As you may know from my recent post, I have been struggling with a lot of pain in my hips for the past few months, which has been inconvenient and enlightening at the same time.
Okay, mostly inconvenient. And hellish.
But one thing I am grateful for is that it has put a spotlight on what’s MOST important to me and everything else has just melted away. It has made me realize where I want to spend my time and what I need to let go of in order to heal.
All of a sudden my life has gotten much, much smaller. And I have gotten much kinder with myself.
Has this ever happened to you?
This got me to thinking…
What can prevent us from living our truth and what can we do when that happens?
Your Hierarchy of Needs
According to Abraham Maslow, famous psychologist, there is a hierarchy of needs that humans seek to fulfill, from the most basic to the more evolved. It looks something like this:
The theory goes that people work on physiological needs until they are met. Also, the drive to fulfill these needs becomes stronger the longer they go unmet. For example, the longer someone goes without food, the hungrier they get.
It also says that one must satisfy lower level needs before progressing to higher level needs like self-esteem and self-actualization. This means, for example, that you can't work on being more authentic, for example, if you don't have enough food and water.
Finally, it states that everyone has the capability and desire to move up the hierarchy towards self-actualization (i.e. everyone WANTS to live their truth). However, life often thwarts us with challenges like divorce, illness, or loss of job, which returns us down the hierarchy to meet those lower level needs once more.
And, get this... Maslow believed that very few people reach self-actualization because our society rewards us based primarily based on belonging and esteem (i.e. when you make a choice that does not fit society's norms, you will likely get flak versus support - see my post on this.)
Knocked Back Down the Hierarchy
So, for me, this means that all of a sudden healing my body has become my #1 priority.
Health is a VERY basic physiological need.
This means that working on myself, creating new programs, writing blogs, etc. suddenly is not as important or even feasible for me until I meet my lower level needs of sleep and feeling better physically.
And to be honest, as I've tumbled back down the hierarchy of needs, my self-esteem has taken a hit too. I feel fragile and unsure of myself.
Bitch-Slapped by the Universe
So, I've coined this tumble down the hierarchy of needs being Bitch-Slapped by the Universe.
It means that, for awhile, priorities need to shift, and a different focus in life becomes necessary.
And it sucks, especially when you've already fulfilled these lower level needs and you're happily climbing up Mount Self-Actualization.
So, what to do?
Well, the first thing to realize is that our society doesn't teach us how to handle these situations very well, or at least in a way that allows us to thrive and still find fulfillment in light of the bitch slap. Our first instinct in many of these situations is to try to "fix it," whether it can be fixed or not. If we succeed, we feel better and life is good. But what if we can't fix it? If it's unfixable? Or it doesn't happen on OUR timeline?
What happens when we can't get what we want?
Well, here is a strategy for dealing with a bitch-slap from the universe that aims to help you process your emotions and still be able to thrive and find fulfillment:
- The first thing to do is to hold yourself kindly. Whether you caused your own bitch slap or it occurred due to circumstances beyond your control, the first thing you need is self-compassion. Beating yourself up or criticizing yourself doesn't help you OR do anything to fix the situation. Of course, it's natural for our minds to want to do this, but learning the art of self-compassion is the best first step you can take when you are hurting.
- The second thing to do is get VERY centered. The bigger the bitch slap the bigger the emotional storm within. It is impossible to make good choices when you feel at the mercy. Mind and heart racing, confusion, waves of painful feelings - all these will carry you away if you let them. So you must learn to ground yourself, and you may have to do it many times a day to be able to take effective action.
- The third thing to do is to ask yourself what you CAN change about situation. If there is something you can do to close the gap between what you want and what you have, you change what you can, and then you ACCEPT the rest. I wrote earlier about how to do this here.
- Once you know what you can change and what you can't, then you take a stand. Whether things can be changed or not, one of the best ways to survive a universal bitch slap is to connect with, and make choices from, your personal values. This gives meaning to your struggle. We see it often, when someone dies tragically early, and their loved ones create a foundation or advocate for a law to prevent the tragedy from happening to others. In my own situation, I have chosen to stand for authenticity, to share my struggle with you, in hopes that it inspires you. It's a tiny way we can live our truth on a small scale, even in the face of great pain. To do this, simply ask yourself, "What do I want to stand for in this crisis?"
- And the last step, once you are in a very different mental and emotional place as a result of doing steps 1-4, you look for the treasure. There is good always to be found, if we only are able to see it. Beneath all our pain, there is treasure to be found. It doesn't mean we deny the pain, or pretend everything is okay when it is not. It means that we acknowledge the pain that is there AND we can also appreciate all the life has to offer us.
I went to the doctor yesterday here in Sao Paulo. It was a much better experience than I had hoped for. My new doctor was caring, thorough, and qualified. He ordered a battery of tests which I will undergo in 10 days to discover the cause of the pain in my hips. He is helping me with step 3 of this process - determining what can be changed and what can't and accepting what can't. But I've already taken a stand for authenticity in my crisis, and that is already making me feel better. And while finding the treasure is a challenge at times, I have had many moments already where I am grateful for this experience. Being able to empathize more with my mom, who has experienced chronic pain for years. Being able to zoom in on what's most important to me and let go of the rest. Being able to practice authenticity with you.
How about you? When was the last time you felt Bitch-Slapped by the Universe? Leave a comment below and share your experience.