical sense, that can’t be ‘proven.’
But the real magic can only happen if…
You Face Your Pain Full On
This is not the first time I have talked about this, and it certainly won’t be the last! If we are experiencing emotional pain, we have to deal with it. If it’s there, it’s there.
You may intellectually understand you ‘shouldn’t’ feel a certain way, but you do. You don’t want to feel pain, but you do. You just wish you were ‘over’ something by now, you think you ‘should’ be, but you’re not.
So if this is the reality we are faced with, no matter how much we wish it weren’t so, we gotta do what we gotta do.
We have to dive in and purge the ‘ick’ so we can see truth more clearly, and more easily embrace the perspectives and beliefs that make us feel better.
The emotional pain is like static on the radio–an interference. It is like a clog in the drain–things can’t flow properly. It is like rain on the windshield–it distorts our vision. It is like grime on the glass–it hides our true nature, which is all clear, shiny and gleaming.
What confuses us about this advice is we are already feeling intense pain, and that feeling of it doesn’t seem to be doing anything. But context and intention are everything.
Before we had new perspectives to embrace, we were just feeling badly, believing all the beliefs and stories making us feel that way, and that was the end of it. We weren’t moving towards any sort of transformation in our thinking.
We really had no strong intention to truly heal ,and the feeling of the feelings really weren’t in ‘service’ of anything–we just felt shitty and that was that.
But once you get on this journey and start learning a few things, you see how that experience is different. Your experience of the pain is different. It is no longer this thing that is just ‘there’ torturing you.
It is a vehicle for positive change and healing. It is a messenger alerting you to what you believe, the stories you tell about your experience and how you see yourself.
When you have those emotional releases, and you feel lighter and less burdened, you can see more clearly. You see truth, and you embrace these new ideas more deeply, and their energetic/emotional counterpart can more easily make a home in your energy. There is space for them now.
Think about all the times you cried about something ,and then felt better afterwards. You let the feelings out, and you were able to think more clearly, you felt more optimistic about the situation. We have experienced this ‘phenomenon’ countless times actually.
There is often a gap between intellectually accepting these feel-good ideas, and actually feeling them to be true. Accepting something intellectually is a great first step, and can lead to some immediate emotional relief, since we are now starting to release the stories that created the bad feelings.
But it usually won’t take us all the way. We have believed certain things for a really long time, and there is a huge amount of energetic momentum there, there is a great deal of pain. We aren’t enlightened spiritual masters.
Our ego’s interpretation of events often leaves us with immense feelings of betrayal, grief, anger, resentment and bitterness. We have been blaming other people for lots of things for a long time, and we may feel intense feelings of injustice, unfairness or being cheated out of something.
We may have done things for which we feel crushing shame and guilt. I remember getting so angry with my mom sometimes when she was sick because she wasn’t doing all the things I thought she should be doing to heal.
Of course my anger was a response to the deep, deep fear I had about losing her, about having to watch another parent die a horrible death from cancer, about having to face my biggest fear of being without either of them.
I have moments when I feel so guilty about that behavior. I think of how scared she must have been, how terrible she must have felt physically, and here I was yelling at her.
I don’t want to feel all that but I know I have to. I can’t just intellectually work through it, thinking I was just trying to help, that I was just scared and I wasn’t a bad person. I need to be with that pain and feel it, purge it. Then ,and only then, am I in a position to embrace that truth on a deeper level, to feel it.
Thinking our way out of it just isn’t an option. It would be nice it if was.
As someone who has explored the role of dealing with our negative feelings in energetic transformation and healing very deeply in my own life, I can assure you it isn’t as bad as we may think it is. Yes it sucks to feel badly but it feels really good to let ourselves go there.
No longer feeling like our pain is holding us hostage, no longer trying to craft our whole life around trying to leave it undisturbed, no longer making pain-minimization our primary motivator in everything we do, the reason we want everything we want–oh the sweet freedom of that! Words can’t capture that experience.
All we want in life is to feel good, and when we deal with all the shit, that comes automatically with zero effort. When we clear out that static, that interference, we can more easily embrace all the beliefs that feel really good, that help that pain start melting away because we are rejecting all the ideas that created it.
For some of you, dealing with that pain on your own may not be advisable–you may need a therapist or some other health professional to support you. If that is the case, reach out. Don’t be ashamed.
How to best support our inner work and healing is a very individual thing. Sometimes a particular action may help, but in another instance, it is better to not do the thing. This is where trusting intuition, inspiration and our inner knowing come in.
I remember a few years back, I was going through a hard time, and I started feeling a strong aversion to doing anything that smacked of ‘working on myself,’ including meditating, which I had been doing pretty regularly for many years. I recognized this was a genuine call to stop, not just resistance to something uncomfortable that I should still try to do anyway.
And of course the mind wants to know how I knew the difference…but we can’t break down, and explain feelings, in the same way we can a decision made from logical thought. A feeling just is. I just knew.
So I didn’t do it for about a year and a half. During this time, I wasn’t consciously rejecting the idea on a daily basis. It just wasn’t part of my routine anymore.
Then I came across a meditation course that really spoke to me, and I knew it was time to take up my practice again, that meditation was going to be valuable for where I was in the moment.
Back in 2016, I developed a very serious health issue virtually overnight where I was experiencing debilitating pain in my whole body 24/7, that lasted for several months. It was probably a year before I felt fully healed.
While a part of me was terrified, and thought I should go to a doctor, for adiagnosis and possible treatment, intuitively I knew I should handle it on my own.
I knew the issue was energetic/emotional and my key to healing was getting at the root. Getting a diagnosis, and all that would likely follow, would have just complicated the process. I trusted in my heart this was the way even if my mind didn’t.
When we find ourselves at a point where we are going really deep, where we are really diving into some shit, we need to create space for that.
For some of us, that may mean small tweaks to our routines. For some of us, it may mean some bigger changes. It may mean doing things that are really uncomfortable, that seem ‘wrong’ ‘inappropriate,’ or ‘irresponsible.’ But intuitively we just know it’s a good thing.
Recently I noticed I was feeling very averse to doing anything online, including stuff for my business that I would normally enjoy, like posting updates on my social media or making a video. Like anyone, especially people with online businesses, it is easy to get sucked into mindless surfing for hours.
I wanted to quiet my mind, I wanted to do less and just be. Being on the computer less was an obvious step to take.
So in the last couple of weeks I have barely been online except to watch Netflix, and a spiritual teacher I follow on YouTube, and check my blog for new comments every so often. I have an app and a browser extension–StayFocusd– that blocks whatever I want it to on my phone and computer.
I recorded a podcast the other day and I am writing this post because both felt really inspired and I’ll promote them like normal. And whenever I feel like doing another one I will, and if it isn’t for awhile I’m fine with that.
I still don’t feel like getting back on social media regularly and I’ll honor however long I feel that way. I’ve been checking my email once or twice a day and I respond to clients,etc…in one batch and it feels good.
My husband and I came to Panama for three months to do a housesit and are steps away from a beautiful beach, where we have been walking the dogs and swimming daily. This is a good environment to be in given my current state of mind and am taking advantage as best I can.
I have been giving a lot of thought to how much guilt we feel about doing anything that isn’t considered ‘productive,’ how we feel we have to ‘earn’ leisure time by working hard first and getting something ‘done, how we feel we have to earn anything good by working hard to get it, to prove we want it.
So much of our worth, and sense of deserving, is mistakenly tied to what we ‘do.’We think our professional life is central to our identity, the most important aspect of our existence, and everything else is secondary.
What is the first question we usually ask people we just met…What do you do?–meaning their job An innocuous inquiry on the surface, but one that speaks volumes to the point I’m making.
We think our contribution is more valuable if there is struggle, if it feels harder. So if something comes easily to you, or you really enjoy doing it, you feel guilty being ‘rewarded.’
I’ve never been ‘ambitious’ or goal-oriented and I felt like I was ‘lazy.’
I am very passionate about what I do, but that never translated into spending 12 hours a day working on my business, and again, I felt ‘lazy.’ And even without all that ‘hard work’ I still made money so I guess I was doing something right, with that something being that inner work.
We are led to believe being passionate about a professional endeavor translates to it consuming our life, and if you’re not doing whatever it takes to ‘succeed,’ you’re not serious. I don’t think that’s true. I think there is a lot of ‘ego’ involved there, a lot of pursuit of arbitrary goals, of trying to feel deserving of the results.
All of this stuff is just bullshit and creates so much unnecessary tension, anxiety, self-criticism and other emotional upset.
What we receive in life is always about our state of mind, never our actions, and we have to do a lot less than we think.
The real purpose of our life isn’t the’doing’ in its various forms (including personal growth work), it’s ‘being.’ And I am committing to that idea in a deeper way than I ever have.
Maybe I’ll permanently alter my online habits or maybe not. Maybe I’ll make other deep changes to my daily routines or maybe not. All I do know is, I feel I am developing a permanently different relationship with’ doing.’
I want to do my best to make sure my ‘doing’ supports my ‘being’ and my emotional wellness, and doesn’t detract from it.
I am sick of my ego getting in the way of the process with unhelpful actions, its need to control and having everything be just the way it wants it to be, its total lack of understanding of how everything works, and the fear that produces.
So, those are some examples from my own life about how I made that space to support dealing with, and healing, my shit, about external changes I made that supported the internal transformation.
While it seemed a bit off topic, I wanted to talk a bit about the things I was personally dealing with, and thinking about, as I figured a lot of people would relate.
So..making space and supporting yourself– How will that look for you? What are your being led to do on that intuitive level? What are the external saboteurs you need to watch out for?
What did you think of the post? Anything resonate in particular? Any advice you’d offer someone feeling this way ? Looking forward to your comments as always
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