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My friends and I would meet outside our school building to talk about everything that had happened in the 18 hours since we last saw each other. I couldn’t wait to catch up.
After school, we did our homework (or not), went to after school activities (or not), hung out with friends (or not), but we knew, undoubtedly, what we had to do.
The wonders of the world and the pure joy of existence were enough to get us out of bed and exited for a new day.
When did that stop? When did things become so much more complicated?
Knowing what the most important thing is, for me, also goes hand in hand with: knowing that I am powerful. When did I stop to feel powerful? Was that the same time, I was told I had to make something out of my life?
We come into this world, driven by an enormous life force, a life force, that keeps us going, often despite what we do to ourselves.
We are open, helpless too, we experience and then, at some point, if we make it that far, our ego develops and things become more complicated.
Our mind starts to repeat conditioned knowledge to us, the expectations of our families and communities, of society become a reality that we have to start navigating ourselves.
As we come to realize, that the way we’ve been living isn’t sustainable and that we have to come up with new ways to live and work and love, I find it quite helpful to look back and remember ourselves in moments when we did feel free.
The separation that happened to all of us at some point – from our natural inherent self, to the one formed by the circumstances in which we grew up in, shaped by the protections we put up, the masks we put on – is the root cause for the desperation and loneliness we often feel now.
Growing up in a society where the majority of people are traumatized, we learn to cut off and hide our feelings, we harden ourselves, we lose the intuitions, we outsource the control over our bodies and our lives and we suffer from it.
The most important thing is…
As long as I can remember, I had dreams and aspirations. I found living as a nun quite attractive, Mother Theresa seemed cool.
But my surrounding told me that I couldn’t be a nun because I would miss out on life. I think I’m glad about that.
When I was in High School, I had this dream to achieve big things and no question that I could.
However, I didn’t know what that would be, as many of the things I wanted, my surroundings told me, were not the right thing for me.
Instead of looking for new things to do, I tried to get away. I had this longing to find people and a place where I could be me and my dreams and aspirations weren’t considered improper.
A feeling of helplessness had already set in. I thought that my surrounding needed to change for me to be me. And the wandering began.
I went to the US for half a year during High School, but recognized that just when I had overcome homesickness and learned enough to actually experience myself there, I had to go back.
Which is why I set my mind to going abroad for a longer period of time, to get to know the world and myself in it a bit more fully.
I researched what I had to do for that, applied to many organizations, and finally went to live and work in Ukraine for a year after graduating from High School.
And to go and live there did change my life forever.
I met people who could love and be present fully, something I missed so much in my upbringing, and who would actually live in community and experience everything from birth to death together.
I also learned what it meant to struggle, so much about racism, as well as how to grow your own food, how to survive without the security of living in a welfare state, and so much more.
And I learned my fourth language there, Hungarian, something that opened a whole new way of thinking too.
But it was also very clear that I didn’t belong. While I was welcomed with open arms and hearts, it was also clear that I was a visitor, a guest, a friend, even called in to become family, yet it still wasn’t the belonging I was looking for.
So, I went back to Germany to got to University. I moved to Göttingen, a college town close to where I live now, and quickly felt like I found a place where I belonged, with all the other lost kids.
I started working at a record shop, I started djing, we set up the first queer parties in Göttingen, I found people who liked what I liked.
But while I was happy that I finally found belonging, I also found hopelessness. As I learned more about the state of the world, about feminism, or the patriarchy, about politics, corruption, capitalism, I started to get gloomy.
This continued after University. Going back to Ukraine for another year, this time to live in the city, I also experienced a much harsher reality than in the village before.
Death, starvation, much more racism, suffering, rape, desperation. Much love too, but the feeling of doom became even stronger.
Coming back to Germany after that year, I was full of anger. I was angry that nobody did something about the suffering in the world.
I was angry that people in Ukraine thought I could do something about it. All I felt was lost, sad and overwhelmed, still helpless and now even hopeless.
I was not centred, I felt like there was nothing in the world to hold or guide me and did not know that I would have to become the one to do that.
So, I got depressed and started drinking way more than was good for me, thinking it would help me cope or at least distract me, but it didn’t.
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My first job back in Germany was at an NGO. We were trying to get as many projects as possible, just to cover the running costs for the organization, but didn’t have the people or time to actually follow through on the ambitions.
The ideas were great and the people who worked there were great too, but I just couldn’t see how we could implement the change that was needed. I and everybody else had a lot of responsibility for bad pay, we were overworked and colleagues were quarrelling.
Again, instead of trying to change the situation, I went to find myself elsewhere. I turned back to academia, and dealt with a similar situation there. Job insecurity, bad pay, overwork, overwhelm, quarrels among colleagues.
Then, I turned to self-employment, no fighting colleagues, but overworked partners and my mental health did not recover because I still did not feel that anything I did was actually meaningful.
During all these times, from early childhood to right about now, I never once felt like I had the power to change things, I felt like this was just how the world was and that we were all victims of our circumstances.
I tried to find solutions to my inner troubles in the world outside myself. I had completely forgotten that I was powerful.
And I wasn’t alone. We all went out together to distract ourselves from the grim routines of somehow having lost our dreams in the struggles of what we thought of as reality.
We were feeling powerless, but somehow thought we were the good ones because at least we felt and suffered with all that was going wrong in this world.
You can call this state survival-mode, being part of a mad society or not self-actualizing yet. Or as Abraham H. Maslow (who coined the term self-actualizing) framed it: being caught in deficiency needs.
In this state, we are dealing with our circumstances instead of creating them and Self-Actualization Coaching was invented with the idea in mind, to help people evolve beyond that.
Because beyond that, you can find a life that allows for peace of mind, for quiet, for love, for creativity, for flow.
(If you’d like to find out how self-actualization coaching could help you, book an appointment with me.)
What changed? For me, there was a moment in which I realized that I did not want to stay in this cycle that I knew so well: Working and worrying, distracting myself with friends and alcohol, feeling ashamed that I did, working hard to make up for it until I needed a release and started the cycle again.
I quit drinking and late nights and started to learn more about healthy nutrition, and things fell into place from there.
This is why the most important part is to start.
If you have enough of the same old, the struggles, the shame, feeling powerless in a world that seems to be working against you, just start by changing one thing.
Once you remove or change one, any part of the puzzle, the whole configuration rearranges itself and bit by bit you can break out of the deficiency mode and come into the being mode and start to self-actualize.
But I also struggled. A lot. I remember a day, where I had relationship/emotional trouble and realized that the only way I knew to deal with that, was to call one or more friends, meet at a bar and vent about it.
I walked up and down the bathroom floor, like a tiger in a cage, and had no idea what to do. And felt so angry about that. Mad at myself for not allowing myself to get the release I needed, unable to see how else to get out of it. But I stayed. I just accepted that I felt what I felt and that it will be OK.
And from there even more change unfolded. Because I saw first hand that I could continue to exist without my coping mechanisms.
And that actually feeling the feelings and working through them, instead of getting approval and validation from friends, was a much better way to deal with the situation.
I found my own coaches and teachers and started to learn more about Buddhism, Mindfulness and eventually entered the path to become a self-actualization coach myself.
I share this because I believe that it is important to know where we are coming from. That no one is just struggle-free and has any easy time to enjoy life.
This is such a small part of my story, but the struggle and the confusion were with me for more than 20 years.
I had to fight many demons and break many habits to get out.
For me, it took around six years or so to free myself in so far as that I am now able to look at all that has happened and my life with compassion.
The memories of my feelings and the situations I was in, do feel like I was a different person. It feels warming to know that I do not have to go back, that I couldn’t if I tried.
We can go from the egoless child to finding our ego to overcoming it slowly and layer by layer.
A friend recently gave me a picture of us from two years ago. You could definitely look at it and say: cute picture. All I can see is me, smiling, not from my heart, but as a ritual, not in my body, so uncomfortable, but making sure that no one knows.
I feel compassion. I did not know what would be possible.
But change is possible, even when everybody around you seems to be caught in the same cycles you are. Start to free yourself and reach hands out to your friends and invite them on the journey. Start to explore new things.
Read new books, listen to different podcasts, whatever triggers your interest. Go where your heart takes you. Your intuition and well-being are there, they’ve just been suppressed and will be so happy when you invite them back out.
(I’ve written more about how to do that here.)
There is no reason for us to hurt, to fight, to suffer so much. Life can actually be good and full of love and new discoveries and a new sense of freedom every day.
Where are you going to start?
“The beginning is the most important part of the work.” – Plato