Yesterday, a client asked me how it was possible to remain optimistic in the struggle as I had suggested in my last article. She stated that everything was a struggle for her. Everywhere she looked, people were struggling. She was becoming despondent and saw no end to the struggle. So how could you remain optimistic if their was no relief in sight?
As she spoke about her experiences and perceptions of the struggle, I could relate to what she was saying. Over the past 6 months or so, I have noticed how stressed my clients had become. There seemed to be an extra burden that they were carrying (besides the personal issues that they had come to see me for). I don’t know whether it is the financial crisis that is busy unfolding globally, or the constant feeling of being emotionally on edge in South Africa due to the possibility of some act of crime or violence, or the ongoing pressures of living in a country where order was constantly being undermined by processes of chaos.
She told me that she was busy working through a self-help book of 500 odd pages to help alleviate this over-riding feeling of ‘the struggle’. While she enjoyed reading, she found that working through the book was having the opposite effect; it was also a struggle. The very thing that she was trying to do to solve her problem was in itself becoming a struggle. She couldn’t escape the struggle. More significantly, she was becoming despondent in the struggle. She was losing hope.
She added that ‘life shouldn’t be like this’. I agreed with her; life shouldn’t be a constant battle. More importantly, we should all be able to access the joy that life has to offer us.
While writing this article, I e-mailed my friend Giaco Angelini (who is a film director) and asked him if he had a photograph that could give further meaning to the idea of ‘optimistic in the struggle’. I only gave him the topic – I couldn’t give him the content of this piece since it had not yet taken shape. He was excited about the idea and was only too pleased to give me some visual input.
I wondered why I had asked him for the photograph in the middle of my writing? As I pondered this question some guidelines around optimism when we are engaged in life’s battles was taking shape.
Firstly, we need a companion to connect to while we are struggling. This relationship should open up possibilities so that we can get a deeper or wider perspective of our struggle (seeing the bigger picture). Fundamentally our companion just needs to share love and interest and listen, which brings light onto the subject – advice or suggestions are not necessary.
Secondly, we need reflective space to breathe into (on a metaphoric level), so that we can get distance from the struggle. We need space to regenerate and to rejuvenate, away from the demands of others preferably in nature. As we separate ourselves from the struggle, another perspective will begin to emerge.
Thirdly, we need to develop an attitude (or belief) that we have the necessary resources, talents, experiences and knowledge to call on so that we can succeed in the long run. There is light at the end of the tunnel.
I seemed to make two meaningful comments to my client that brought her some relief. One was to acknowledge that she was feeling insecure about her life at present. While this comment caused her to cry, it also seemed to offer her hope. The second one was to suggest that she stop reading the self-help book for a month, after which time she could return to it if she desired. The book was too big. Its size gave her the feeling that it was never-ending.
Struggles are akin to crises and are part of the change process. While crises tend to be quick and traumatic and give the feeling of immediate disruption, struggles are enduring and can be likened to a marathon run. But both crisis and struggle are nature’s way to (a) test your resolve, (b) examine your belief system, (c) evaluate your meaning and/or (d) challenge the illusion that life is unfair and that you are a victim.
In my work with youngsters from disadvantaged backgrounds who are wanting to succeed at sport, I always consider two things. Firstly, the way the youngster looks at me. The eyes reveal the intention and intensity of the connection to the present moment. Secondly, I watch how they tackle the challenge that is confronting them. In particular, I watch how they respond to their own unique struggle as they go about trying to improve their technical skills that are being practiced.
I am excited at the creative potentiality of the collaboration with Giaco. Whenever there is a need, I will e-mail him the topic of the article that I will be busy with (without its content) and he will then send me a couple of photographs that he feels resonates with the words of the topic. In this way, my words and his photograph(s) will link together to offer different perspectives of the issues that we are looking into…