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Giving up the fight

On any given day, common themes run through clinic. A major trend of late has been conflict and fighting. Patients are being challenged with difficult people, attitudes, and situations. At every turn, they find themselves running up against resistance and hitting walls. They are putting forth maximum effort and getting nowhere.

Whenever I witness fighting, the most striking feature is the significant lack of receptivity. There is intense struggle to exert one’s will onto the world, but little willingness to being open to taking in. There is a refusal to listen.

This is a collective pathology. As a people, we are not listening to each other. We are not listening to ourselves. We are not listening to life. When we do not listen to life, we become rigid and inflexible. We become mean. Eventually, we break.

We want to exert control because we are afraid.

Though we cannot will ourselves to be open or unafraid, we can take actions that move us in this direction. Practices like meditation and prayer are without equal. Energetic therapies can activate energies of trust, love, forgiveness and compassion. Physical postures and movements that open the heart center and yin aspect of the body encourage a similar softening.

We have one other important readily available skill: our ability to shift perspective. We always have choice in perception. We are responsible for selecting the most appropriate lens for each situation.

Contrary to how it feels, hard times and shut downs are not setbacks. Rather, closed doors and dead ends are invitations. They invite us to look in different directions, to move towards something new. They prevent us from getting lost.

When we navigate life from a place of fear, pride, or self-seeking, we miss this perspective.

When something happens that we don’t like, our primal reaction is to make it personal. We get aggressive and act out of fear. We fight to get what we want. We impose ourselves onto situations and try to establish dominance. When someone mistreats us, we retaliate; we want to show them that they are wrong. We push to change their behavior to something we deem more appropriate.

When we find ourselves in situations that are stifling or not serving our needs, we try to gain control. We do everything in our power to try to change the circumstances. Conversely, we might sit back and look the other way, in the hopes that things will somehow change on their own.

When people are trying to help us, we shut down their ideas before they are fully expressed. Because we already know everything.

These strategies work 0% of the time.

Not only are these tactics ineffective, they only result in further struggle. As soon as one struggle ends, along comes the next situation that doesn’t match our vision of how our lives are supposed to look. We fight with that, too.

Thankfully, we can stop. We can stop and ask ourselves, “What is being presented?” “What am I being asked to do?” “Who am I being asked to be?” Instead of focusing on why or how a situation isn’t what we want, focus on what it IS.

When the job setting becomes hostile, we have choice. We can repeatedly rally and fight for better treatment in order to stay where we are. Or we can pause and reflect on what the situation might be asking us to do. Oftentimes, antagonists function to keep us on our authentic path. On the level of a soul contract, their intolerable actions invite us to make a change, to leave, to seek a new situation. Without being pushed past our tolerance limit, we might never discover the bigger destiny that is calling.

When a friend or family member is creating a situation of chaos or codependence, we can go around in circles with them forever. Or we can see it is an invitation to disengage, to set a boundary and possibly even walk away entirely. What is masked as frustration, insult, or potential loss is an opportunity for liberation. Once free from the entanglement of drama and distraction, we can meet new people and align ourselves with those who actively promote our highest good.

If we are pushing to “make something happen” in any arena of our lives and it is not happening, we can keep hurling ourselves against the same wall with increasing intensity, or we can ask if maybe this is an invitation to let go and pursue another path, to try something different.

When we are disappointed because we wanted or expected our lives to look differently than they do, we can sink into a depression of shame, victimization, and regret. Or we can accept the invitation to develop a flexible mind. We can discover that we have been holding on to a limiting view of who we are. We can allow ourselves to think in a new way. We can allow ourselves to be someone new.

The challenge is to change the lens. Can we pull back from the swirling storm of details and see our lives from a wider perspective? Can we come to recognize the futility of attempting to change anything outside of ourselves? Can we learn to connect to our internal guidance and focus on our own choices and actions? Can we give up the need to be right? Do we have the humility to let go and let others be as they are?

As time passes, situations will change. We will change. Things will fall apart and slip away. We will find serenity when we stop struggling to hold it all together. Because it was never together to begin with.

This is not about giving up. This is not about being idle. This is about discernment and grace. This is about not fighting what is. This is about taking action when and where we are invited and letting go of what has passed. This is about honoring and working with what we have.

This is about creating a life that is a conversation, not a war.

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