Let go of drama
"So many people prefer to live in drama because it's comfortable. It's like someone staying in a bad marriage or relationship - it's actually easier to stay because they know what to expect every day, versus leaving and not knowing what to expect." — Ellen DeGeneres
Ever have one of those ah-ha moments that changes your life?
In my late 20s I realized that the only time I felt truly ALIVE was when I was in deep emotional pain. It was a shocking revelation. It was also the gift of a devastating break-up. (Always look for the blessing within the curse!)
In hindsight, I had hardened my heart to not have to suffer the slings and arrows; hence the need for extreme emotions. Because hey, if you can't feel, how do you know you're alive? The other problem with a fortress around your heart is that an impenetrable wall lets nothing through it, including the many positive emotions in the middle of the scale between extreme bliss and extreme pain. Emotions including contentment, joy, and happiness.
My ah-ha moment led me to make the conscious decision to not live in the extreme emotional world anymore. Because those extremes require drama. Lots and lots of drama! And drama is exhausting. Besides, how can a person experience simple contentment — and joy — if those are not to be found on the points of the compass where drama lives?
So I decided to do the inner work, not knowing quite what that meant or how to do it.
"The only Zen you can find on the tops of mountains is the Zen you bring up there." — Robert M. Pirsig
In my late 20s when I began the journey, trust was still a big issue. I didn't trust many people, much less myself, so it was out of the question to go to a therapist or coach. Instead, my internal compass led me to spontaneously quit my safe day job at age 30 and go mountain hiking in New Zealand to "find myself". Well, I found myself alright. It's also when I met Armand and moved to Rotterdam six weeks later!
There's nothing like throwing yourself out of the frying pan and into the fire. Say goodbye to your comfort zone and hello to big growth!
Eventually it became clear to me that drama is a way of avoiding looking inside, feeling what's there, and doing the necessary inner work.
By the end of my 30s I had gotten through my "brown period", which was a huge improvement over the "black period" that spanned my teens and 20s. I'm currently in what I call my "magenta period", which began in my mid-40s — and I finally feel good!
In clinical terms, what I've done is lift myself out of the melancholy and depression that gripped me for much of my life. So how did I do it?
It began with learning to trust my intuition and thus, myself. Making art and journaling was my therapy. Eventually I had enough self-confidence to get back in the gym to start regaining a physical sense of personal power, which is something else that had gotten lost. I worked on letting go of my insecurities. The stronger I felt on the inside, the more vulnerable I could allow myself to be. Over time I lowered the walls around my heart, and I felt more alive. Presto, change-o!
"Depression taught me the importance of compassion and hard work, and that you can overcome enormous obstacles." — Rob Delaney
Sarah Varcas writes, "The need to show a certain coping and tough face to the world keeps many in a prison of loneliness, unable to connect authentically for fear of the mask slipping to reveal a scared, flawed and vulnerable human being. ...We need to stop, reflect, revisit, remember and realign. And maybe we should add a relinquish in there too, for in doing the first five we will naturally discern with greater clarity what serves us well and be ever more greatly moved to release what fails to help us thrive."
Too often we think walls protect us, but they keep us prisoners. Safety does not lie in the predictability of knowing how things will turn out. Safety comes from taking off the mask.
Have the courage to take the mask off.
Build trust within yourself. Trusting yourself allows you to trust others and be vulnerable. This creates intimacy and a sense of belonging.
Trusting yourself creates agency.
A sense of agency is essential to feel in control of your life: to believe in your capacity to influence your own thoughts and behavior, and have faith in your ability to handle a wide range of tasks or situations.