My husband plays a lot of video games, which I don’t particularly condone, but there is one game in particular that interests me. One of the nights while I stared bleary-eyed at the screen, I couldn’t help but be fascinated by this big map in which the parts already explored were lit up and the areas yet to be explored were in the dark. I kept thinking about how in order to grow, you have to go right up to that line. You can't stay in the bright lit up familiar area where the battles had already been fought and resolved.
I’ve been observing in my own life and in the lives of my students based on the stories they’ve told me where that line is: the challenging relationship with an in-law, the tendency to stay in a job long after its expiration date, the negative voices in the head, the addiction to video games (ahem). These are our training grounds and they’re different for everybody. For one person, alcohol is the training ground, for another, it might be dissociating during intimacy. We all have that edge in which we have to transcend in order to grow.
This may seem obvious to some, but from what I’ve seen, there’s a tendency to shy away from that edge as if coming too close to a fire. Or a tendency to demonize it as if these challenges are obstacles to living the life we’re “supposed to be living,” whatever that means. However, these struggles are often the stepping stones to our evolution. And the fire that we fear to go near is the fire of transformation.
The most mistaken way to look at these challenges is to observe someone else’s training ground and belittle it. An example of this would be someone telling someone else with postpartum depression they should get over it and just be happy and then turning around and indulging their social media addiction. If we can just see that we all have a map, and what might be lit up for us is dark for someone else and what might be dark for us is all bright and shiny for others, the true picture emerges in which we’re all battling our dark areas for the same goal of a life with a little more peace, wholeness and joy.
The beautiful part of it is, we can help each other. The maps are really all just one map. If we witness someone finding their edge, we can help them shine light into the dark through our patience and compassion and this uplifts everyone.
We grow by going into the dark, but we don’t have to do it alone. And by going in together we find something else even more valuable, and turns out it's the point of the whole game.