When we feel psychologically distant from others, we tend to stay in damaging relationships and feel out of sync with ourselves.
The obvious cure, as describe in The Way of Integrity by Martha Beck, is integrity.
We can break integrity down into specific, actionable steps. These allow you to pursue your own goals, and not society’s goals.
Think about how you feel, even as you tell yourself you are fine. Are you dwelling on past failures, or unsure of future success.
Are you mentally unfocused, and physically weak.
Are you really fine?
And is fine enough?
Integrity is the antidote to suffering
Integrity means “intact” and is from the latin word integer. If you have integrity, all your parts are aligned. If a machine has integrity, the parts all work together as intended. The same is true for yourself.
If you ignore or negate your feelings, and act in ways that don’t feel good with your core, you are out of alignment, and acting without integrity. Your daily work doesn’t invigorate you, your friends don’t lift you up.
If that is the case, you are suffering in your every day life.
Luckily, there is a solution. By seeking out a deeper integrity – a deeper faithfulness to who you are and how your actions align with what you believe – you can find a new happiness. A permanent happiness.
In The Divine Comedy, Dante provided the antidote to suffering with a roadmap to integrity.
We may find ourselves alone and adrift in a metaphorical dark forest, like Dante did.
He considered this the inner fog of not being aligned with your deep beliefs. In order to again be found, he explained that you must first admit how lost you are.
In these deep woods you meet terrible beasts, like depression, loneliness, and greed. By looking deeper inside yourself and your true values, you can defeat these animals.
Welcome your guide
Your own soul guide will appear once you have acknowledged being lost.
Your guide is not someone who merely makes you comfortable. In fact, they set you free by confronting you with hard truths about the distance between what you are doing and what you know to be the right thing.
Dante’s guide took him to a gate that read “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.”
Thanks a lot, guide!
To get ready for the next step, like Dante, you must accept that you will have to confront your weaknesses and losses. Because behind the gate is the inferno.
In reality, we all suffer. While temporary pain comes from events, suffering comes from how you respond to and think about those events.
Telling yourself things that are not true is not the solution. No amount of false affirmations – if they are counter to the truth – can change your actual situation. Only with a truthful guide beside you can you enter the fire and hope to survive.
Here you must identify the parts of you that are suffering, then you can set them free.
Observe and question your demons
The next time you think some hateful thing about yourself, ask yourself, “Do I know this is true?”
Let your convictions go. Only by challenging your deepest assumptions can you get through the inferno. New habits, new friends, new books – these all can help you find what is really true, and free you from enslavement in your worst thoughts.
Dante argued that lies are the worst tormentor of all. It mattered little whether they were big lies or small, told for gain or to help others feel better. The lie itself was at the root of evil, and also the root of suffering.
No one seems trustworthy when you yourself are not trustworthy. Virgil, Dante’s guide, forced him to confront Lucifer. In this confrontation, Dante learned that the core lie at the heart of our loneliness and separation, the one that causes us to lie to ourselves and each other, is “I am alone.”
Once you confront and defeat this lie, you can begin to ascend on the other side.
This is the end of your betrayal of yourself. In fact, you are worthy of being loved. You now can handle honesty.
Sadly, though, you are only at the base of the mountain. Dante called this purgatory. Trapped between hell and the mountaintop, there is work to do to get to the peak you wish to reach.
At the next gate was an angel who made Dante agree to never look back.
This guardian says to you: You must commit to a new way of life, one that embraces your truth. Once you adopt this fundamental shift, you might miss your old life. You need time to mourn. But you need to let that person go.
Only now can you truly react with justice and compassion toward others … and yourself.
Now that you can tell the truth, call out other lies, and move bravely forward, you are on the path to reaching your own mountaintop.
When Dante finally reached the Garden of Eden, he was washed of his past faults, and is reminded of his strengths and past victories.
You must pass through this same gate, focusing on your strengths and putting your failures and weaknesses in the past.
You are committed to walking a way of truth, a way of integrity.
Sometimes facing your demons by yourself can be tough. A guide, like therapist Sakina Issa, can help make it easier, and make the process go more quickly. Click the red button on this page for a free, no-obligation consultation to see if therapy might be the right way for you to tackle the challenges between you and your goals.