Unfortunately, we live in a world where we have to experience emotional pain and heartache. People let us down. Marriages fall apart. Children disappoint us. Bosses berate us. Family abandons us. Friends forget about us.
The downsides to these problems lead us to feeling like we arenu2019t good enough. We begin to feel upset, and worthless. We feel as though nobody cares. In short, we feel isolated. When we start feeling isolated, we react negatively, in ways like:
- Lashing out at friends and family
- Avoiding conflict and confrontation
- Constantly worrying about every conversation we have with others
- Desperately trying to get other peopleu2019s approval, many times in incredibly unhealthy ways
Maybe it plays out for you like this: your boss gets upset with you for something you did wrong at work. Sure, it was probably a simple mistake, and maybe they didnu2019t even make that big of a deal about it. But now youu2019re starting to feel nervous, maybe wondering if youu2019re at risk of getting fired. So now youu2019re working even harder trying to fix the situation, but you feel like youu2019re living under a microscope u2013 like the boss is just waiting for you to mess up again. And so the whole time youu2019re working your butt off to try to make the situation better but you end up making even more mistakes because youu2019re so nervous.
Then, you go home at the end of another stressful day on the job to find the kids running around like savages. The house is a mess. Homework isnu2019t done. There are about 10 or 15 different things you look around and see that your spouse could have done when they got home, but now youu2019ve got to do all that work too. Time for dinner. Kids need baths. Oh look, thereu2019s a pile of laundry thatu2019s overflowing the hamper. When is all of this going to stop.
On top of that, something happened with your better half today. Who knows, maybe they had a crappy day at work too. Whatever is going on, now theyu2019re being short and snippy with you too. You try to have a conversation and everything is met with either being ignored or some kind of hateful response. So at the end of another long, exhausting, frustrating day, you crawl into bed to try to get some sleep. But before you know it, your alarm is screaming in your ear. Time to get up. Time to do it all over again today.
All this endless cycle does is keep us feeling stuck. Weu2019re not moving forward. All weu2019re doing is running in place, spending day after day after frustrating day trying to keep everything together. Unfortunately, all this does is continue to push us farther and farther away from other people to the point weu2019re so isolated we either look completely unapproachable, or nobody even has any idea of whatu2019s happening with us.
The unfortunate reality is that at some point, probably everybodyu00a0has gone through this. The good news is that youu2019re not alone. The bad news is that if you ask most people, they have no idea how in the world to make it any better because theyu2019re stuck running in place themselves.
Moms everywhere feel like theyu2019re drowning in responsibilities. Dads feel like they donu2019t have any respect at home. Employees feel unfulfilled by their draining jobs and families feel like thereu2019s so much dysfunction they donu2019t know how to even have a freaking meal together in peace.
Itu2019s true that this isolation keeps people from experiencing the true peace and joy that as Christians weu2019re promised. However, if we can learn how to begin working toward finding that freedom, we can truly find contentment and get back to enjoying life.
Keep reading for 3 tips so you can start finding peace today.
If you continue living in isolation, youu2019re going to keep feeling alone
The biggest downside of not overcoming these feelings of isolation is that youu2019re only going to continue going down this negative cycle of being alone. Youu2019re going to feel like the crap just keeps piling up and thereu2019s no real hope for digging your way out. Youu2019re going to keep having the fights, arguments and excruciatingly painful silence at the end of another long day of disappointment.
Living this way is exhausting. Nothing ever moves forward. It only keeps pulling you back. Inside, youu2019re probably screaming for somebody, anybody to step in and help. On the outside, youu2019re just doing everything you can to hold it all together.
But thank God you donu2019t have to keep living alone in this cage of isolation
Although youu2019re struggling in this sucky, lonely pit of despair, you have the potential to really find pace, contentment and joy again. When we choose to do this, we realize weu2019re worth a heck of a lot more than the crap weu2019ve been living in.
3 Ways to Achieve this Healing and Wholeness
The key to achieving contentment is to put a plan into place to protect yourself from the negative feelings youu2019re experiencing. Making these changes isnu2019t as hard as you think if youu2019re willing to change your way of thinking.
Itu2019s important to truly understand these feelings so that you can move forward in a healthy way.
1. Youu2019re struggling to forgive
Forgiveness is hard. Countless examples in Scripture talk about the importance of forgiving others. And of course, we understand Christu2019s ultimate act of forgiveness on the Cross for our sins.
But how often are you truly practicing forgiveness? Are you truly making the conscious decision to move past the negative emotions and bitterness youu2019re holding toward another person and lay them down? Or are you hoping that theyu2019ll somehow get the message of your anger and come to you with an apology?
Maybe they already have apologized and you just canu2019t find it in your heart to allow yourself to forgive them. You feel angry, alone and justified in your emotions.
The solution: Understand that forgiveness doesnu2019t mean youu2019re saying itu2019s okay and that they can hurt you again.
Remember in elementary school how somebody would do something to us and then the teacher would make them apologize? It would go something like this:
Teacher (obviously oblivious): u201cYou need to apologize for what youu2019ve done.u201d
Mean, hateful, awful kid (obviously not really caring): u201cSorry.u201d
You (obviously not over it): u201cItu2019s okay.u201d
Hereu2019s the deal, though. It wasnu2019t okay 25 years ago when you were being picked on during recess, and itu2019s not okay whatu2019s happening to you now.
Weu2019re conditioned to think that when someone apologizes, weu2019re just supposed to say u201cItu2019s okay,u201d even though itu2019s not. And so as a result, we think forgiving somebody means that we just have to suck it up and tell them what theyu2019ve done is okay, and itu2019s okay for them to do it again. Itu2019s NOT. Forgiving someone means simply saying that youu2019re no longer going to cause you to hold bitterness, resentment and possibly hatred against them. It means youu2019re choosing to free yourself.
If, after you forgive them, they choose to continue acting the way theyu2019re acting and trying to hurt you, thatu2019s on them. But the idea after you forgive them isnu2019t to just get over it and move on, rather, to give yourself freedom and then not allow them to hurt you again.
Which brings us to our second point:
2. Youu2019re not sure how to put up appropriate boundaries.
Establishing healthy boundaries is a therapeutic term thatu2019s thrown around a lot, yet few people understand how to really do it with success. Boundaries can be hard.
Have you ever tried putting up a boundary with someone? What was the result? I can guarantee you that if the relationship was unhealthy and you tried to establish those boundaries, the unhealthy person tried their hardest to push against them.
The fastest way to tick off a dysfunctional family member is to put a boundary in place, telling them you have no desire to continue in a negative relationship the way itu2019s been happening. They may yell, throw a fit, bait you to get into a fight with them, or try to make you feel guilty, saying things like u201cBut weu2019re family. You needme,u201d
The solution: Keep the boundaries in place. Theyu2019re there for a reason.
Dysfunctional people like to fight against boundaries. Itu2019s what they do. However, itu2019s up to you to hold them in place. That may mean ignoring phone calls and texts. It could mean no longer going around that person when it can be avoided. It may mean choosing not to engage with them in their behavior when theyu2019re acting out or trying to press your buttons.
Believe me, itu2019s easier said than done. You may feel bad because u201cyouu2019re the only person they have,u201d or u201cthereu2019s nobody else who can help them,u201d. Itu2019s not your job to help them if itu2019s constantly causing you to struggling with that anger, bitterness and resentment. Itu2019s your job to protect yourself.
3. Youu2019re feeling alone and isolated.
When something bad happens to us, itu2019s human nature to retreat and try to get away from the situation. Sometimes, this means putting up walls to keep people out. Sometimes it means literally retreating and not talking to anyone for days at a time.
And the longer we do it, the easier it gets to isolate ourselves. When we avoid others, and avoid conflict, weu2019re keeping ourselves out of relationships with other people u2013 and it only hurts us. Sure, there are people who are introverted and only need a handful of relationships. On the other hand, the extroverts of the world need a lot of relationships. No matter which end of the spectrum you fall on, each of us were created to live in relationship with one another. Keeping ourselves out of those healthy relationships only allows Satan to attack our minds by constantly telling us weu2019re not good enough.
The solution: Find healthy and safe ways to be with others, even if you donu2019t always feel like it.
The old saying is true, u201cmisery loves company.u201d If youu2019re struggling with feelings of depression and anxiety, being alone only compounds those feelings. It may be difficult to go be with people when youu2019re hurting, but if you can find just one friend who you trust to call and spend an afternoon with, or go out to lunch, youu2019ll find yourself starting to feel better.
Each of us were created to be in relationships with other people. These relationships help us to navigate those feelings of not being good enough, not being worthy of finding hope, and getting through stressful situations.u00a0
Youu2019ve got some work to do.
Getting to the point of finding freedom is a difficult and challenging task. But achieving that hope can be liberating when youu2019re stuck in those negative emotions. You absolutely can find that freedom and healing for yourself.
If youu2019re having trouble doing it on your own, give us a shout and let us walk through it with you. At Revive Christian Counseling, weu2019re here to walk through it with you every step of the way.