I have been very perplexed with this question lately. Enough so, to start a blog. My goal here is to share ideas that I have as a mental health counselor that perhaps can start a thought process you have not been confident enough to allow yourself to have. Whether you are a mental health professional like me, or you are simply interested in the topic, there should be something here for anyone that likes to think and feel on a deeper level.
I have worked with a lot of clients in my 5 short years as a counselor, and I can honestly say that the concept of “balance” comes up as much as any other topic. If you are a therapist yourself, and you are reading this, something tells me that that probably does not surprise you. But what might surprise most readers is that I have realized that we counselors can tend to be some of the least balanced people out there. I know: Shocking! The therapist that you have been seeing all this time is a human-being with real human struggles.
Ok, yeah you probably already knew that. We are all human and have areas to grow in. It just so happens, though, that balance is a very natural part of our journey as people. It is something that can take precedent at any stage of a person’s life, and is therefore paramount to our collective experience. So whether you are 15 or 75, it is never too late to seek and find balance.
So if this is such a natural process, what keeps us from balancing ourselves day-in and day-out? The enemy to balance goes by many names, but I like to call it “Black-and-White Thinking“. This is our tendency to see the world in sets of opposites. Hot or cold, yes or no, thought or emotion, love or hate, and…black or white. If we really take the time to contemplate it, most of life exists between these extremes, or in the “Gray“.
For example, how many people in this world do you love? I mean, truly love from the bottom of your heart. Now, how many people do you truly hate? I do not mean you are angry with them, I mean that you actually hate them. Now compare both of those numbers to the number of people you know. Even compare those numbers to how many people you interact with over a week. Most likely, the percentage of people you love and the people you hate pales in comparison with the sheer number of people in your life. This is NORMAL.
We do not live in a world of extremes, yet we behave as if we do. “If I could just be the best employee or boss…” or “If only I could find a boyfriend or girlfriend…” or “If my kids would only listen to me…” Then what? Will you have “arrived“? Will your life finally be complete? That right there is black-and-white thinking. Arrived or not arrived. Complete or incomplete. Life is about the in-between. When we accept and live in the gray, we create meaning there. All of a sudden we do not have to be the best, we can just be what we are. That is balance.
So what does balance actually look like? It is a simple process to find balance in your own life:
- Tune into your emotions – At any given moment, take a deep breath and ask yourself, “What am I feeling right now?” Simply putting a name to it can often give you more clarity than you had before.
- Address the pressure – Is your boss pushing a deadline? Are your kids struggling today? If there was one thing you could change, what would it be? This is your black-and-white thinking beginning to come into play.
- Find the opposites – The most absent friend vs the most present friend. The most emotionally connected wife vs the least emotionally connected wife. Go ahead and find the extremes.
- Be honest with yourself – The truth is, you are NEVER one of these extremes. There is always a way you could be further towards one end or the other. Realizing that allows you to take out some of the shame in the moment.
- Live in the gray – Begin to challenge yourself to create meaning in what IS, not what “could be.”
This is a very magnified version of what I am challenging you to do. It can be done in a matter of seconds, but have a permanent impact on your life. Sometimes, finding balance looks like being a better listener because you do not have to have the world’s best advice to be a good friend. Sometimes it is coming home on time to spend time with the kids because you do not have to be the world’s best employee. And sometimes it is calling your mom because not calling her for the last 3 months does not make you the world’s worst child…it makes you human.
So do not let your false expectations on life, based on these imagined extremes, rob you of the joy that balance can bring to your life. Take a breath, and create meaning right here, right now.
Feel free to leave a comment and let me know how this is working for you in your life.