I’ve been working with a client for several weeks now who is in an ambivalent marriage. One of the ways he deals with it is by having affairs. He saw a therapist prior to me who actually supported this behavior and saw it as a way to explore his feelings and help him decide if he wanted to stay in his marriage or not. Several years later, he’s still doing the same behavior and is as stuck as ever.
While I generally stay as neutral as possible around my client’s choices and encourage them to follow their own inner guidance, when I see patterns of behavior in which people are getting hurt I feel it’s my professional responsibility to speak up and push the issue.
We’ve spent some time exploring the history of his marriage and the reasons he does what he does. It’s now time for some change. His wife has found out. She has been hurt. I’ve shared with him that there is simply no easy, painless choice here. It is time for him to walk through the fire of transformation and get to the other side. He has to decide to commit to the marriage or commit to leaving.
Walking through this kind of fire can feel like death. It is the death of life as we know it and our ego does not like that.
Our ego will hold on to situations and rationalize our staying stuck as if our life depends on it. Walking into the unknown takes courage and can be risky. Staying stuck in old “safe” patterns, on the other hand, leads to stagnation and an unlived life.
Sometimes we get to choose the situations we are in that need transformation and sometimes these situations are thrust upon us. I have another client right now who just got diagnosed with breast cancer. She is facing a double mastectomy. Her life as she knows it is changing and she is facing this fire with guts and determination to stay positive and get through this.
Personally, I am walking through this kind of fire in my own life right now. I have consciously made some choices to change situations and some situations have been thrust upon me by circumstances beyond my control. This is often unsettling and uncomfortable as I see the old familiar life slipping away and do not yet know what will take its place.
However, if we want to grow and evolve this is what we must do. Here are a few things that can help us traverse this kind of fire.
- Get Support
Major transformation is difficult, if not impossible, to do alone. When I probed my client who is having affairs as to why he is so hesitant to leave his empty marriage, he admitted he does not have many friends and fears he will feel too alone if he leaves. He lacks support. Instead of finding affair partners, I am encouraging him to find social support and develop friendships. We are social creatures and need the company of others to ease the stress of major change and upheaval.
My client with breast cancer is dealing with her journey by gathering a strong healthcare team that she trusts and rallying her closest friends and family to help her through the next few months. This kind of support will invariably help her have the most positive outcome possible.
- Deep Transformation Takes Courage. Be Brave.
I once read a survey that said the happiest people are risk takers. You probably know some of these people in your life. They are the ones who launch out and start their own business, leave a stagnant relationship, move to a new geographic location or take the path that may look illogical.
I saw a group of highly successful women entrepreneurs speak about their success and every single one of them mentioned taking a risk that sounded illogical, but their gut told them to do it anyway. These choices ended up leading them to unexpected open doors and fortuitous opportunities. Listen to your gut, not just your fearful mind. Trust your instincts and follow them even if you feel some fear.
- Be Here Now. Stay in the Present Moment.
When going through major transformation, our mind wants to jump into the future and know how things will turn out. I can’t tell you how many clients have told me they are afraid to do something scary because they don’t know how it will end up.
Life does not give us any guarantees. We don’t get handed a roadmap with a final destination that says we will end up safe, secure and happy. Life is a journey and process of growth and evolution.
Instead of jumping ahead into the future, I recommend you focus on the present moment. Chances are in this very present moment everything is OK and you can handle it. Trust that as each moment unfolds, you will handle that one too. Anxiety and fear are usually generated by thoughts about the future. If you focus on the here and now, your anxiety will dissipate and a sense of calm will take over.
What transformation are you contemplating or avoiding? Is it perhaps time to be brave and take the first steps?
Sometimes we cannot avoid the discomfort that goes with these major changes, however there are often no viable alternatives to walking through the fire of transformation and trusting we will get to the other side. Remember that an unlived life leads to stagnation and regret. We are all meant to bring our talents and gifts into the world and live our life to the fullest.