Most problems are created by imbalance. Wow, I know that sounds simplistic, but think about it. Too much of something or too little of something, overfunction or underfunction, underkill or overkill. In one direction or the other a problem is likely to develop.
This principle applies to brain chemistry, body chemistry, relationship dynamics, behaviors, habits and, well, even the very functions of the universe that enable life on this blue planet. Yet we have often tried to live as though we are exempt from, above, or outside of the reach of the principle of balance, overindulging or under-supplying ourselves. And then we get in trouble.
Wouldn’t it be nice if we came with a set of gauges that would alert us to imbalance? Actually, we do. These “gauges” include our bodies—our five senses, our feelings, and our relationships. It is important to learn to pay attention to these indicators of imbalance or we will end up with—you guessed it—problems. If you ignore that red “oil” light on your dashboard long enough you will end up with a dead vehicle. If you ignore that strange new lump on your body long enough you may end up with a dead you. If you ignore your relationship problems long enough you may end up with an unhappy marriage or no marriage at all.
Don’t take false comfort from your old pal Denial. He will tell you that the symptom you are experiencing is not so bad, not so big, not important, your imagination, your partner’s problem, or that there is no problem at all! (Even in this, it is important to practice balance. To catastrophize every small thing can be paralyzing and is a distortion on the “too much” side of imbalance.)
I think that “reading our gauges” is a tricky skill to learn and practice. Receiving good parenting should have taught us such skills throughout our childhoods, but for many of us—probably most of us—this didn’t really happen. In fact, if we grew up in a dysfunctional family system we may have become adaptively skillful at ignoring signals from our bodies, minds, emotions, and spirits. It was just too painful to stay present and feel. It is as though many of the important sensory wires have been cut—or we severed them ourselves—and there just isn’t any signal getting through any more.
Part of the work of recovery is reconnecting these vital input lines; lines that can alert us to damaging imbalances, unhealthy relationships, and with our need to employ wisdom and self-care. It is a process and will definitely include some pain. You know, like when your foot has fallen asleep and then goes into that crazy needles and pins phase as your nerves hook your leg back up to your brain.
We need pain! A great example is leprosy. Huh? Yes, the truly dangerous thing about leprosy is that lepers lose sensation in their extremities, thus no pain sensation, thus no signals alerting them to the fact that they have injured themselves, thus infection. We may have adaptively blocked our ability to feel pain in order to survive, but staying disconnected with it will inevitably send us—unawares—toward some form of hurtful imbalance.
The good news is that in coming back into balanced contact with our bodies, emotions, and spirits also reconnects us to our joy and pleasure. You see, we can’t dampen and tune out parts of our feelings without dampening all our overall emotional experiences—including the pleasant ones. We become generally numb. This can lead to seeking more intensity and, well, you probably already know the kind of problems that can lead to.
We are wired to experience a full range of feelings—in balance. To lose touch with them or trade most of them in for one or two (like anger or lust) is a sad state of imbalance indeed. Don’t settle for an imbalanced, chaotic, or numbed out existence. It will definitely take some work and endurance on your part to heal and make your way back to the land of the truly alive but don’t you think it could be worth it?
There are many of us on the other side of recovery who respond with a hearty “Amen!”