When unpleasant or painful feelings turn up, our mind has an instinctive tendency to run over and flick on our internal 'struggle switch'. When this happens it is all systems go for controlling and getting rid of the discomfort. Avoidance, opting out, alcohol, drugs, arguments, procrastination - whatever gives us some instant relief.
Being a human myself I am quite familiar with the struggle switch. The first time I ran a group session I got so anxious I'm sure my sweat patches reached from my armpits to my ankles.
The next morning when I woke up and started thinking about having to run it again that day the anxiety returned, back with an overwhelming vengeance. With my struggle switch firmly locked on, I wrestled with my anxiety and wanted to do whatever I could do to get rid of it.
So on this day I reached for the phone and called in sick.
Instead relief washed over me.
But... I had to facilitate this program for another 5 weeks! That is a lot of sick days and a good chance my creativity might run dry coming up with excuses. So I reminded myself why facilitating a group matters to me: it is about contributing, being helpful and supportive of others.
Day 3 - standing outside the room, I reminded myself of these values as I opened up to the tightness in my chest, the racing heart and churning stomach. With my struggle switch off, I made space for the feeling of anxiety as I did something that matters to me.
It was not about getting rid of the feeling, but more about freeing up my arms and legs to move towards an action that enriches my life.
Open up, be present and do what matters.
Try it for yourself. Next time you catch yourself struggling and wrestling with a difficult and uncomfortable feeling, see if you can turn your struggle switch OFF. Open up, get grounded and do something that adds value to your day in that moment.
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