Recently a guy came up to me asking to read me a short story and to pass the story on. This is my summary of his story the way I remember it, so what you're reading is the same message from two minds condensed into one story, a story about someone called Babu.
Babu had a deep desire for connection and found a way to express this by *.
He kept * and at first it was fine, but Babu became rather attached to * (he didn't know it was really because of what * represented) and soon he was spending all his time and energy on it. Of course he had aspirations, but soon Babu gave * his time for that too. Blind to what he was doing, his mental growth stagnated and his emotions became hard to figure out. Babu started spending so much time on * that it affected his health and he started getting ill.
One day things hit rock bottom and Babu's life was turned upside down. He sat in the rubble of what he once knew, wondering what he had done wrong. It finally dawned on Babu that he'd become addicted to * and that while it made him feel better for some time, it was just a short-term solution to a deep-rooted issue.
Babu realized that he could continue *, but that it would cost him something valuable.
* is whatever you spend so much time on that you continue to ignore your own needs (consciously or subconsciously). Here are some examples:
- Things that 'need' to be done
- Social life
- Social Media
- Keeping your mind occupied all the time
- Covering up past wounds
- The image you want people to see
- The need to be in control
Here are some ideas on how to make sure that the things you pay attention to don't become an addiction:
Mindfulness. Being aware of how your mind functions (and why it does what it does) so that you can prevent wounds or habits from influencing your current choices. This doesn't mean these things won't come up again, it just means that you'll be aware of them when they do, be able to articulate this to others and prevent them from directing your life and causing unnecessary pain.
Self-compassion. Think about the way you speak to yourself. Would you say those things to the most precious person in your life? We're often so hard on ourselves and then we're surprised when our behavior doesn't improve. Imagine you have a boss who watches your every move with a super critical eye and is never satisfied with anything you do... that's not the inner voice you need. Did you know that something as simple as changing the stories you tell yourself can be the start of the change you need?
Regular quiet time is important, sometimes to reflect on your life and sometimes just to let your brain off the hamster wheel - you'll be surprised how beneficial this is. It may be hard initially if you haven't done it for a while.
Create yourself - a person you love, believe in and trust. Who are you? What is your chosen purpose in life? Personal growth won't happen unless you make time and space for it and you can't expect others to do this for you. Give yourself the opportunities needed to do something interesting, to become wiser, resilient, open, less burdened. You can love others abundantly more when your vision isn't clouded by a negative or absent inner life. Sometimes this love will mean taking time out so that when you're with others, you'll be able to be fully present for them.
Reach out. People who love you can be a support, but sometimes professional help will be needed. It may take time to find a therapist that is right for you and it may take time to fully open up - keep trying. The right therapist can take months off the time it takes to heal.
Stop taking things personally. When people make choices that don't include you or seem to be against you or actually are against you - take a step back. What does this make you feel? Why do you feel this way? Does this trigger pain from the past? You get to choose how you respond to whatever you feel. Be brave enough to realize that everyone is as human as you are.
Have fun! Go for a walk on the beach, plant some trees with your friends, take a ride on a bike, wear your favorite old t-shirt and mess some paint on it, go to a dress up party, try something new. Laugh as much as you can.
Sometimes you'll look at beautiful, fun things and won't be able to take any of it in. Celebrate whatever gives you the strength to keep showing up even when you haven't got it in you. Gratitude is a sunset to the heart.