We all come up against difficulty in our lives. In various forms and guises we’re met with grief, rejection, fear and loneliness, confrontation, difficult friends or work colleagues, decisions and situations that are out of our control (the EU referendum!), the list goes on…
Difficulty causes us discomfort, frustration and pain. So our natural response is to turn away from it. We don’t want to feel it, craving something else, something more pleasant. Averting our attention elsewhere and turning away from our problems and difficulties. We don’t want them or to even acknowledge them so we don’t, often fantasising, burying and ignoring them instead.
But this aversion starts to inform our lives and dictate our decisions. A person that finds it difficult to be with rejection for example, will do anything to avoid it. Not applying for that dream job, or asking that cute girl at the bus stop out for a coffee. Someone who finds confrontation difficult will allow themselves to be walked all over, never hearing the truth or any constructive criticism. And intimacy? Well that person won’t ever experience the power of human connection and the beauty of being vulnerable.
As a result of avoidance, our lives become less fluid and less rich. We feel safer because in theory we’re protecting ourselves from more pain and discomfort, but actually we end up missing out on opportunities, cutting ourselves off from the full extent of our lives.
By turning towards difficulty we can increase our capacity to be with it. We can begin to open up our lives. Feel into the full breadth and depth of emotions that make us uniquely human.
Mindfulness helps to create a space between the difficulty and our reaction to it. The awareness that arises through mindfulness allows us to observe how we respond to things – we begin to see our automatic habits like avoiding them, ignoring them, or craving something else. With this knowledge, we can begin to make more informed decisions and respond rather than react on autopilot.
Mindfulness gives us back the choice to choose how we respond to things and allows us to turn towards our difficulties. To embrace them, become more familiar with them and encourage ourselves to grow and expand into them.
“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”
Viktor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning