September 24, 2015

How Embracing Unhappiness can Help with Personal Growth & Character Development.


I used to hate talking about my past and the fact that I now relate back to it so lovingly and even thankfully is a major breakthrough.

I was born into a troubled and abusive family and my childhood and early adulthood were filled with physical and emotional mistreatment, neglect and constant feelings of fear and anxiety. It seemed that, from day one, life had been giving me the finger so I came into this world kicking, screaming and cursing it.

As I got older, I smothered it all with all sorts of “pain killers.” I had developed a cynical outlook on life and affection in general, as a way of hiding my own vulnerabilities and to downplay my envy of anyone I met who was living what I saw as a “good” life. I tried partying it all away in loud scenes where I could be as uncaring, reckless and tuned out as I wanted to be and numbed my pain with food, cigarettes and alcohol.

I have learned through experience that memories that aren’t resolved in the “now” but thrown into the abyss of our subconscious, will definitely be resolved later, albeit with much more pain than was necessary—life will always get its way of forcing us to learn from our experiences.

Soon enough, the skeleton of life I was burying with coping mechanisms eventually burst out of the casket. What followed were several years of depression, eating disorders, alcoholism, smoking addiction, anxiety attacks, all sorts of back and knee pains, regular nausea, vomiting and a job/life that I hated so much. I was ready (with no cliché intended) to kill myself.

This pain reached its peak when I was 21 but I found my last rays of hope in the form of a one-way ticket to Thailand, that eventually lead to ending up in a Buddhist monastery (of all places!) and being sucked into the life of yoga, meditation and self-healing.

The major lesson I learned there was that I wasn’t a victim of my pain but my pain was a victim of my refusal to accept it. Instead of trying to amputate it, I learned to embrace it as a part of myself and let it add to instead of take away from my growth. It went something like this:

1. I practiced living in the moment, reliving all the negative events and giving them the total mindful attention instead of suppression that I never had the chance to do before.

I experienced them completely, without the “pain killers” and numbness. I cried, a lot. I felt the pain of my family treating me badly, of my bad self-image, and of the envy and hate I felt toward those who seemed to have it all. As painful as it was, I felt alive for experiencing it. I felt like I was finally stepping back into the imperfect human journey from a century of pain killers and robotic numbness.

2. I let go of my ego, which allowed me to let go of the pain and see the experiences objectively.

In letting the pain do what I should have let it done years ago—be felt—I could finally let it go. I learned to quiet the ego with its thoughts of self-righteousness, wound licking, compensation, revenge, hate, jealousy, self-loathing and bitterness surrounding my pain and this brought a new found sense of inner peace. It allowed me to transform the experiences from emotional baggage into mindful and objective learning experiences that I was no longer personally attached to.

3. In objectivity, I finally saw the opportunities for growth in those dark experiences.

By seeing the positive sides of my painful past, I could transform them and grow myself. My family history might have given me hell, but in some way, it helped me grow. Realizing this gave me an opportunity to grow a bigger heart and be more forgiving. All of that self-hatred had a potential of positive self-criticism and, if I made the most of it, it could only make me more confident. As for my envy of others who had lives that made me jealous and hateful, I found that I could turn this envy into admiration, love and appreciation for what I could learn from them. My image issues, job slump, etc. were also areas for mind-full improvement.

4. I acted on them.

I pursued these opportunities fully and today I lovingly consider them as pillars of the successful and happy life I live. I forgave my parents, took the initiative to love them as they are and continued to heal our relationship. This love has given me the capacity to reach out and also help so many others with their issues. Based on honest work on my personality, work ethics and mindset, no one today would ever guess I was once full of depression, incapability and low self- esteem. I’ve redefined my body and lifestyle, removed all physical pains and am living my dream as a thriving entrepreneur. I’ve also learned from those I once hated and envied, and instead used their beauty, likeable-ness and achievements as inspiration to propel myself forward.

In the end, “pain killers” kill pain but they also kill life. When we experience painful emotions, we immediately try to forget about it, stomp it down, react defensively, blame or adjust and anything else to prevent the full and unadulterated experience of it. But covering it up just means a delayed and more potent ticking time bomb, as whatever we don’t face then and now, will seep out subconsciously in deeply rooted ways such as through subtle personality changes, bad chemistry, unknown stress, depression, aggression and even in physical illnesses.

The purpose of life is then not to stamp out negative feelings but to embrace and transform them into something positive. What makes our rise so much more meaningful and beautiful is the fall.

How can goodness and perfection have any meaning if it is just handed to us and not grasped from a place of challenge? What goes up, must come down first, as they say in yoga.


Author: Kaya Peters

Editor: Katarina Tavčar

Photo: Jeffrey/Flickr


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