I went through a couple of very challenging days recently. My usual sense of calm and well being were suddenly fleeting and elusive. I cried and lamented for no particular reason.
My anxiety was high because I didn't understand what was happening, much less rise to meet the challenge in a way that was empowering. I am usually really good at discovering what is at the heart of the matter, and then moving through it with grace and equanimity. Well, not this time. I was slogging through emotional mud and falling to my knees again and again. Eventually, I quit analyzing and wrestling with these feelings. Instead I gave myself the time and space, and full permission, to simply be with what was naturally arising.
In that self loving spaciousness, I continued to cry and fret and worry.
I felt despair about the fragmented state of the world.
I fell to my knees in sadness about the suffering all around me.
And then one afternoon, I realized that the problem wasn’t me or any aspect of my life, or even the tumultuous state of our deeply suffering world. The problem didn’t have anything to do with how life was actually unfolding.
The real problem was the ideals I held about how life should be unfolding. Those ideals were hijacking my joy.
Deep suffering occurs when we cherish our ideals about how life should be more than we honor and accept what is actually unfolding.
This attachment to unrealistic ideals is at the heart of a collective challenge we are all facing in some way or another right now. We are in the throws of a global epidemic of extreme idealism.
There is a healthy kind of idealism that helps us reach higher and do better.
Extreme idealism is different.
It shows up as unrealistically high standards, fanaticism, perfectionism, near constant disappointment, and feeling like nothing is ever enough. It is the self help attitude on hyper drive, always striving to do more and be better. Sometimes extreme idealism shows up as the group think standards that somebody, sometime, somewhere, asked you to swallow. And you did.
Sometimes extreme ideals are completely false, destructive, and fanatical. Other extreme ideals are simply out of step with the current flow of growth and change. In my idealized version of life, my friend shouldn't have cancer. Humans shouldn't be dropping huge bombs on each other, and we should all get along.
Yet, that is not the current state of the world. We are a long way from that grand vision. Rather than lamenting over the current state of affairs, acceptance can begin to help us see the positive steps we can take that will empower the graceful emergence of that grand vision.
Acceptance of what is already happening doesn't mean condoning or putting your stamp of approval on anything. There are definitely times to stand up for your ideals. There are times to very loudly and clearly say, "no more". Yet, acceptance of what has already occurred often gives us the deeper insight and strength needed to create a more positive future.
When extreme idealism dominates your life, suffering is sure to follow.
Each time we choose, consciously or unconsciously, to hold on to our ideal version of how life should be rather than meet what is actually occurring with acceptance, we suffer. Extreme idealism can be quite toxic and debilitating.
Can we give up unhealthy ideals, thoughts, and projections about what should be happening, and simply honor and accept what is actually occurring?
Can we come to terms with the trauma and drama of the past without holding on to an idealized internal story of how it should have been?
Can we stop being disappointed in people because they don’t live up to our ideals, and simply meet them with kindness and acceptance?
Maybe it is worth trying. Spring is a great time for a detox. Would you be willing to try an idealism detox this year? Giving up toxic food and toxic idealism has the potential to be a powerfully cleansing combination.
What would happen this week if you were to meet every person or situation with loving acceptance, no matter what?
I invite you to try it and see what kind magic shows up to play. Happy Spring!
Loving you boldly,
An energy therapist, relationship and spiritual life coach, Ariana is a lover of love in all of its many delicious forms; self love, couples love, family love, community love and ultimately, the universal love that pervades all.