Updated: Oct 14
Problems are gifts if you learn from them. This is the maxim of Tony Robbins who reminds us that life is always happening for us, not to us. In times of calm seas this is a refreshing dose of optimism; but amid the storms and crashing waves of life, if we do not maintain the proper internal representations of what our adversity means, the wisdom in these aphorisms becomes lost.
For the past month I have been in such a storm. I’ve been attempting to navigate life with two torn pectoral muscles and almost complete inability to use my arms.
The following has helped me keep perspective.
The Jungian Self
Carl Jung, the great depth psychologist and clinician, believed that the “Self” was what you were that existed across transformations, and that much of our personal development was not an uphill trajectory, but more so a funneling in toward our true nature. He dubbed this process “circumambulation,” a personal journey similar to water flowing down a drain, as the cyclical nature of our lives repeats certain themes as we tunnel our way toward the Self, toward what we are meant to become.
“This insight gave me stability, and gradually my inner piece returned.”- Carl Jung
With this understanding, every event in our lives — especially the difficult ones — are catalysts which further our evolution. When something traumatic occurs in our lives — whether an injury, losing a job, or the ending of a intimate relationship — we experience a type of death as we lose a piece of ourselves, but it is this death which allows for the possibility of rebirth.
The hero’s quest is to voluntarily accept the conditions of his or her life, and in so doing, transcend them. To recognize that each death is an opportunity for rebirth, and that like the mythological phoenix, we can be reborn amid the flames of our destruction into something better, into something that we are meant to become.
Problems ARE gifts
What would Noah have been without a flood? Who would Sisyphus have been without a boulder to push? We ask our creator — whether we call it the universe, God, or some higher intelligence — to make us into the hero we envision, and yet are quick to criticize the necessary conditions in which such a hero is made. Evolution is a conservative mechanism. We will not grow any more than our environment requires. If we wish to exceed our current selves, the difficulty of our environment must be the precursor which manifests such progress.
Tearing both my pecs is a problem, and in my weaker moments, it feels like this happened to me. But when I remember the Self and the wisdom of the Phoenix, I realize what this experience really is: the blessing which my higher self requires. This is life acting on my behalf.
Problems are a gift if you learn from them. And if nothing else, I am a student!
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