A wise friend of mine once told me that from the moment of conception to the moment of death, every man and woman, in their endeavor to survive, engages in three basic struggles.
The first: Man Against Nature. I certainly agree with that one. In fact, somewhere in the recesses of my mind, I recall as a child hearing the voice of what I then assumed to be a learned man on the radio. He said something to the effect that every day of our lives gravity lays its weight on our shoulders. Best evidenced by the fact that the older you get, the shorter you become.
Because of that he suggested we have to fight back. It must have made a significant impression on me, not only because I still recall it, but also because for weeks afterward, I remember walking to school consciously lifting my shoulders higher toward the sky with every third or fourth step I took.
Now, years later, I often find myself exerting that extra effort to just lift my body from bed each morning. I guess, gravity, or nature and I are still engaged in that contest. Although I am reluctant to think about it, I know eventually it will win, though that doesn’t mean I should stop lifting my shoulders to the sky whenever the notion hits me.
The second is Man Against Man. Once again, I cannot disagree. I have been involved in that competition forever. I know it’s a contest you can never win. Either someone beats you from the start or you reach what appears to be the top of the mountain only to realize there is a higher mountain in the distance.
Not withstanding the fact there will always be someone who is smarter, more successful, more educated, more attractive, physically stronger, or who has more academic degrees, clothes, jewelry, cars, power, better-adjusted children or whatever, than you. Once again, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t attempt. You need to constantly strive to improve self, to grow and to succeed, not necessarily on the outside, though certainly on the inside where it really counts.
Which brings me to the third and most important conflict that faces every man, woman and child: The struggle of Man Against Himself. Every person needs to commit him or herself to that battle on an on-going basis.
To better visualize that struggle, I’d have you, at least temporally, accept my belief that each of you are two people: One, an intellectual, conscious thinking and inquiring adult, influenced by and who profits from his or her daily interactions with life. The second, a child who strives to live life in accordance with the emotional input he experienced during his formative years from birth to age 5 or 6.
He or she is the seat of your sense of worth, lovability and adequacy. Your emotional defense mechanisms, coping skills and concept of what constitutes loving reside within him and he is very protective of them.
Thus, in his struggle to survive, he is forever attempting to reinforce, sustain and perpetuate the beliefs he learned as a child.
It is no wonder there is often a radical disparity between what you feel and do and what you know and think is appropriate; i.e., to eat cheesecake or a piece of fruit, to exercise or stay in bed, to capitulate or to express your honest thoughts, to run toward or away from fears, to drink, smoke, do drugs or abstain.
These conflicts are evidence of the struggle going on inside you all the days of your life because your emotional scars and hurts from childhood persist throughout your life.
The best therapist in the world cannot help rid you of those feelings. What he or she can do is aid you to recognize and accept the pain stemming from them and help you cope with them in a more effective and healthy manner than you have in the past.
The primary step you need to take to win this battle is to run toward your fears, as opposed to running from them. Since these emotions will always be there, you must resign yourself to deal with them every day of your life. It is a painful realization, though a necessary one if you want to live an emotionally healthy life.
To facilitate this process you must make this struggle a friendly, good-natured tug-of-war between two adversaries who care about and respect one another – the goal being to actualize the best in each of them, resulting in a whole person who is greater than the sum of the parts, while retaining the unique characteristics that reflect the individuality of both your inner intellectual adult and your emotional child.
Without engaging in and coming to peace with this lifelong struggle, you can never develop or sustain a “centeredness” in you that will enable you to live confidently based on your beliefs as well as desires. You will be victim to the whims of others and the events life presents you. It is essential for you to realize a house divided readily falls, and a person in conflict spins his wheels and rarely goes forward.
The purpose of this article is to deal with that issue by assuring you that once you are able to cope with the struggles within you, the problems you encounter in the world and with others will be challenges you can easily overcome.