When we are rigidly fixed to any one role, the loss or fear of loss can bring us depression, fear and anxiety. The anticipation of change and its uncertainty can consume us. Depression is lamenting about the past and anxiety is fretting about the future. Neither allows us to touch our lives here and now and connect with a more extensive view and understanding of ourselves. Depression and anxiety tend to keep us stuck. They can fuel an inner dialogue that limits our potential, creativity, and openness to life. This inner dialogue stirs emotions that are real, because we feel them, but not true because they are most often based on incomplete and false narratives that we allow to define our reality. Our perceptions color our reality. This means that much of our reality, our life, is based on how we define it within ourselves. We have all experienced days when we have felt down, melancholy, and see the positive in nothing. On the other hand, when we wake up feeling positive the day is bright even if it brings challenges. If we can see ourselves from the broader and deeper perspective we learn that we are much bigger than any one role. We begin to be available to learning opportunities in every experience, whether we perceive it as good or bad. We begin to tap into our inner resources and strengths when we permit ourselves to access them. The obstacles are the stories we tell ourselves and these stories, again, fuel depression and anxiety. For some they become a habitual loop that plays over and over again.
Life is constantly fluid and evolving. Change is inevitable. The roles we play today may not be the ones we embody tomorrow. How we respond to change can result in suffering, fear, and anxiety. However, if we change our perspective we can be open and receptive to life and the ever-present opportunity for growth. We often experience significant stress (including fear and anxiety) when we experience something we perceive as a loss. We may experience a form of loss as retirement, loss of a job, a divorce or break up, the loss of a loved one, or illness. In these circumstances, some feel helpless, experience fear, and suffer with anxiety. Those who seek to find opportunity in difficult times often begin to have new and refreshing experiences. They may experience the transformation of sadness into joy, sickness into health, fear into gratitude, and anxiety in to peace. Change allows plants to ripen and fruit, children to grow and learn, adversity to turn to victory, and pain to transform once again to happiness. We can remain present even during unstable times and become aware of a deeper part of ourselves that allows us to live full lives despite how we perceive the twists and turns of life. It is important to understand that regardless of what we have lost, or what has changed, we are still whole at our core; we are not simply the roles we play. Through this learning, depression and anxiety may be reduced.
How do we do it? One way we may see ourselves as more than the roles we play is to embark on a journey of increasing self-awareness that leads us to better understand ourselves in an ever-changing world. Such a journey requires us to seek that constant part of ourselves that remains steady despite outer circumstances and allows us to draw from inner resources and strength. To foster this journey of self-awareness, we only need to ask ourselves the questions that help to guide us toward deeper meaning and purpose, however we define that.
Such questions help to expand and deepen our awareness of ourselves in the world. They lead us to uncover blocks that prevent us from living our true purpose, such as rigidly held views or old patterns of thinking. Make space for some quiet time apart, get in touch with the breath, and quietly explore these questions. Listen without expectations and allow your inner resources to come up in their own time. You may want to journal any insights that arise.
“Man’s main concern is not to gain pleasure or to avoid pain but rather to see a meaning in his life.” -Viktor Frankl
One of the most important questions we can ask ourselves is, “Who am I?” As we ask this question, typical answers arise, such as, “a mom” or “a lawyer.” And as we keep asking this question and listening for the answers, we start to realize that we are more than a parent, a sibling, our career choice, and more than our past mistakes and successes.
When we keep asking the question and start to get beyond the obvious answers, what happens? Answers start to come. First, we identify the external anchors of our identity. But as we keep asking the question, “who am I?” the true answers become clearer. Our internal truth starts to arise.
Answers to this question can allow us to begin exploring our individual wants, needs, and authenticity to create a more meaningful life. Exploring this question allows us to open, even when we are afraid, to the greater reality that we are, to question the inner dialogue, and connect with our true selves. Are you willing to ask the question, “who am I?”