Commitments are a huge part of life. We make physical commitments, emotional, social and even spiritual ones. We make commitments as big as vowing to spend the rest of our lives together with someone and as small as saying our daily affirmations. We commit to values like family and wellness and to qualities like excellence and integrity. We set intentions, create goals, clarify visions, and visualize dreams, but do we always honor those commitments?
We all know the answer to that question, especially when we think about our lofty New Year’s resolutions. It is human nature to commit, and it is also our natural tendency to negotiate and re-negotiate our commitments and to experience some commitment confusion.
We Pledge Allegiance to Our Stories
A huge emotional commitment that we unconsciously make is towards our belief systems and our stories. We are so loyal to our perspective—to what we make things mean. We pledge allegiance to our stories, so much so that they often become a part of our legacy and get passed from one generation to the next.
As a wellness coach and a person living with several chronic issues including pain and anxiety, the one tool that I have used and taught more than any other is what I have called Story Analysis. Given that our inner narrators are biased, they offer us thoughts, beliefs, and stories that are oftentimes inaccurate and unreliable. For this reason, I do the work of Story Analysis: assessing, unravelling, editing, and rewriting personal narratives with myself and with my clients, regularly. Deconstructing stories is an integral part of my coaching curriculum.
My Story Analysis
Many years ago, I invested time and energy and did this inner work myself. I questioned my thought patterns and challenged my belief systems. I examined narratives, big and small, and uncovered limiting beliefs. And then I did the work of rewriting.
I rewrote my stories around my health, happiness, family, career, and my friendships. I added details and emotions to help install my new, healthier stories and repeated daily empowering affirmations to reinforce them. I committed to my inner work and believed that I was thorough, and the work was sufficient.
Or so I thought…
We Fall to the Level of Our Systems and Our Trainings
As life tests us, so too does it test our degree of commitment, showing us the true depth of our conviction. James Clear wrote, “We don’t rise to the level of our goals. We fall to the level of our systems.” Bruce Lee wrote, “We don’t rise to meet our expectations. We fall to our level of training.”
I watched these concepts play out in real time for me and came to the following conclusion: When life tests us, we most often fall first to the level of one particular system, our belief systems, and then to the level of one particular group of trainings, our mental & emotional trainings.
If our belief systems are unhealthy and do not get regularly edited and upgraded, when challenged, we will unconsciously reaffirm our devotion to those faulty systems. It’s as if we are being “hijacked” by our personal narratives which is why we also find it much harder to access our essential mental and emotional trainings.
I Speak from Personal Experience
My most recent life test of new body aches and pains (especially in my hands and wrists) came out of left field and will probably take some time to resolve. It has been recently confirmed that I have entered the stage of menopause and my doctor believes that there are many contributing factors to my new pains, a primary one being hormone withdrawal. The current narrative that my doctor and I have agreed upon is that my brain is confused and is working hard to recalibrate around my body’s new chemical composition.
When my new pain surfaced more than a week ago, however, I had not yet had this conversation with my doctor and so was open to interpretation around what I would make my new pain mean. Life tested me and I fell, not to my trainings but right into the hands of one particular, faulty, belief system: my pain story. My inner narrator began replaying versions of this all too familiar monologue from my past:
My body betrays me with ongoing, chronic pain issues, which exhaust me. Life is hard because my pain feels so hard to manage. I am so scared of pain and fearful of more pain. Pain and suffering—this is my life sentence…
I observed myself questioning and negotiating belief systems that I was certain I had successfully shed. I very quickly realized that the beliefs I thought were rewritten, were not. My systems foundation was not rock-solid. Denial, doubt, and confusion replaced my dedication and devotion to my newer, healthier, upgraded systems.
Belief Systems are Sticky
But I had rewritten my stories. I had a new relationship with my pain—a new relationship with my nervous system. My systems were upgraded! Commitment confusion set it. Had I not made a strong enough emotional commitment? Did I only touch the tip of the iceberg?
Belief systems are so sticky and seductive. Life presented new evidence of large-scale pain, and bingo—everything old resurfaced, enmeshed with aversion. And to top it all off, I was a hot mess of judgment and guilt for being here—AGAIN! For days I moved in and out of this emotionally hijacked state.
Eventually, as I regulated over time, I was able to come to some interesting realizations. When we are without a strong enough conviction, we are more likely to waver, negotiate, and re-negotiate our commitments. And without the facts and a commitment to truth telling, it is easy to fall prey to the storyteller mind and its brainwashing side effects.
More importantly, I realized that I was NOT here again. Although I was “affected” by my new pain, I was not grieving the way I had in the past. This is because I have been in a very different and healthier space, spiritually. For the past several months I have been blessed with the opportunity to study connection through prayer. I have been honoring a new spiritual commitment and a newfound connection to both a Higher Power and to spiritual, wise women who have helped me to feed my faith more than my fears.
A Spiritual Commitment
Sometimes we need a deep spiritual commitment that will help us to support our emotional commitments. This is what I have found to be true for me: I can rewrite all my unhealthy stories and repeat daily empowering affirmations, but if I don’t have deep faith that I am needed, that I am worthy, that I have a light to sustain to serve a greater good, then I will still struggle to commit to my new systems and to find my trainings.
Having personally lived this has led me to revise my previous conclusion to the following: When life tests, we don’t rise to the level of our goals, many of us fall to the level of our faith and our belief systems and personal narratives, and then to the level of our trainings. Our spiritual commitments fuel our emotional commitments and the two merge to create a forward momentum that helps us to remember our trainings so we can honor our values, clarify our vision, and sustain our light—even in the darkness.
Amazingly, the week my new pains were arising was also the week we were studying about being vessels for G-d’s blessings. I now understand and trust that my body, as it is, with or without pain, is whole and is a beautiful vessel, worthy of many blessings.
Abundant is Your Faithfulness
As part of my spiritual commitment, each morning upon arising the first thing I say is, “I gratefully thank you, O living and eternal King, for you have returned my soul within me with compassion—abundant is your faithfulness.” It reminds me that my soul has been returned to me by G-d with intention; I am both worthy and needed.
This reassures me daily that my job is to sustain my light by nurturing my G-d -given gifts, honoring my purpose, and using my values and vision to live my mission. My purpose will never change, but my vessel—my body—will.
Trusting in a New Pain Story
Knowing this allows me to live from a more connected and soulful place, which fuels my desire to honor my other commitments, be they emotional, social, or physical. It also makes me more open to believe my new, health story which says:
My body is not broken or betraying me. My body is my current vessel for blessings, and it is whole as is. My body does not have to be running at full capacity to be valuable. My body is enough. Because I am supported, I can accept and manage my pain…
As life continues to test us, and old belief systems and stories continue to arise, don’t sit for too long in confusion. Examine your level of spiritual and emotional commitment and become more self-aware so you can determine which of your commitments need support and greater conviction. If we commit with consistency and devotion, we can eventually and successfully shed our old ways of being and doing and honor the new.
Speaking of commitments, I wanted to share some exciting news with you. I am writing my third book now, and it is well under way. I am committed to writing almost daily, and it feels wonderful! I would love to hear about some of your upgraded, healthier stories and any of your new commitments.