Inner growth spurts come in cycles. They have uncomfortable periods, but they get better and they’re definitely worth it. I’ve just gone through another one myself and I’d like to share what I’ve learned.
The Universe is nothing if not consistent. It begins with a gentle nudge. You get a feeling of discontent, a hint that things aren’t working. If that doesn’t get your attention, small things will start to go wrong in your outer life. Many of us don’t take that as an indication that inner work is required, so the Universe delivers its message with a cosmic clue by four. Some people still don’t get it and, regrettably, continue to be unhappy and have unpleasant things going on in their lives. Eventually, you will get physically sick.
When I first moved to Hollywood, years ago, not only was I unhappy, but I held the idea that only dumb, unaware people could possibly be happy. In high school, I had a teacher who used to say, “If you aren’t scared, you don’t understand the situation.” Substitute “miserable” for “scared” and you have my philosophy. Thanks, Mr. Johnson.
The Universe was on the job, though, and deposited me literally right next door to a happy woman. I would have just written her off as a doofus, but I interacted with her almost daily, so that label couldn’t stick. She has a Ph.D. in psychology with a specialization in neuropsychology. Neither dumb nor unaware!
It was fascinating to me. Eventually I figured it out. Being happy doesn’t mean you don’t get it. It means you don’t let it get you. Thanks, Kristine.
This time around, the topic was stress. I’d always been of the opinion that the proper response to stress wasn’t yoga or meditation or any other activity to designed to allow you to cope with it more effectively. My attitude was, “Fuck that! I don’t need to adjust myself so that I can tolerate the intolerable; the intolerable needs to go.” To an extent, I still hold that idea. If something in your life is crap, either fix it or get rid of it. The problem is that it’s pretty much impossible to get rid of everything stressful, forever. Stress happens.
I was stressed, angry and miserable. The situation did, and still does, need to be fixed, but it’s unlikely to be fixed right away. I became more and more unhappy, more and more withdrawn, and less and less able to cope with my life. I just wanted to escape.
I was spiraling down to the low point of the inner growth cycle, the dark night of the soul. As F. Scott Fitzgerald said, in the dark night of the soul it is always three o’clock in the morning Sounds awful, doesn’t it? It’s a necessary part of inner growth. It’s similar to an initiation in that you go through something unpleasant to come out the other side changed for the better.
The good thing about the dark night of the soul is that the more times you go through it, the easier it gets. It becomes less and less dark and shorter and shorter in duration. This is likely because the first few are the biggest, the most shocking, the most life-changing. The first few are unfamiliar so you won’t know what to do. You may even feel like you’re losing your mind. Nope! This period of isolation, confusion and deep dissatisfaction is a step on the path to spiritual and psychological growth. Stay with it, ride it out, and you will come out the other side a better and happier person. If it is true that the only way out is through, nowhere does this apply more.
In my own recent cycle, certain people needed to stop doing certain things and bad situations needed to end. That is still true, but my response has changed. I knew stress was bad for you, health wise. I knew it in a vague, somewhere over there way, though. What happened next is the classic way up and out of the dark night. To be continued…