By Cindy Fisher, MA, RCC


It would be a rare week that goes by in which there isn’t something to throw off life’s regular routine. Perhaps the boss throws an extra project your way requiring overtime hours. Maybe renovations leave your home in an upheaval. Or an injury limits what you can do.

At those times, you might find yourself pining for life to get back to normal. It may sound something like this. “I can’t wait until this project at work is done. Then my schedule will get back to normal.” Or, “Once we get these renovations done, the house will be back in order.” Or, “When my injury heals, I’ll be able to live my life fully again.”

What each of these statements is assuming is that life is healthy and normal until something goes “wrong”, then it becomes unhealthy or abnormal. That when you suffer or struggle with something in your life, this needs to get fixed or go away in order for life to get back to “normal” or to be okay again.

The consequence is that life ends up on hold until the problem is solved or whatever has gone wrong is going right again. It’s like being in a holding pattern over an airport waiting for the fog to clear before you can land. The problem is that the fog never clears. It’s like being in a room without doors. There’s no way out.

More than this, you will find your life becoming consumed by the overtime work, the disorganized house, or the injury and limitations, because that is where your attention and energy need to go until you get rid of them. That needs to be your focus until you get rid of the unhealthy and abnormal, and life returns to being healthy and normal once again. It’s like feeding a hungry tiger to make it go away, and each time it comes back bigger and stronger.

So what does this all mean? Answer this question. Do you know anyone who has no problems, no pain, no stresses, nothing going wrong in their lives? Of course not! This is the key to the whole thing.

The fact is that suffering and struggling and stress and problems are not abnormal! These are all normal parts of being human. This doesn’t mean you like them. It just means they are normal.

So when you start with this assumption instead – that the boss throwing an extra project your way, renovations leaving your home in an upheaval, or an injury limiting you – are all normal parts of life, what changes?

It means that you don’t have to wait to live your life fully. You can live it fully every moment of every day. By accepting that everything that happens in your life is normal – simply because it’s happening – then there’s no waiting around. What is required here is the willingness to accept your life exactly as it is. And then, from that place, change whatever it is that you don’t like to make your life bigger and better.

It is naturally much easier to accept positive things than it is to accept things you don't want. Accepting a gift is wonderful. Accepting pain is not fun or enjoyable. Hence, the tendency to want to reject it or push it away. To control it and make it stop. Usually people come to my workshops hoping to get rid of pain or anxiety. That really is quite understandable.

So what's the problem?

The problem is the assumption that's built into this. The assumption is that your life is healthy and normal until something goes wrong and you suffer or struggle. Then your life has become unhealthy or abnormal. You come to believe that you need to fix or get rid of problems to get life back to normal. Right or right?

What this means is that the focus in your life will be the pain or illness or anxiety - in an attempt to get rid of it - until it goes away. Your life is now on hold until the "problem" is solved and your life has become "normal" again. It's like being in a room without doors or windows. There becomes no escape from pain or anxiety. It will stay in your life as long as you focus on it. And as long as your focus is to get rid of it, it will be in your life. It's like feeding a hungry tiger to make it go away. Each time it just comes back hungrier and stronger.

Do you know anyone who has no pain, no anxiety, no upsets, no problems, nothing going wrong with his or her life at all? Of course not because this person doesn't exist.

And this person doesn't exist because having pain and upsets and problems IS normal. That's the shift that must be made. Suffering and struggle is not abnormal. Suffering and struggle is normal. You may not like it, but it is normal.

So the new assumption goes as follows. The normal condition of human existence includes suffering and struggle.

Once you begin with this assumption, the goal of pain management shifts from getting rid of pain so you can live your life again to learning to just live your life. Accepting this new assumption simply means you don't have to put all your energy into fighting pain. You don't have to put your life on hold until pain goes away. It means you can embrace every experience life has to offer, both painful and joyful, because all together it is life.

So here's my challenge to you. Are you willing to have what you have (such as pain or anxiety) if having it means you can move ahead in your life? Find within yourself the willingness to accept the reality of your life. Only then will your life move forward.