You can’t run away from trouble. There ain’t no place that far. ~ Uncle Remus
Other things you can’t run away from; boredom, anger, anxiety, grief, loneliness, a sense of meaninglessness… you get the picture. All of those things come with you, no matter where you go. And running away doesn’t have to mean physically leaving. You can try to outrun your troubles by staying busy, getting into one new relationship or job after another, shopping, watching TV, “buffering” with alcohol or food, and so on.
It’s such a human reaction: when we’re unhappy, we automatically look outside of ourselves for the culprit. What do we need to change “out there?” What’s wrong with our situation, and how do we fix it (or, failing that, at least make the pain less noticeable)?
The problem with this external focus is that it distracts us from the real source of our discomfort, which is almost always internal. Even if there are circumstances that legitimately need to be changed, when we act too hastily we usually just recreate the same unhappiness in a new iteration.
So what can you do if you’re not feeling happy? Try sinking in a little deeper. By that I mean: make an assumption that it isn’t a mistake where you are right now, and it isn’t random, either. Make an assumption that the situation you are in was handpicked for you at this very moment to be the perfect vessel for your highest good to unfold—and then study it intently.
What is going on, exactly? What feelings keep coming up, and in what situations? What repetitive thoughts or judgments do you have? (I’ll never have a good relationship.) Where is this like other situations in your past? What do you fantasize about? (If I could just find a different job, my whole life would be better!)
Take your time, and get crystal clear about your own role in the relationships or situations that appear to be causing your unhappiness. Yes, you can still make a change eventually, and once you become aware of your patterns you’ll have valuable information to help you choose better in the future.
Often the changes will even happen by themselves, once you’ve identified and dealt with the internal patterns that have kept you stuck… there’s simply no longer a purpose for them. And it’s also possible that the self-knowledge you gain will help resolve the problem without making any external changes at all.
I’ve spent much of my life feeling discontented with present circumstances, trying to get somewhere different from where I am. Only recently am I coming to appreciate the perfection of my life exactly as it is, even when it seems far from perfect—maybe especially when it’s far from perfect. I am here in this exact situation for a purpose. Why run away (even if I could)?