8 ways to cope when you hit a wall

24 April 13


We all hit walls. I've hit several in the past week. Obstacles in my relations with people, life situations, money. These experiences are part of what life is all about. We suffer, we let go (if we work at it) and run on until we hit the next wall.

Life is school for the soul. Each wall and obstacle is an opportunity for learning. But sometimes these opportunities can be overwhelming. Last week, for example, after a messy personal interaction, a golf ball hit my windshield (or a meteor fell from the sky... I have no idea) and I had to replace the windshield on Friday. This morning, looking at thousands of dollars worth of medical bills I thought were covered by my insurance but are not, I started to cry.

Crying is a good primer for breakthrough. We soften, become vulnerable. In vulnerability there is space for reconfiguring. If we're hard and willful, we're likely to keep smacking our head against the wall we face. Not productive.

In college, my senior advisor and friend was a classics scholar. He once explained the root of the word suffer. He said that it actually means to go through indicating that there is an end to the suffering. The etymology of suffer is to carry up or undergo. The modern meaning of suffering, since the mid-13c. is to tolerate, allow something to occur. Again, it's not explicit but this indicates to me that by allowing something to occur and not fighting against it we open ourselves to the potential of release. Which brings me to breakthrough.

Interestingly enough, the definition of the word breakthrough includes "A significant and dramatic overcoming of a perceived obstacle, allowing the completion of a process." There's that wonderful word again, allowing.

When you face what seems like an insurmountable wall, you don't have to fight, you don't need a sledge hammer or a ladder, and banging your head will definitely make things worse. Leave the wall alone and allow your circumstances to be what they are at least for a little while.

Here's what I did this morning. Use this as a prescriptive guide for what to do when you hit a wall:
  1. Allow yourself the time to suffer temporarily.
  2. Cry if you can. It's good for you.
  3. Call a friend who's willing to listen. 
  4. Take a walk outside. Look out at the distance, the sky. Get out of your head.
  5. Smile a few times.
  6. Treat yourself to a tall glass of good water.
  7. Express gratitude for all the things in your life that are going well.
  8. Put a timer on for 30 minutes and get to work on the next right thing.
When I called my friend, I said out loud "This particular problem is matter-of-fact. I have a situation and a variety of solutions. I'm just feeling overwhelmed. I don't like it but I know that it's temporary." Then I went for a walk. 

Now I've written this post and I feel much better. 
"All the world is full of suffering. It is also full of overcoming."
—Helen Keller
Once you've taken your attention off your particular wall, the facts will rise above the emotion and, eventually, a solution will arise. I promise. Life always seems to work that way.

That's breakthrough. 

Tell me what you do when you hit a wall. Leave your comment below.

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