Oftentimes when we have a problem in our lives, we focus on the problem.
We focus on what we don’t want, spending time and energy trying to get rid of this undesirable thing. “Once this problem goes away,” we tell ourselves, “then I’ll be happy. Then I’ll be able to live my life fully.”
This tends to not work so well.
Why? Because when we push something away, it’s still there:
Pushing away our anger doesn’t make us less angry
Pushing away our stress doesn’t make us less stressed
Pushing away our fear doesn’t make us less fearful
Pushing away our self-criticism doesn’t make us less self-critical
Pushing away our pain doesn’t get us out of pain
In fact, when we push something away, it often pushes back, making matters worse.
But there’s another option.
Instead of focusing on what we don’t want, what if we focus on what we do want?
When we focus on what we do want instead of what we don’t want, we realize that we can choose what we want whenever we want. This is especially true when what we want has to do with how we feel.
It’s often as simple as flipping the thing that we don’t want:
Instead of less anger, we can choose more peace
Instead of less stress, we can choose more ease
Instead of less fear, we can choose more courage
Instead of less self-criticism, we can choose more self-compassion
And what’s the opposite of pain? Safety.
Focusing on moving toward safety—rather than away from pain—sets us on a different path. A path that’s clearer and more empowering. Because instead of moving away from what we don’t want in any which direction, we begin to move directly toward what we do want: safety.
The process begins with asking the simple but powerful question: What does safety mean to me?
There is, however, one nuance to this.
In actuality, we can’t choose how we feel, but we can choose how we feel about how we're feeling.
With this nuance in mind, our examples from above become:
Choosing to be at peace with our anger
Choosing to approach our stress with ease
Choosing to move through our fear with courage
Choosing to have compassion for our inner critic
And choosing to find safety in the midst of our pain
Because if we really want something to change, we have to start right now. If we wait for things to change before we start moving toward what we want, we may wait forever.
There’s no time like the present.
So there will be times when we’re angry, stressed, afraid, self-critical, and in pain— this is a fact of life. But the way that we choose to approach these moments is what makes all the difference.
Choosing safety in the midst of pain is possible. It’s might not be easy, but it is possible. The more we make that choice, the easier it becomes. And oftentimes, as a byproduct, the pain will dissipate. But not before it’s ready, and not by our trying to control it; as a byproduct of opening to the experience and choosing safety in its midst. If that’s what you want.