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Releasing Strategies, Finding Life

By Lisa Meuser.  

I’m driving, and all of a sudden it goes dark, and the road becomes enclosed. I know how to work the breaks, the gas, and the steering wheel, but everything is different so I’m completely disoriented. I‘m not sure what **to do**.  I no longer see ahead of me, and I can’t get back to where I was. I’m just here… in the dark, where almost nothing is familiar. All the previous tactics I’ve used to drive effectively are suddenly out of context. It’s scary. I don’t know what to do or where I’m going, and yet I must keep driving. I keep hoping this is a bad dream, but I don’t wake up out of this nightmare.

Does the above feel at all familiar? There has been a theme emerging amongst clients lately, and when enough similar experiences are shared, I tend to write about it because I know others are likely experiencing it too.

Although it feels like it was lifetimes ago, my own dark night[1] (ha! I wish it were just one night) will always be a part of me. It is hard to describe what it was like, but for those who have journeyed through such nights, or are currently journeying… we know.

We know what it was like to suddenly lose a kind of functioning that we had taken for granted… strategies that had once become our way of life, snatched away.  Replaced with a knowing that we simply could not go back from whence we came, no matter how much we wanted to.

 

A Way of Life

There is nothing wrong with having strategies – or approaches that help us to deal with life. To be human is to have strategies – little things we do to help us feel safe and comfortable. Most of our strategies got formed when we were young, and they usually formed to help us adapt to dysfunction. Over time, those strategies became how we lived in the world and, well, who we were.

Most of us have survived through varies strategies such as: Pleasing others. Care-taking. Making jokes. Being stoic. Eating too much, or not enough. Playing dumb. Stealing. Invisible-ing ourselves. Rebellious behavior. Obsessive reading. Over-sexualizing others and ourselves. Attention-getting. Isolation. Day-dreaming. Thinking and not feeling. Fanatic studying. Skipping school. Being numb. The list goes on, and on.

Many of these strategies are simple, but they can stack on top of each other. They can limit our full expression, and put us on trajectories filled with harmful relationships – inner and outer. They can cover up pain as well as beautiful aspects of ourselves. Even though they can make our lives miserable, they can make life tolerable, and give us a sense of identity, safety and familiarity. Until…

 

An Egg Cracked Open

Some people’s strategies will be maintained their whole lives. But for others of us… something will happen[2] so as render our strategies ineffective, or not as useful as they used to be. When this happens, it can feel like everything is falling apart, because, on a certain level, it is.

In my experience, those strategies will never again work like they used to. And yet, without proper guidance, we might try to keep using them. Eventually the dam will break, it’s just a matter of how mangled up our lives will get in the process. Traditional psychology or other approaches may try to help individuals reclaim those strategies or find other strategies, in an attempt to put things “back together” for a client. Or, individuals may keep trying to find refuge in their tried and true strategies of the past. There may sometimes be a temporary “fix,” but it’s short-lived. In my own experience, my life got more and more unmanageable as I held onto the familiar yet unhealthy strategies, which elongated the change process, making it more painful, confusing and torturous. At some point, I hit that point of no return.

 

What is Left after we Crack?

The good news is that there is something else beneath the surface of our strategies. In my experience in working with clients and traversing through my own dark night, there is true well-being beneath the layers of strategies that were originally created to adapt to dysfunction. There is Wholeness, and it is waiting for us.

One challenge is that we have to be patient enough to live through the chaos and discomfort of no longer having those strategies that made “everything ok.” There are other invitations that weave in alongside patience. As a friend shared with me:

…it seems to require courage, hope that {things will} change, openness to experimenting with choosing differently – plus a growing capacity to sit within the discomfort, pain, fear and shame and tolerate it. 

In my experience, these resources developed over time, and were not automatically accessible, but something my system learned over time.

It can scary to be without a road map. It can be terrifying to find oneself in a dark tunnel, with no end in sight. In my experience, it felt like death itself: a death while living that felt utterly unbearable. In fact, it was during this time that I lived with constant suicidal ideation. Shame and self-loathing was immense. Isolation and hiding, my learned patterning, made it that much more unbearable. It was only when I found a trusted guide who really heard me, who had been there herself, that my nervous system started to find hope and was able to start the long journey of repairing itself.

In my experience, we need guides during this time – so that we can fall apart, but be supported while this is happening. No one can experience someone else’s terror, but someone can be present while the terror happens. This support communicates deep wisdom to a nervous system, and prepares the being for sustained evolution and deep communion with life.

Through habitual patterning of my life, my attention had included certain aspects of my humanity, but excluded others. My guides helped me include that which I had excluded and they helped me direct attention towards reservoirs in myself that I had never known. This also paved the way for me to experience true self- compassion for the first time in my life. Over time, my neurology changed, and my nervous system’s relationship with life changed as my being was able to open up to discovery, instead of getting lost in hiding and protecting from life.

I didn’t know it at first, but eventually I found that there was something waiting to be found – true well-being. This discovery changed my life, and became a sustainable expression moving forward.

 

Moving Forward

I am sharing this short blog for a few reasons. I hope that sharing some tidbits from my stories and journeys with my clients will help let you know that, if you are journeying in this territory, you are not alone. I hope that it will communicate that there are those who can help shine a light during this pathless time. Lastly, I hope that it may drop at least a single drop of hope and light into your Being.

Please feel free to reach out for support. [3] There are those who have journeyed before you, who are journeying with you now. You are not alone.

[1] often referred to as the dark night of the soul

[2] This life changing event can vary from person to person. It could be from something that seems random, or tied to something very specific.

[3] I also recommend Fiona Robertson’s book, The Dark Night of the Soul: A Journey from Absence to Presence.

To read more about Lisa Meuser, click here.