Recently, a lovely young woman in my circle of friends told me of her breakthrough. “I just refused to take it anymore,” she said. “And I woke up the next day feeling completely different. It’s like I was a snake that shed a skin. I can’t even believe I ever felt anything other than the calmness I feel today.”
For about a year, this woman had struggled with overcoming her emotional negativity around money. Intellectually, and on a business level she was doing everything by the book. But her emotions were spiraling her away from every opportunity. She read book after book, and sought out experts to help her release the emotions holding her back. Each experience would give her a slight reprieve from her money anxiety, only to plunge her even deeper into the emotional abyss.
As she describes it, she had to dive to the deepest part of that abyss to find her path out. “It was exactly at the year anniversary of my serious money troubles, and I realized I couldn’t and I wouldn’t keep going like this. I could just make a decision here and now to take control of what was happening to me. I realized, the only person waiting for me to make my life what I truly wanted it to be was me. I wish I wasn’t so adaptable and tolerant of bad things, because maybe I would have made that decision much sooner!”
It felt so good to hear her share about the shifts she was experiencing. But why does it take such dramatic breakdowns to have a break through? What if we could change the trajectory of our lives without all that pain and suffering?
One time during a lecture a stress management expert picked up a glass of water and held it out at arm’s length. He asked, “How long do you think I can hold this up?” People guessed five minutes, 15, even over an hour. The expert replied, “Well, I probably can hold it up comfortably for five to seven minutes. Beyond that, I can still keep it up, but my arm will start to get heavy. If I persist in my obstinacy to hold it up, my arm muscles will become sore and I might need to a massage to ease the pain. If I manage to hold it up for more than an hour, I may be so badly fatigued, that I may lose consciousness and you would have to resort to emergency measures to revive me.”
Why is it, that although the weight of the glass remains the same – it’s the same glass of water, after all – it feels heavier and heavier? The fact that we’re carrying a burden longer and longer doesn’t have an impact on the burden. It only has an impact on us.
The fact that my friend suffered from money troubles wasn’t because money itself was bad – any more than suffering from holding up a glass of water means the glass of water is bad. The problem was in how she related to it. My friend constantly charged her money experience with negativity and that’s what she received. She truly held money at arms length.
Psychological burdens aren’t as easy to recognize as physical ones, and so we often tolerate them much longer. My friend held onto her money anxiety for so long! When all she had to do was put down her glass – choose a different perspective and let go of the charge. As soon as she dropped that charge, her money situation changed. Within a month, her business was signing contracts again.
What view of life do you insist on carrying, even though it causes you an experience you would rather not have? What small step can you make today, towards putting that glass down?
“If you really want to escape the things that harass you, what you’re needing is not to be in a different place, but to be a different person.” ― Seneca, Letters from a Stoic