strugglingWhen people are finding things tough in their life we often look at the event that is happening – perhaps bereavement, a difficulty in work, worries about children etc. etc.  What I have noticed is that a real struggle is the way our minds respond to these difficulties. 

Having human emotions such as anxiety, guilt, anger, shame and self-criticism are the real struggles of human nature.  Why? Because they make us think and act in certain ways and often these ways are unhelpful.  All of the emotions mentioned are in what we call our threat system.  This system was designed by evolution to detect anything that might danger our survival.  This was great when sabre tooth tigers were a real issue but now not so much.  So while our threat system is absolutely wonderful at detecting threat, it has no way of assessing what level this threat is to us. When this system is triggered our body and mind go into certain ways of thinking and acting to keep us alive. But in our world now, this can cause real problems.  Our response to something that isn’t actually going to compromise our existence in this planet (kids not getting dressed, being stuck in traffic…) is the same as if that sabre tooth tiger was running at us licking his lips.  In other words, this level of response is totally disproportionate to the actual threat. But our tricky minds have no way of knowing this.  Until we learn something new.

This is the real nature of suffering.  How do we manage these difficult emotions that have been designed for a different context?  First of all, we learn to recognise them and learn what they feel like when they are coming on board.  How does it feel in the body? What kind of thoughts am I having? When we know this, we can learn to practice curiosity about them and choose to practice being something else.  Your compassionate self.  How would they act in the same situation? Your compassionate self knows how hard the emotional struggles of life are and that they are so difficult, but not impossible, to face.   

Remember, evolution doesn’t care if we are happy or not it just wants us to stay alive. And this is a real struggle

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