Struggle: Make forceful or violent efforts to get free of restraint or constriction.
I viewed a graphic today on Facebook that read "Trust the Struggle." While I understand the well-meaning intention behind this phrase what concerns me is the mental image and thoughts that it may both consciously and subconsciously invoke. To varying levels we all encounter challenges in life. It is when we become consumed or attached with a sense of helplessness that the experience of struggle is born.
The thought of struggle itself is the enemy, the obstacle that stands between where we are and hope to be. We seem to think our own struggles are the greatest and that is due to the relativity of experience. My cousin once said to me, "Ginnie, if where you are is a bitch, then it's a bitch." While not stated as eloquently as philosophers of past his deduction of the human condition is none the less insightful.
In writings I often refer to quotes from the works of author, neurologist, psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl, M.D., Ph.D., because well, it is just so damned effective. We cannot fathom the horrendous conditions and daily tortures of those who were Holocaust survivors. The impact and insight of Dr. Frankl's experience of being in a concentration camp for three years and losing his family while still waking daily and purposefully making the choice to survive insurmountable conditions while finding purpose and meaning in his life and a path to survival seems almost bewildering. Below are three quotes from Dr. Frankl's works, including Man's Search for Meaning.
"Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom."
"Everything can be taken from a man or a woman but one thing: the last of human freedoms to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way."
"When we are no longer able to change a situation -- we are challenged to change ourselves."
It is a necessity that we look at the situation we are experiencing from a place of emotional detachment to accurately view and ask the question: Is there something I can change in my behaviors, actions and thoughts to change not only the situation of the struggle but my perception of it? In this exists the steps that lead to the ability to create change.
No matter what the struggle -- financial, relationship, health, grief or otherwise -- it begins by feeling a lack of control in a situation, by wanting to change what we cannot, feelings of being helpless or victimized in some way. When something is out of our grasp and is perceived too enormous to bear individually, we fall into the belief system that we are the victims of some grand cosmic scheme.
When we can remove ourselves from the limited views of our ego and emotions (even momentarily) we can then ask the question: Am I creating the struggle? What is there to learn from the situation? How can I use it to grow? Is my perception of the situation being a struggle a call to action? Have I become its captive? Author and teacher Byron Katie asks us to learn to love what is. Many take issue with this idea because they are relating it to an idea of "you're asking me to love the fact that I lost my job?" And then there is the mother who has lost her child. Surely we cannot, would not, ask her to love "what is."
So then let's look at it from this view: Is struggling with your struggle helping? Is it getting you where you want to be? Is it getting you anywhere other than an atmosphere of defeat and misery? If you viewed your struggle as a challenge would you be able to begin to allow it to teach you more about what love is, ways to be more patient, tolerant, compassionate and resilient in the ways you live and move through life? Would it possibly even empower you? Or are you content in resisting? This battle is not won with over thinking or abusing the mind, spirit and body by ways of internal or external wars but in realizing the battle is war against the self. The premise of the idea is an act of acceptance of the situation or events.
Acceptance is often confused with surrender. I dare you to reprogram your mind frame to one that does not take events as personally as, "Why is this happening to me?" When my brother died in 1998 my mother quickly made the choice that as devastating as the loss of her son was she would not ask "why me" but rather why not me. She did not take it personal in the sense that it occurred against her in the universal sense of the event. She mourned the loss of her child, even still. But she made the conscious choice to not allow her ego to place her in a position of even greater pain and torment, an eternal struggle that would not change the fact that her beautiful son is physically gone from this life.
The very essence of life is change. Part of our journey is to learn to recognize that which will serve our highest good. Fighting battles with imagined or tangible enemies serves no one. Want proof? Read a history book. Learning to stand in truth, accessing internal peace, connecting daily with your intuitive self for guidance, not focusing on what external sources say you are or should be but knowing who and what you are. In this true freedom is found.
Struggle is often created by our resistance to accept situations that are out of our control. Ironically, in this acceptance ways in which we can create change are often born. When we learn to be in the flow of life instead of wasting energy beating against its tide we open ourselves to being a part of something greater than self.
There are words that can be exchanged with others and voila! we have a new viewpoint; struggle is one of those words. I ask you to consider replacing the word struggle with challenge, journey, lesson, temporary situation, a mission to actualize and facilitate change -- but whatever you choose, don't make struggle your home.
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