In our culture that praises the positive and the optimistic, it can feel down right demoralizing to experience periods of feeling lost, confused, or unhappy.
Sometimes we try to hide feeling bad. We cover it up, and become practiced in the art of pretending.
"Yes!" we say with enthusiasm, "everything is fine!" Believing our will alone will pull us through our darker days.
But this only leads to further suffering. Your suffering shows up for a reason. It brings with it potent messages urging you to pay attention, make a change.
Learning to decode our particular suffering can be an empowering practice to keep you aligned. Recognizing your suffering as a sign or message to elicit change can help you use your hardship to bring you back to integrity.
In Martha Beck's book, The Way of Integrity, she describes how the word integrity has a moral connotation associated with it. But living with integrity has to do with with our wholeness; where our inner existence aligns with our outer one. Where all pieces and parts of who we are are not fragmented, but in sync.
Recognize these 5 signposts in your own life to help you find your way back to integrity:
Emotional Misery -- If you're frequently sad, unhappy, angry or depressed -- any disempowering emotional felt regularly, than something is not working in your life. Monitor your mood and know that regularly felt bad moods are messages trying to wake you up to make a shift in circumstance or mentality.
Physical Deterioration -- This is always my sign. If I get sick or have some kind of physical health issue come up, I know I need to make a shift in my life. Are you sick regularly? Constantly lacking energy? Having trouble sleeping, low libido, weight gain or loss? These are all signs that something needs to be tended to to bring you back in integrity.
Consistent Relationship Failures -- Do you regularly feel drained or disappointed from your friendships, family or intimate connections? If this is the case, it may be time to question what role you are playing in your relationships. Do you need to draw boundaries? Could you be more discerning? Or could you be more giving? Do you need to make space for new connections, and release ones that no longer fit? Is there something in you that repels people? What needs to change here? Relationships struggles can serve as messages, too.
Consistent Career Failures -- There are a million ways to make money. On a deep level, you know which ones of them work for you and which of them don't. Be honest about whether what you are doing is a societal expectation, or comes from your true nature. Be brave enough to step towards what is true for you, as opposed to what is expected of you. Ignoring this for a lifetime will drain your life force.
Bad Habits and Addiction -- If you find yourself unable to stop a particular habit, if you hide it from others, and try and justify it, even when you know it is self-destructive, you are in need of realignment. Get the help you need. But know, that this addiction serves as a messenger for you. It is time to pay attention and make a change.
We all experience all of these throughout our lifetimes. Recognize them as messengers as opposed to identifying with them, and you'll strengthen your inner compass and be given all the information you need to live with integrity.