Most of us are perpetually ‘on the hunt’ for those moments when all is right with the world and we feel blissfully content. We’d probably have to look far and wide to find someone who, at one time or another, hasn’t plaintively uttered: “I just want to be happy.” In our pursuit of happiness we tend to seek out pleasure and avoid pain. It seems like the logical thing to do, but what if Nietzsche is right? Maybe, just maybe, our brightest points of light are inconspicuously tucked into the turmoil – disguised as discontent – twinkling tirelessly in hopes of catching our diverted gaze.
I have come to recognize discontent as a divinely guided wake-up call of the soul trying to alert us when we are ‘off course’. I see it is a benevolent niggling that something needs to change. If we are open enough to be with it, embrace it and learn from it … I trust that our discontent can steer us to our deepest longings and highest callings.
That said, and in my line of work, I can’t help but get just a wee bit excited when a client dares to say “I know I should be happy but …”. It’s not that I am happy they are unhappy … but … heeding the discord between head and heart (before it morphs into misery) can open up untold possibilities. When we are brave enough to honor our discontent rather than resisting it, we are poised in position to begin savoring our lives rather than merely enduring them!
You might be astonished by how often people step over their discontent – they ignore it, avoid it, numb it, repress it, call it something else and/or blame someone else for it. Some people will even try make it more tolerable by focusing on the silver-lining in it rather than seeking to transform it. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for finding the wisdom in our wounds but there is a very subtle but significant distinction between identifying the blessings in our challenges and “putting ice cream on poop” (as the incomparable Debbie Ford describes it). Looking on the bright side of something that actually dulls the spirit, depletes vital energy and keeps folks from claiming their dreams, desires and delights can be a sneaky form of denial … a betrayal of Self that can keep people stuck in a chronic state of “meh“.
Perhaps, if we really want to be happy, we would be wiser to make friends with our discontent … hold its hand … let it speak to us … and then … LISTEN to the message. Just notice if what we hear stirs something inside us … maybe a little fear, maybe a little enthusiasm, maybe a little of both. Sadly, it’s often in the presence of these ‘feelings’ that we shut down the wisdom in our discontent and distract ourselves with something more pleasant. We just don’t want to feel it. I know … I did it for years myself.
Sometimes staying stuck feels safer than shaking things up .. but it can also rob us. I can remember a few years back when I had a phenomenal job working as a parenting coach. I thoroughly loved my job and had been there for about 8 years when I began to get restless. I tried to silence what I was feeling. I berated myself for not being grateful enough. I argued with myself about where I would ever find a better job in our small rural town. Despite my cognitive protest … my discontent persisted.
Then … with a loving nudge during one of my trainings I allowed myself to listen to my discontent. When I dared to hear the message it had for me … I felt a some very juicy but highly prickly energy. Eeeeek. Instead of shutting it down (as I typically did), I allowed myself to dwell in the discomfort of it. I stayed with it until I was brave enough to risk the security of who I knew myself to be for the uncertainty of who I could become. Despite the expressed chagrin of many, I dared to go back to school at the age of 46. When people skeptically questioned my decision, I defended it by declaring “the years are going to go by anyway.” I just couldn’t bring myself to share that I caught sight of a dancing star and was honoring the chaos in my soul. Some things seem better left unsaid. 🙂
It turns out that my professional ‘discontent’ was actually a blessing in disguise inviting me to reclaim my childhood dream of becoming a therapist. And here we are … 10 years later … I left my phenomenal job and have been blissfully employed as a counsellor for the last 7 years instead. I can honestly say … I could not be happier.
I decided to share my experience here because I truly believe it is not just an isolated incident. I’ve seen it so often that I have come to believe that we can all find that dancing star if we are willing to begin by sitting within the discomfort of the chaos until we hear what it has to teach us. So … if you haven’t already made plans for this evening, why not make a date with your discontent! Who knows what spending some time in that enchanted space might reveal …
With enthusiastic curiosity for where your own nigglings might lead you, Karen