Mental Health 

Do we have to struggle?

Ailsa Keppie May 25

Do we have to struggle?

My partner and I were having an interesting discussion the other day about whether it was more character building to struggle and sweat to accomplish something or try to find the path of least resistance? 

Our society often seems to support the idea that suffering and struggle along with ‘hard work’ reaps the most rewards. But is this really true? Much scientific evidence and experience is showing that finding the path of least resistance can be equally beneficial in accomplishing our goals. 

So here is the paradox… to struggle or not to struggle? 

There is a famous story of a man who observed a butterfly trying to work its way out of a cocoon. Thinking to help, he ripped open the cocoon, only later realizing that the butterfly was forever doomed as it had not strengthened its wings by struggling, and now it could not fly. 

Baby sea turtles also must struggle to reach the water by themselves in order to strengthen their bodies to swim. If you pick them up and carry them to the edge of the sea, they are doomed to die. 

Anyone who has undertaken to work on their inner life, knows the struggles that arise. The perseverance it takes to sit with one’s own thoughts, to meditate on a single object or to acknowledge and try to change one’s core beliefs. This could be akin to the struggle of the butterfly or the baby turtle. 

But what about all of the struggle we engage in, seemingly just to show that we are working hard? The ‘no pain, no gain’ kind of attitude? Is it always necessary? 

This brings me to the question, how do we know the difference? The difference between a valid, fortifying struggle, and an egotistical, energy draining struggle for its own sake? 

To me, the answer usually comes back to how it feels. What feels different in our striving and can we be honest with ourselves as we ask this question? 

I know personally, that I often take the difficult path to doing something because it will appear that I am ‘trying really hard’ to the other people. I can complain about how I always work so hard for so little, my victim aspect begins to enter the mix. I feel unhappy and unfulfilled because my striving never leads to the result I think I am wanting. Usually this is because what I am wanting is not what I am saying I want, even to myself! I think I often am looking for validation, love or reassurance in these cases but am too fearful to ask for these needs to be met. So this is an endless cycle of discontent with a lot of sweat and hard work for nothing. 

On the other hand, when I work hard and struggle for something real, some goal I am in alignment with, and I finally achieve it, I feel happy and fulfilled. Most of all, I take a big sigh of satisfaction and my self esteem is boosted. 

Now which type of struggle do you think is more helpful? Perhaps in the first case, learning how to clearly communicate our needs would be more helpful than struggling, and hoping that someone will just ‘get’ what we are really wanting. Maybe in the second example, the struggle really is character building? 

This type of inquiry, learning how things feel in our bodies and interpreting that to glean wisdom is the cornerstone of somatic coaching. We have within our own self, the best teacher! (although it never hurts to have an experienced mentor to practice this process of awareness) 

Interested in working with me to learn more about yourself? Book a free 30 minute consult. 

I’d be honoured to assist you in your process, perhaps learning where the struggle is necessary and where it is holding you back. 

With love,

Ailsa


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