How many times have we failed? How many times did we feel discouraged? How many times have we broken our hearts?
I’m pretty sure some of us might answer: too many times.
It is in these situations, when we are in the midst of a maelstrom of anguish and pain that our strength of character and spirit is severely tested.
Some are consumed by their pain. They mask it through different ways: temporary relationships, alcohol, noise, drugs. They do whatever it takes to drown their sorrows, to escape what they view as their pitiful reality.
Some go the other way and become so apathetic to the point that they become numb to the pain. They refuse to take risks. They no longer invest in real relationships. In a way, it’s a defense mechanism: a no woman, no cry mindset.
But stoicism, which I have talked at length in previous columns, advocates for one thing: moderation. It is consciously placing yourself right between absence and indulgence. It is accepting the pain but refusing to be consumed by it. In other words, we do not deny all the negative feelings of losing someone we love but we don’t let the sadness rule our lives.
I know what you’re thinking. Easier said than done, right? That may be so but it is NOT impossible. Here are some ways that we can do to achieve moderation even in the direst of times:
Welcome adversity. Stoicism believes that hardships, challenges, and problems are akin to muscle-builders. They strengthen us so we can be better prepared to face adversity. Life is replete with obstacles, big and small. Having faced adversity in the past gives us an extra boost to overcome them.
- Vulnerability is a blessing. I’ve met a person who decided, after years and years of heartbreak and lost opportunities, that the best way to protect himself was to isolate himself from the world. He severed ties. He cut off communication. He refused to let anyone in. By the time he died, he had no one. It was one of the most depressing sights that I’ve ever witnessed. The lesson here is don’t be afraid to be vulnerable. It is the only way that you will discover someone or something to be truly hopeful and happy about.
- Practice. Pain is inevitable. We will have an encounter with it at varying degrees. Painful events in our lives are actually teachable moments. Through them, we can gauge how we react to difficult situations. When we are truly conscious, we can better control our passions, our tendencies, our knee-jerk reactions. We might fail at first but over time, we will learn to master even our innermost demons.
There is wisdom in the adage, “Everything in moderation.” Next time you find yourself in a difficult situation, breathe in and out so you can think better and feel better. Allow yourself to feel the pain but fight the temptation to wallow in it or to simply ignore it. Finding your center is essential to get to the other side, healthy and whole.