"It is when I struggle that I strengthen. It is when challenged to my core that I learn the depth of who I am." - Steve Maraboli
"The harder the struggle, the more glorious the triumph. Self-realization demands very great struggle." - Swami Sivananda
Struggles come in many forms. As I was reviewing various quotes about the concept of struggle – and there are a great many of them – I realized that they were only hitting on part of what I was trying to put my finger on. So let me tell you a story and maybe that will help.
My lovely daughter is afraid of shots. It isn’t hard to understand as many people fear having to get shots and frankly, sometimes shots hurt a lot. But she is very afraid and worries incessantly about any shot that may occur in her future. I find it amazing how, as parents, we instinctively wish to remove any fear from our children and keep them safe from difficulty. I suppose it is a good survival trait to avoid irrational fear.
When I was young I received a shot each week to treat my allergies. I didn’t like the shots and I didn’t like the allergies and yet, somehow, I had both. I grew accustomed to the shots and the fear of shots went away and only the discomfort remained. I also started to grasp that there was a hope attached to enduring the effort. But now, all of these years later, it is difficult for me to even remember the feeling of being afraid of a shot. So, seeing the fear in her eyes brought on by the mention of a shot, really made me want to find a way to help her get from that side of it to my side of it.
We talked a lot about the experience of getting a shot and how she had successfully made it through previous encounters with the dreaded needle. That didn’t really seem to help much. We talked about how far away it was and that worrying about it didn’t make any sense. No luck there either. The way she saw it and the way I saw it were just different.
I explained that I could help her learn to overcome her fear. That by making herself immune to the dread of the shot would cause it to be an easy, even trivial, experience. The catch, she would have to decide to do the training. She would have to practice many times until the idea and shot experience itself became simply a discomfort. The shots are coming one way or another – the unfortunate, cold, hard truth. But I highlighted that she had a choice to make now – she could prepare and become stronger or not.
For about a minute I watched an amazing thing happen in my daughter. She struggled. Yes, it was partly facing her fear but I was mostly engrossed in the internal battle that she was experiencing. The amount of effort that was going into it. I could do nothing but watch. When she finally spoke she said “can we start training this week?”
Not all of the struggles we face have to be big, or scary, or moral dilemmas, or against insurmountable odds. Perhaps the little moment-to-moment struggles hold an important clue to how we become a happy person. Perhaps these choices to endure and to hope, clear a path for us to grow and experience even more of life.
I don’t know that I’ve ever been more proud of my daughter.