For me, realizing life consists of both pleasure and pain, by design, and it is possible to have happiness despite this, was a revelation. As I put the pieces together, I realized my nagging feelings of dissatisfaction, that little dissenting voice that made me feel like I wasn't in the right place at the right time, or doing the right thing, was all a set of instructions for how to find inner peace in the presence of my emotional turmoil.
Instead of living life to banish negativity, turn around and look at what's chasing after you. Whether your negativity, dark side, shadow self, or discontent arrives as irritation, anxiety, negativity, fear, dissatisfaction, disillusionment, disappointment, disconnection, or despair — or more intensely as anger, rage, blaming, aggression, and hatred — it carries a profound wisdom: the wisdom of your discontent.
However it appears, or whatever you name it, embracing your discontent is a direct route to a relaxing and clarifying piece of life's wisdom. It's been chasing after you since you first said, "Life isn't fair!" Perhaps the polite thing to do is invite it for a cup of tea and listen up.
The Wisdom of Your Discontent
Your discontent isn't chasing you because it wants to punish you or teach you a lesson. You haven't failed at life, and you're not a bad person, or unworthy, or intrinsically defective. Discontent is just life's most direct way to get your attention.
Discontent is a messenger, and it says, "Embrace me — not for the purpose of transcending, transforming, or banishing me from your life, but to receive my wisdom. A road-map is tucked inside me, and it will lead you to life's gift of inner peace.
The Tough, Ball-Busting Lady Vice President
At forty, Josey found herself a very successful VP at one of the largest banks in the industry. Her stardom within the company rested on her ability to accomplish things in a no-nonsense manner. She managed tasks and relationships efficiently and effectively.
The problem wasn't Josey's reputation on the outside; it was her inner struggle creating stress and unhappiness. She deeply disliked her work persona, even though it brought her success, a good living, and a sense of accomplishment. She wanted to change, but she didn't know how.
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As a youth, Josey was a staunch political activist and lived out her convictions with courage. She grew up in Canada, and when she moved to the United States, she couldn't find the same hotbed of political activism that brought her alive and instilled meaning and purpose. She focused on daily life instead and started working as a bank teller. She flew up the corporate ladder and earned a reputation for being a tough, ball-busting boss. This had brought her success, but now she was paying the price: she was exhausted, distressed, and anxious.
Josey longed for a reprieve, but she couldn't let go of being tough — even though she hated it. Being sweet and soft meant giving up her toughness and strength — and her political views and activism. She'd tucked away the soft side of her personality long ago in order to wage war on the side of what's "right" — and to survive.
Now her discontent (anxiety, stress, and fear) was signaling her to pay attention. Listening to it made her realize she wanted to follow the sweet softness of her heart — as long as she could somehow remain tough and strong and keep her job.
Tough and Soft Are Not At Odds With Each Other
I taught Josey how to explore the opposite of the tough persona she clung to. Through her mystic's eye, she perceived softness in a new light, and its value and strengths were revealed. She could see that tough and soft were not at odds with each other; they could coexist peacefully and harmoniously. It was a contradiction Josey was glad to embrace, and it led her to a more workable life and that different brand of happiness.
As Josey integrated softness into her work persona — and the rest of her life, too — she shared the following: "Having my heart open in this new way makes each day more worthwhile and meaningful — and, fun! And I love having so much more peace of mind!'
The Wisdom of Your Discontent and Opposites
The wisdom of your discontent gives you a fresh perspective on how life uses opposites to create balance. And it guides you to living a life with joy, love, and happiness.
Understanding the purpose of your discontent means you can stop running, seize your courage, turn around, and face your unhappiness head on. Not to transcend or transform your discontent, but rather to embrace it, relax into it, and allow its wisdom to infuse your life.
Paradox: The Last Piece of the Happiness Puzzle
Happiness is not the absence of unhappiness.
Setting up what you like against what you dislike creates dis-ease in your mind.
You have a mind's eye and a mystic's eye.
Your discontent is a messenger and has wisdom for you to gather and use.
The wisdom of your discontent can lead you to a different brand of happiness.
You have to shake up your existing ideas around opposites, impermanence, and paradox in order to see the wisdom in your discontent.
The last puzzle piece putting it all in place is paradox. You'll recognize it because it has a picture of an infinity loop, the universal symbol for what is never ending — in this case, life flowing between opposites: from here to there, from this to that, and back again.
The wisdom of your discontent can guide you to that different brand of happiness by showing you how to manage paradox, rather than trying to get rid of it.
Reprinted with permission of the publisher, Conari Press,
an imprint of Red Wheel/Weiser, LLC. www.redwheelweiser.com.
©2000, 2011 by Gail McMeekin. All rights reserved.
Unflappable: 6 Steps to Staying Happy, Centered, and Peaceful No Matter What by Ragini Elizabeth Michaels.
About the Author
Ragini Elizabeth Michaels is an internationally acclaimed trainer of NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) and hypnosis, and an accomplished Behavioral Change Specialist. She has gained international recognition for her original and pioneering work, Facticity® and Paradox Management, a unique process for how to live with paradox. Also known for her reputation as a superb teacher, presenter, and compassionate human being, she has received invitations to share her work beyond the boundaries of the US to Canada, England, Scotland, Spain, Italy, Germany, Switzerland, and India.