The Biggest Obstacle

The biggest obstacle to recovering from the past and becoming healthier, joyful, and peaceful is this sentiment: “I shouldn’t have to feel this way.”

When I was a low teen I had crush on a classmate. Apparently it was obvious how I felt because our classmates teased us. So when I finally mustered the courage to tell her, she said she didn’t even want to be my friend (b/c she hated being teased). That night I was going to kick a soccer ball in dismay and kicked the ground instead, hard. I was so embarrassed and ashamed, I could not tell the whole truth about why I showed up with bandages and a cane the next day. (it was just a sprain)

I learned that it was dangerous to make romantic feelings known. A sweet, funny adolescent moment, but it was definitely not funny to me then.

The feelings of rejection and shame made me get attracted to women who were not attracted to me — so scenes like this played out a few more times. They ate at me and made me believe that I must be ugly and unlovable.

Knowing what I know now, I’d tell young Ari that it’s totally reasonable that he felt the initial letdown and shame. And it would have been good to just cry until he didn’t feel bad any more. There is nothing wrong with expressing affections (assuming they were done in respectful and authentic manner), even when things don’t turn out the way you want. And above all it’s not a reflection of his worthiness.

The vast majority of us are carrying past painful experiences that we haven’t fully processed. And they create formulas, patterns and beliefs that keep us in vicious cycles. Shame makes us afraid of social life even though we’re lonely. Guilt makes us unable to control our own behaviors (ex. addictions). Low self worth makes us to settle for low paying jobs. All these are rooted in past experiences that still have unprocessed feelings inside.

So the next time something upsets you, my recommendation is to feel all of that upset, instead of thinking “I shouldn’t have to feel this way.” I know that’s a painful choice. The truth is, often it’s not whatever happened in the present that’s upsetting us. It’s the emotional baggage from past similar experience that’s surfacing, triggered by the present day event. It’s begging you to come back, so you can finally fully process it, and be free.