Are you grappling with an internal struggle that you can’t seem to resolve? Maybe you feel like you can’t move forward but you can’t let go either. Or that you want something but don’t want it at the same time.
I call these kinds of problems “Eternal Quandaries”.
They are resistant to logic. Pro/con lists don’t work. The advice of friends is useless. One day you think you’ve resolved it, and then it crops up again in a different form and you feel just as stuck.
The only answer is to go inside and investigate what the internal conflict is about.
The good news is that they aren’t actually eternal. They can shift, over time, with some diligent inner work.
I originally created this exercise to work with my Eternal Quandary.
It went like this:
I want to be famous, but I don’t want to be famous.
I felt a desire to be more known and have my writing reach more people. At the same time, I had a huge pile of fears about what would happen if I did. Like, I’d have no free time, or I’d have to be perfect all the time, or I’d have to go and schmooze with people I didn’t like, or I’d have to attend conferences and give speeches and I wouldn’t want to.
I struggled with this for years. I would work hard on a blog or a project, but then as soon as I started getting a positive response, I would freeze up and stop writing. I kept going back and forth, between desire and fear. I was stuck.
Through this exercise, I saw all the needs that were up for me when I imagined being famous: autonomy, rest, relaxation, quiet, solitude, order (I’m an introvert, can you tell?). I began to understand and value those needs in myself.
And somewhere in me I discovered a strong fear-based belief: “To be famous means being at the beck and call of people who are interested in you. Your life will belong to them.”
Woah! Once I identified this belief I could unravel it and let go of that idea. Making it conscious was the key that let it dissolve. Beliefs that are unconscious can hold a strong influence over us without us really understanding why. That’s what makes them so hard to work with. The good news is that they are very responsive to inner work like this exercise.
This exercise helped me go from a big mass of confusion and inner conflict to clarity on what was underneath it.
And I no longer feel stuck. I feel free to work toward being more well-known, and know that I can say yes or no to whatever opportunities come my way without feeling obligated to do anything that doesn’t let me meet my needs for quiet time and relaxation.
I feel crystal clear now: I want to be more well-known to reach and help more people, not to live a crazy life. And it’s completely up to me how I do it.
My hope in explaining my process is to show that a big hairy problem can really start to move if you investigate under the surface. This exercise helps you do that.