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  November 5, 2001

"Should" and the Healing Path

Last week's thought ended with the statement "Break free of the Tyranny of Should. Feel what you feel and be what you are."

But what if you don't like who you are? What if you hurt? What if you're ill? What if you're violent or full of horrible feelings?

We usually start growth and healing work because our lives are full of pain, suffering, and impossible problems. We don't like it, and we want to change. Fair enough. But this is where most of us fall off the rails.

We loathe what we have become, but often fail to realize that we are this way because we have not been allowed to be what we are. So we often begin our "healing" by doing the very thing that made us sick - trying to be different!

We make so many resolutions -

"I'll start thinking more positively."
"I'll be more disciplined, and not eat so much."
"I'll take a deep breath when I get angry and not lash out."
"I'll shake off this gloom and not be so self-absorbed."
"I'll start meditating every morning."
"I'll start exercising after work."
"I'll read that latest self-help book and face my fears."

Should, should, should.

We all know this approach rarely works. And when we fall off the wagon, guess who we beat up? Ourselves. Who we are gets pushed down lower and lower in the mud of our life.

What to do?

Within every problem lies the solution. "Shoulds" are a red flag. They are a powerful opportunity to turn this viscious cycle around. We hear ourselves say the words. We watch ourselves try to escape into another plan. But if we see the red flag, we can stop. This first step can be a moment of profound awakening.

The next step is to witness and feel, without judging, all the painful aspects of our life and behaviour. This is not easy, but can be managed in degrees.

We have gotten into this mess by being abused, neglected, and coerced into a way of being that isn't right for us. We have protected ourselves from this travesty by hiding in a prison of unconsciousness and distractive behaviours. Becoming conscious is the freedom from this dungeon, although the price of admission requires feeling and expressing all the pain we hide in our hearts, minds, and bodies.

Moving through this process of facing what we have become often requires support from non-judging friends and experienced facilitators. With them at our side, we face the hurting mess that we are, instead of running after some glittering "should." We witness what is. We sit with what is. We feel and express what is. We give up the hopeless chase that someone or something (Mom and Dad?) will make it all better.

And like a Zen realization, at the moment we stop trying to run from it, fix it, or change it, the paradox happens - we change. When we stop the manipulation of the "shoulds," nature begins the process of growth. It is slow at first, like a tiny trickling spring, but it eventually becomes a river that washes everything along with it.



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