In these, the very opening lines of one of the most classic books ever written on psychology, life and spiritual growth called The Road Less Travelled, M. Scott Peck rephrases Buddha and goes on to explain that by its very nature…life is hard and full of problems. Some of which can be very painful and even debilitating.
However, he also very quickly moves to explain that it is very often these painful “problems” that create the space and the opportunity for our greatest courage and growth. Indeed, as he says, they actually CREATE our psychological and spiritual growth.
Carl Jung said in his essay on “The stages of life” that if we lived only through instinct and nature we would have no “problems” because we would just act and respond to whatever was happening to us in that moment. Of course, if we also had very little capacity to remember, we would also have much fewer problems. A little like Dory I suppose. 😌
It is therefore our conscious awareness of life and our past and present experiences and choices that often produce our greatest psychological and emotional pain and uncertainty. But as Jung so very rightly said: “the artful denial of a problem will not produce a [solution]…in fact…a wider and higher consciousness is called for in order to give us the certainty and clarity we need”.
As I was doing some journaling recently about the “problems” in my life, I seemed to gain a greater awareness and appreciation for the fact that these things need to be brought from our subconscious or even midconscious (yes I just created a name for a middle level of human awareness!) into the light of our direct and higher consciousness and awareness.
It is only here that we can truly process whatever pain, grief, hurt, loss or any other psychological and emotional parts of ourselves that we have hidden, blocked, denied or run away from for so long.
Every human mental health issue or condition stems in some part from all of the above. We are all running away from our pain in some way. We just use different methods…whatever will numb the pain and just make it stop. The worst methods are the ones that consistently over time do not allow us to resolve the pain. The problem with numbness – however it is induced – is that eventually it will wear off and there the problem resurfaces. And so what hope do we possibly have for living a life of peace and freedom?
To begin with, we have to stop the running away and the numbing and we have to find the courage to face the pain. But we are not facing the pain in order to “take it on” or “beat it to the ground” and pound it into submission. We are turning to face the pain so that we can first and foremost see what it actually is, acknowledge it, and then learn ways to walk with it and then one day…hopefully…let it go and be free.
There are many ways we can begin to heal once we find that courage.
And so may we all have the opportunity and the courage to come to a place in our lives where we finally realise that our “problems” are our greatest teachers as well as one of the most powerful instruments of our psychological, emotional and spiritual growth.