I was having a phone conversation with my friend the other day. Now, my friend sometimes struggles with anxiety and so, during this phone conversation, my friend shared with me an epiphany he recently had about his anxiety. He had discovered that his anxiety had a limit: there was a moment where his anxiety got as bad as it could get, and then it leveled off and receded—and my friend was calm again. After realizing this, my friend decided that, from now on, if he ever felt anxiety again, he would simply remind himself that anxiety can’t last forever. This approach completely changed the way he saw things and instantly improved the quality of his life.
After I got off the phone with my friend, I had my very own epiphany: it occurred to me that the same rule applied to everything else. Because everything—no matter what it is—has its limits.
The Limits of Our Emotions
A while back, I talked about pseudoforgiveness and how one needs to feel the full extent of their emotions in order to be able to, eventually, forgive the person who caused them the pain in the first place.
I got some interesting responses. I think people thought I was suggesting that everyone cling to their negative emotions indefinitely. But I would never suggested that.
What I was suggesting was that if you are simply aware of your emotions and don’t seek to cling to them—when you allow your emotions to flow through you as if you are a vessel for your emotions, and not a storage tank–then you may find that your emotions have limits. They have an end. And when you reach that end, there is great relief on the other side.
On the other hand, it’s when we allow our emotions to build up inside of us, without releasing them, that things get worse. At first, we might fear that if we let ourselves feel a particular emotion, we’ll never get out of that emotion. So, afraid of a “limitless” emotion, we numb the emotion, instead. We ignore it, we postpone it, we delay dealing with the “feeling.”
It’s the fear of our “limitless emotions” that worry us the most about beginning to “feel.”
But if we’re given a safe and supportive environment, we might find that we can reach the limit of every negative emotion–and can return safe and unharmed afterward. When we reach the limit of our emotions, we can see that our emotions are not all-consuming. They are not limitless, and we can overcome them.
I’m not saying that you must get stuck in the hurt. I am not saying you should grasp the hurt, cling to it, or stay in it. I’m saying that you must feel the emotion to its full extent in order to realize that, in the end, the hurt has a limit. When you realize that the hurt has a limit, you no longer have to fear it, and you can move on more easily.
The Limits of Our Adversity
The same universal law applies to other aspects of life.
I spoke some time ago about how, when one gets closer to achieving one’s dreams, the journey gets harder. But some worried that I was being too discouraging by writing about this particular stage of the journey.
But if you read the article again, you may notice that I never said that the experience of adversity would last forever. In fact, the metaphor I used was climbing a mountain. And I don’t care how tall a mountain you’re climbing, every mountain has its limit. You will, sooner or later, reach its peak.
I may be climbing a big mountain to achieve my dreams right now, but I know that, eventually, I will reach the mountain’s summit. I have to. (Mountains can rise only so high off the ground, you know.)
It may be harder to climb the higher you get, but a mountain is not limitless. Gravity may pull you down the closer you get to your dreams–but even gravity can only do so much. Even a mountain has its shortcomings.
Because everything has its limits.
Me and my friend (the one who spoke to me about the limits of his anxiety) had another talk recently. At the end of our talk, we came to the conclusion that everything in life unfolds in stages and that we had to find peace with that truth, if we ever wanted to succeed in life.
We had to be at peace with the fact that “what goes up must come down.”
One day the rain will fall, and the sky will be cloaked in gloom; but, eventually, the rain will have to stop, and the sky will have to break open and let the light pour in.
Fall must give way to Winter. Winter must give way to Spring, and Spring must eventually give way to Summer. No single season is master of the entire year.
As I continue my novel-writing journey, I am learning that life unfolds in stages, and that we must learn how to master each stage, without letting any single stage master us.
Why You Should Still Carry On
Whether you choose to believe things will get better for you, or not, they will get better. They have to.
Eventually, there comes a point where there is no other way that “worse” can lead to but back to “better.”
This is not a statement of belief. This is a matter of fact. It is a universal truth.
All suffering has to end eventually. It has to. It is simply not powerful enough to escape the universal law of limits that applies to everyone and everything.
So, if you feel like you can’t carry on, just wait a bit longer. Because things are about to get whole lot better.
I don’t believe it. I know it.
much carry on,
Editor’s note: this post originally ended with the song “Carry On” by Fun.