(This is a step-by-step, progressive course; if you arrived at this page first, please back up and start at the beginning, HERE.)
If you’ve gotten this far and are feeling your own worthiness in being helped, and are learning to accept help openly from the right helpers… what are you trying to do, to help yourself or to get help from others?
The majority of you think you’ve tried everything. I hear it so often from people who have been going through difficulties even for years: ‘I’ve tried everything!’
No, you haven’t tried everything, not even close.
You only tried what you knew to try. And since only doing what you know is what got you to this place of asking for help… now you need to try things that you don’t know.
Did you get rid of your clothing, go to stores, even a thrift store, and start off with a whole new look that you would never have tried before? Did you get rid of all your furniture, and start with a rug and a cushion on the middle of the floor, in an empty room, and look around you and decide how you want to decorate the space in your life as the person you are now? Did you get rid of your TV and music and computer and mobile phone and all electronics, buy a notepad and pencil and determine to only read what you write for the next month, only view what you draw, only communicate with people in person?
Did you become willing to actually give up anything, to change anything? People say ‘I want a new life, I want a change for the better, I want a new start’. And then they say ‘Oh, but I have to keep this job, I have to keep this furniture, I have to keep all my friends, I have to keep doing the same things each day. Oh, these are my favorite clothes, I can’t change them; I can’t do anything to shock people, I don’t want to strain my relationships’.
So, you want a change of life, you want a fresh start… you just don’t want to change any part of your life, lose anything, or try anything new. When I write it out like that, it sounds ridiculous, right? But that’s how most people think. The two sides fight each other: the side that wants change and for things to get better, versus the side that doesn’t want to change anything in order to achieve that ‘better’.
Most people try only what they already know, are familiar with, even simply comfortable with. That’s why the same problems drag on and on, cycle over and over: because even the things you try in order to help your problems, are part of the same world, the familiar world, as the things that contribute to your problems.
For example, you might be extremely unhappy or stressed with where you are living… but you may also be afraid to travel, or unwilling to go through the ‘hassle of moving’, or find it too shocking to leave behind the lifestyle you currently have. There are so many questions in our lives… that we cancel out. The question of moving becomes ‘What can I do about this place I hate living at… but without actually leaving it?’ (This is, of course, assuming you CAN leave it, and you’re not locked in a prison or enchained somehow)
It’s like walking around with a knife stuck in your back and saying, “This knife stuck in my back really hurts, how can I get rid of the annoyance and the pain? Oh, I mean, without actually taking it out; I’m kind of used to having it there now, and also I’m afraid of what will happen when it comes out. So, what do I do?” Like that ridiculous example, so many of us, in so many situations, set up that impossible dynamic: we want something, but are unwilling to do the exact thing we need to do to get it. A whole grocery list of fears, excuses, and reasons stop us. We want a solution to a problem, but we also sweep away every solution that comes our way, because we aren’t willing to leave our comfort zone, our familiar zone, and take a chance.
So we refuse to leave, alter, or excise the circumstances that are toxic to our happiness and health, because we’re afraid of losing what’s familiar to us and going into the unknown.
People spend years, a lifetime, never learning this lesson, never escaping their self-perpetuating cycle of refusing to leave or change the very thing they want to leave and change. People will spend countless hours and years of their lives, countless dollars, trying to find cures and solutions that will make their painful situation better… but hoping it will do so without actually changing any of their other circumstances. Can’t do THAT. Just change the exact center part of the painful situation, please, and don’t touch anything else.
All this is a roundabout way of saying this: The sum total of what people usually do about a problem, and what they mean when they say they’ve ‘done everything’… is to ‘think about it a lot’.
That’s it. When I’ve pushed a little, tried to get deeper answers to give me a more complete picture of all the things people did to get over their problems, the overwhelming bottom line is that they ‘thought about it a lot’. There may or may not have been a few other little steps taken, like maybe you also read a few books. Maybe you told some people, maybe a counselor or therapist. Maybe you asked for help from the people you know, maybe you kept a journal of your thoughts, tried to keep working things out, joined a group. For some people, these work. But we’re not talking about the people for whom those things have worked; we’re talking about those of you who have tried those few things, give or take a few other things familiar to you and acceptable by those around you, and none of those things has worked, you are still casting about for help.
‘Thinking about it a lot’ is the prime activity that most people ever do about a problem. And it’s not thinking about it in a proactive, efficient, productive, clear-headed way, it’s usually in a reactive, or emotional, complaining, frustrated, frightened, angry, despairing way. It’s more like you ’emotioned about it’, rather than thought about it, for hours, days, years, or decades, depending on what this problem is. Anger, pain, futility, confusion, fear, all these recycling as a lump through your mind and nervous system, for years, about this problem.
So it feels like you’re ‘doing everything’, because your problems are recirculating through your thoughts seemingly all the time, no matter what you’re doing. It’s there with you, through so much of your thoughts and your daily activities, you’re thought about it from so many angles, thought about it so much! You’ve tried everything!
Here is my question: What have you actually DONE about it? I don’t mean how much have you thought about it or read about it or talked about it, I mean give me the list of things you have physically accomplished in order to tackle your problems.
Have you stepped out of your ‘familiar zone’, the exact circumstances of life which have allowed you to reach this state with your problem? Have you ‘shocked your life’ with a big step, a big change, a big price, to tackle your problem? Or have you accomplished a series of smaller steps, to eat away at your problem in more gentle, bite-sized pieces? Have you actually entered any new territory? What if your problem cannot be solved, or even helped a little, by using any of the actions that are familiar to you or suggested by those around you? I don’t know your problem, so I don’t know if you even need to try anything outside what is familiar to you; but what if that IS what you need?
You know what I did, when I began admitting my deep unhappiness and problems to myself? Out of the blue, I started hitch hiking. Just to leave the old apartment-bound and life-bound me, for awhile. Hitched across Canada, through the U.S., through Mexico, on various trips, for weeks and months at a time, hitched tens of thousands of miles, backpack on my back, tent and sleeping bag and necessities with me, through all kinds of adventures. This was new to me, I hadn’t been a hitch hiker or adventurer before.
What else? I gave up ‘home’. I began crashing – I crashed in motels, crashed with friends, family. Slept outside, in the forest, on beaches, in vehicles, churches. I began house sitting for people, many times a year. I did all this for twenty years with no home of my own.
What else? I started doing the ‘interviews’ you see on this website. I started formally asking, and listening to, how other people get through their lives, problems, successes, despairs.
What else? I gave up the familiar patterns of all things in my life. I was unhappy, unable to cope with life, so I figured I’d let go of the entire ‘shape’ of that unhappy life. I let go of playing guitar and listening to music all the time, I let go of martial arts and weight lifting, I let go of dating (for almost 25 years now), I let go of my career (I used to write and draw comic books for Marvel Comics), I let go of 98% of my belongings, even my books and photos and sentimental things, and just kept a couple boxes worth of necessities that moved with me a few times a year to each new place.
What else? There’s more, but you get the idea. Yes, I was extreme, I changed my life in an extreme manner and became willing to do things most people never do, or cannot do, due to their circumstances. The point is not for you to even consider emulating anything I did to change my life; the point is to consider allowing actual changes in YOUR life, allowing or making changes outside what you have been familiar with, but tailoring those changes according to your own circumstances, especially if you have family or responsibilities you simply can’t abandon, or you are ‘stuck’ somewhere, such as a prison.
If it’s small parts of your life that you are having problems with, then small changes might be all you need, as long as those changes take the problematic parts of your life out of the repetitious cycles contributing to hurting them. This might mean a change in geography, in your physical doings, or simply in your thought activity. Or it might NOT mean a change in geography, or in your job or some other circumstance.
But whether you stay put or move, keep your job or leave it, keep your relationships or leave them, whatever you do to change things and really try something new… it needs to be different than what you have been used to. What you have been used to, is what got you to this problematic place where you’re asking ‘help me please’. So if what you’re used to is perpetuating the problem, the only logic left is that only what you are NOT used to, not familiar with, can help solve your problem.
Break through that barrier. It doesn’t – in fact it shouldn’t – be a huge change right away, unless you’re in extreme circumstances. Be slow, be gentle with yourself, take baby steps in the beginning; be safe. Going into ‘the new and unknown’ puts you at risk in some ways, because you are in new territory, sometimes vulnerable to the new unfamiliar rules, dangers… but you do it because you’re also unfamiliar with the wonderful new POSSIBILITIES.
Experiment. Here is one truth I’ve seen, in my fifty years of living:
I have never yet met a person who said ‘I’ve tried everything’, who has actually tried anything outside their own narrow zone of what feels comfortable, not-too-scary, not-too-weird, not-too-different.
The people I’ve met who have succeeded past their deepest problems, instead said, “I tried something really DIFFERENT than what I was used to!”
This doesn’t mean you have to quit your job, leave your family, move out of your home or city. You don’t have to make sudden extreme changes and decisions, you don’t have to join a religion or leave one. It means that you simply have to begin considering doing SOMETHING, if your problem is that bad, more than just thinking – or ’emotioning’ – about it all day. And it means that this something you do… has to actually be different, beyond the same-old, same-old things you have tried but which haven’t been working for you.
Begin a tiny, even microscopic, secret thing, and make that thing different from anything you have ever done. Then keep exploring, keep allowing other tiny different things into your life, as gently and safely as you can. Sometimes it’s the amount of difference that needs changing: maybe you do try some different things, but the amount is not working for you. Perhaps it’s too much to digest successfully all at once, so you are overwhelmed by the large change and you fail. Or maybe you are too hesitant, maybe you are making some helpful changes, trying something that can truly help, but you aren’t doing enough of it to make an impact, aren’t committing yourself to it.
Changes, doing things differently, even small things, add up. They add up to options, possible changes and solutions to your problems. You don’t need to drop your whole old life behind you, buy a camera and head to a strife-torn country to become a war journalist, to try something ‘different’; you can stop on a sidewalk, where you’ve never stopped before, and slowly turn in a circle and really see everything around you; You can sit down, silently thinking about nothing, for as long as it takes until a thought you’ve never thought of before drops into your head.
These are quick, random examples I’m tossing out, so don’t try to emulate them thinking they’ll solve anything, because they won’t; be mindful about being open to trying something different, being open to allowing different things that relate to YOUR problems.
And what will doing these different little things actually change, how will they help your big problems? After you’ve begun to open your life to Doing Different Things, and you’ve actually done – physically accomplished – a substantial amount of trying truly different things than you are used to, or even accomplished a substantial amount of doing just one of these things very differently…
…Then see if you actually have to ask me that question again.
You haven’t ‘tried everything’. Not even close. I tried a massive list of things, gave my whole life over to them when I was deep in my changes, trying to escape and solve my problems and unhappiness… and I can still easily say I didn’t even come close to ‘trying everything’. There are millions of things out there in the world that can directly help your problem, whatever it is, in small or large ways. Things you’ve never imagined were out there, even here beside you, things you’ve never been willing to explore. And there are millions of things to find, and to do, in your own mind that are different than anything you’ve ever tried so far.
The familiar is important; you need rest, home, haven, routine, comfort, recovery, stability. But sometimes, when familiar is what’s hurting you or contributing to your problems, it’s the different that gives you healing, rest, life. There is no one-answer-fits-all. You must negotiate all these factors, the things you can change, the things you can’t, and the things you won’t, the small and the large, the familiar and the new, together into their own custom shape that works for you, fitted to your own life circumstances and needs.
All you need to do, is start being truly open to trying some different things, different angles of looking at and working with your problems, and being willing to venture into actually doing them, accomplishing them, carefully but with commitment.
There is no problem that cannot be helped, to some degree, when you try different enough, or enough different, things to help yourself.
If you’re becoming open to trying something new, different, literally ‘trying everything’… what NEXT?