Is action easy? The answer is simple. It is not. But if we try to understand why acting may be difficult, we have a better chance to feel motivated and take the courage to act. Usually excuses around time, or effort, or just real life's circumstances keep us well engrained into inaction. Perhaps that on its own is ok. What makes inaction problematic, is the emotions that gradually seem to accompany it: guilt, frustration, anger, sadness can be only some of them.
If we then carry such emotions, why do we keep staying inactive?
One of the reasons why is because as human beings we are all programmed to feel comfortable within the known, the familiar. When an action has to do with abandoning something familiar and thus safe, we often freeze. Even if this something is rather helpful or sometimes worse, self-destructive, we may prefer to stay faithful in it.
Another reason why we prefer to stay inactive is fear. Fear of that well-known monster of responsibility. Responsibility is not an easy task. If I decide to act, to make a change, whatever happens it will be the result of my actions, it will be my fault. No one else to blame. With this fear fully engrained into our system, we often prefer to stay inactive. At least then, we know what happens.
But at what cost?
In my experience as a therapist but mostly as a human, I have seen the impact that inactivity can have on one's mental health. I will mention the very simple one which is to be unhappy. Don't get me wrong. Being unhappy at times is inevitable and most probably needed. What is not normal, is when one reaches a stage where being happy seems abnormal. For some, feeling happy is really a luxury. People who struggle in functioning in basic everyday tasks -like feeling constantly tired as a result of lack of sleep or not being able to meet deadlines as a result of anxiety- this very first joyous feeling of happiness seems like a distant dream. Feeling that level of stuckness, feeling like there is not light at the end of the tunnel is exhausting, challenging, and sad.
So, what happens then?
In dramatherapy, we often use metaphors to describe or explore how one feels. I am going to use this very well-known metaphor of the light at the end of the tunnel to share some of my thoughts regarding action.
Imagine you are stuck in a tunnel. It is the first time you find yourself in there. You start moving toward one direction at first. Nothing. You change direction and walk toward somewhere else. Nothing. You begin to move in any ways you can, trying more and more desperately to find the end of it, that glimpse of light in it. The more you walk the more tired you feel. The more you do not see a light the more you lose hope. And when you lose hope, you feel like giving up. You feel it in your body. Everything seems to shut down. "What's the point?" you may think. And you are right. At this moment and time, you are right to feel anything. You stay in the tunnel and its deep darkness for a while. At first a few minutes. Then hours. Maybe days. Maybe months or even years. At some point, you decide to put your hand in your pocket. As you do, you find something. It is a torch. You automatically light it up. You are excited that you can finally see. There is where I walked first. There is where I stepped over before. There is where I found my peace. There is where I lost my hope. There is where I found it again. You are excited, discovering and exploring again all these places you 've been before whilst in darkness. You probably laugh a little too! "What a fool?" you may say as you realise, "The light I have been looking for has been right here with me."
The point is that the light each of us seeks is not always toward this one direction that we keep looking at. Neither is somewhere outside of us, somewhere elsewhere. Our happiness is not there too. The light we all seek comes from within. When we forget this, it is like keep acting and searching but just toward the wrong direction.
So, we do not only need to act but we need to act toward the right direction. And this one is only known to oneself. When we cannot really see a way out, when we lose hope, we give up and stay inactive by keep acting in the same ways no matter if they work or not. We forget how much power, how many options we have got in our hands even in the worst of circumstances. But as in the story, sometimes failing or losing hope may be as important as when we don't. And when the time comes to find the light within the darkness, fear of responsibility turns into power and freedom of choice. I choose where to look at, I choose where to move next, I choose what to change.
If you ever feel stuck, see this as indicator that you need to act upon this feeling. Act upon your tiredness. Act upon your anger. Act upon your sadness. And by act, what I ironically mean, may be to just pause. To pause and wonder: "Have I been moving toward the right for me direction?"
Therapy allows one to take that pause. Pause to think. Pause to discover. Pause to look at the alternative directions. Pause to choose and pause to change. In therapy one allows themselves to remember the power they have got and take life in their own hands.
To re-discover the light of flow and happiness where it truly is.
Truly, it is in the darkness that one finds the light, so when we are in sorrow, then this light is nearest of all to us. – MEISTER ECKHART