I’ve been a spiritual person all my life: Why am I still stuck?

dreamstime_xs_13767454“I’m spiritual, I try to be a good person, I try to have positive thoughts, and embody all that is virtuous….I do yoga, I meditate, I eat healthfully, I’m kind to others……Why am I still unhappy? Why can’t I find a relationship that works? why do I feel stuck?

I’ve tried lots of different therapies, emotional freedom technique, tapping, positive visualization and imagery, but I still feel that I’m not at the place that I’d like to be?”

Does this describe you? Do you try SO SO SO hard to be happy, and be the ideal you and yet you still feel stuck, only to pick up again and try the next alternative healing modality that promises to finally bring you to that new happy state of being that you’ve longed for?

The driving force behind spirituality and transcendence is beautiful and noble and poetic and tragic all at once. There is so much to be said for wanting to soar to the sky, and reach highest heights of human nature and existence. However, even our western mythology warns us that if you soar so high, your wings may get burned and you may end up falling into the ocean (See the myth of Icarus and Dedalus).

So what’s going on?

Being a spiritual person who always aims for an ideal state sometimes brings with it quite a bit of agony. It is very VERY easy to fall short of an IDEAL, and therefore very easy to be in a perpetual state of disappointment. That is the paradox inherent in aiming for lofty goals. That doesn’t mean, by the way, that one shouldn’t aim high or have ideals. But the ideals need to coexist with a good dose of self-acceptance which also allows flaws, negativity, shortcomings, and disappointments.

Here is another way to think about this: You cannot operate an amusement park without having a sanitation department. Or, try this analogy: you can’t have a body with a digestive system without also having an excretory system. You can’t relish gastronomic delights without also having a built in system to rid yourself of the waste matter from these delicacies. Make sense?
That means that you need to have a way of dealing with negativity, dirt, grit. You can’t just try to keep it out of your amusement park. No one would be pure enough to enter, because everybody is going to bring in some of their garbage. And you’ll end up spending all of your time warding off the negative, or being afraid of it

I’ve worked with many clients who bring in their beautiful spiritual aspirations. They keep trying so hard to embody those, without the awareness that it is precisely this desperate NEED for an ideal that causes them psychological distress. Why do they keep feeling angry at their boyfriends, why do they still stew in self-doubt. Why can’t they just get rid of these despicable emotions and always be content and calm and thinking of positive things?

IMPOSSIBLE. If you are a being that is in touch with yourself, you will run across a gamut of human emotion. They are like multiple colors of a spectrum. Trust me, you don’t want to get rid of any of the colors- if you do, your world will start to look gray or two dimensional. Even if you meditate non-stop, you will not eliminate human nature of feelings. However, you will learn how to ride the emotions in a way that does not seem so overwhelming. You will learn to experience the range of human emotion, positive and negative, and learn how to constructively run a human life that can contain all of those emotions. You will not be trampled by the many inevitable feelings that arise for us all as we walk through life, good and bad.

Therapy is one place where you can learn how to sit with negative feelings, and train yourself in the art of juggling a wide wide range….so that ultimately you can also enjoy your spiritual aspirations. Mindfulness (and other types of meditation) when practiced in this context also ultimately help people achieve this level of contentment and self-acceptance.

If you have any questions or thoughts on this, please please comment.


Dr. Anat

Published by DrAnat

Hello, my name is Dr. Anat, and I'd like to invite you to blog to read some of my musings on "Therapy Matters" that occur to me between sessions. Join me to learn more about the process of therapy, parenthood, and reflections on the inner workings of the human psyche.

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