The Paradox of Being ‘Troubled’

By | July 31, 2020

Carl Jung talks about the paradox of life being where the greatest understanding of ourselves lies:

The paradox…reflects a higher level of intellect and, by not forcibly representing the unknowable as known, gives a more faithful picture of the real state of affairs.

The paradox is one of our most valued spiritual possessions.

“And what you do not know is the only think you know

And what you own is what you do not own

And where you are is where you are not.”

There exist two sides to almost every situation, every coin. It’s apt that we use these tokens to exchange energy; value, worth. Or at least we did before contactless. Flip a coin and it can land on heads or tails. See any experience in life and you may view it through finite or infinite means. Do we lack from losing an every day, practical example? To have money be a weight in our hands.

Science describes accurately from the outside, poetry describes accurately from the inside. Science explicates, poetry implicates. Both celebrate what they describe.

~ Ursula K. Le Guin ~

The finite is functional and every day; we must do this to achieve this thing. That’s an incredible skill and much needed, if we want to fly anywhere we must use a knowledge of science, engineering, and the way our environment regularly impresses on the plane in force.

Often “troubled” — or traumatized people, lack these functionalities because their brains are wired for safety, and survival, and they can’t find the means to trust another human being. To form functional relationship, and build a sense of connection with a practical process. The effects of trauma can be isolating. Sometimes “troubled” people are great successes in their physical worlds, their drive to be seen and heard give them an excess of energy to achieve and their displacement from healthy routines and family dynamics lend them to lives of nomadic wandering, seeking, curiosity, or to speaking to grand audiences.

I should say that was the life that I led, although I didn’t do the speaking so much as the sound engineering at grand gatherings of people. I observed these rituals, both inside, and outside of them. They were amazing places of energetic connection and belonging.

The infinite is many indescribable things, the thing that I have found most useful to understand it is philosophy based, making sense of the world outside of ourselves, by understanding the world within ourselves. By understanding that the world outside of us is a mirror, a reflection, for our feelings, and the process we have inside. By understanding that the habits and routines that we build are a rich tapestry in which our stories are sewn. Woven into the fabric of life. We approach each scenario with a framework of our existence. Yes, our thoughts guide us sometimes, they’re functional, yet, the infinite within us is guided by our soul, by the stringency of the gut, and the needs and pulls of our heartstrings.

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Sadhguru said that the heart space is one to be entered with an unmoving firmness of intention, and a purity of emotion. It is true that there cannot be any room to doubt once you enter the halls of the heart’s desire. Of course, being human is incredible messy, and so, as perfectly imperfect as we are we will all enter those cavernous, dark, damp, pumping, gorgeous, ecstatic, warm halls that speak deep desire and push us into places that our mind feels fear. The mind construct, the ego, has to cycle through life’s biggest journey many times in a lifetime, depending on who you are, and what you do, of course. The ego will be born and will experience a renaissance and then will slowly start to stagnate whilst moving towards decaying and dying. Within these latter stages — which we view incorrectly as the final stages of a journey is born the mythic phoenix who rises from the ashes of a once raging fire. Yes, the seeds of life are in death, and we mimic nature’s Ceanothus spp (whitethorn, snowbush, deerbrush et al). These shrubs have a thick seed coat and will lie in the soil for years until a fire passes over and scarifies the seed coat. They need the fire to deconstruct, and that allows them to germinate.

A common analogy amongst my circle is the butterfly. The most beautiful, effervescent, delicate, and floaty of things. Coming from the caterpillar, an equally beautiful, but sometimes misunderstood creature. It’s hairy, awkward, gait does little to ignite the imagination of beauty, yet it’s consistency and humility might. We’re challenged by those caterpillars that have venom enough to kill us. In the process of cocooning the caterpillar must disintegrate into a pile of mush, in which it completely ceases to exist in it’s original form. In any form apart from mush.

Yes the butterfly emerges from the goo of the void. It must undertake great hardship, it must struggle with the constrictive walls of it’s own cocoon, just as we struggle in our birth, with the constricting walls of a womb that once meant the warmth of perfect paradise. Is it this womb like experience that we all chase in life?

To anyone interested and still with me in this article, I would recommend Alain De Botton’s books on philosophy, his School Of Life project, and to listen to this podcast where he talks to Justin Silva.

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Life’s paradox is such, that we must both exist in the practical and functional, and in the infinite and the insane expansiveness of the universe. Indeed, we have both rooted in our very essence. For the elements that make up our physical form are only able to be constructed in the middle of a forming star. The most chaotic, stressed, and gigantic forces that the universe can sustain. We are made from star dust. Yes, we are. We are made from many different stars, in fact. Because each one of our elements, the building blocks of our life, could be from one side of the universe to another. We are infinite in our nature, yet finite in our understanding of ourselves, finite in our form.

Those of us who have been labeled “troubled”, and I need not explain to you what that means because if you have been then you’ll know deep within your infinite bones what that means, will know the truth of this paradox more keenly. Surviving a traumatic experience perhaps; creating a persona — which by the way means mask in it’s Greek roots, to survive. Always being keenly aware of an extra expansiveness to us that we simply could not share with our environment. This speaks to the paradox. This speaks to both being practical beings in a society, and infinite beings of understanding.

My notion here is that “troubled” people are not only troubled. Yes we are in part, and yes we must look after our self-care routines, and tentatively build our networks of personal and professional support in order that we can heal, and grow — the two stages of pain that come after survival. We are those things, yet we also have been cracked and split open, where the light poured in, and we winced our way through into surrender. Because surrender was the only option left.

Once I chose to surrender I realized that my pain wanted to talk and move through me in experience. Energy in motion: emotion. It wanted me to tell my story. Warts and all. Because that is how we gain connection, by expressing our imperfection to others.

In many aspects, the stagnation was my trauma; a frozen part of myself that I couldn’t access, the gulf that existed between my experience of life, or life itself, and my understanding of that experience. Displacement, in it’s orders of magnitude, are the gaps between mind and soul. Heart, gut, brain coherence. With a healthy dose of eastern philosophy which tells me that I am not my thoughts, they only guide me, like looking at my finger whilst it points to the moon. It is a waymarker. The stream of thought. The point is to see the moon.

Your mind is an excellent servant, but a terrible master.

~ Chinese proverb ~

We all must come to terms with our displacement, and awareness is the first step in the converging into coherence of gut, heart, mind. An embodied and integrated pain is more powerful than not having ever experienced pain at all.

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We, the “troubled”, are the ones who understand the most of life, and in our suffering we observe life in it’s fullest, because one of the buddhist principles is life is suffering.

There is a crack in everything.
That’s how the light gets in.

~Leonard Cohen ~

The amount of darkness we can endure is directly correlated to the amount of joy we can experience. YinYang.

Let me tell you some of my process now, from a recent journal entry where I played with the paradox of life:

Distended belly, loose, weak core. Aching back. I’m ugly, I’m a loser, I’m unworthy, I’m useless, they’ll never love me or meet my needs. I can’t meet mine, what’s the point then?! When nothing breeds connection. I may as well just slump down here and die; numb, in the dark, 5 years old, no more tears, fried egg nervous system, nothing left; the void, the first understanding of the suchness, of spirit’s expansive nothingness and effervescence, the whole, beauty in reality; relative nothingness.

The answer lies in imperfection, the answer lies in the cracks that break our barriers open, that shed the painful truth; breed us, have us step out of the cave into the midday sun; too sensitive to handle, wincing in the brightness of our implicated joy. We get by, we suffer, the answer lies within us, lies to us, and we lie to our bodies. The truth, ever-present, simple, yet unobtainable. Hard to implement in our lives and our progress, success-driven societies. The rhetorics and constant noises that promote misalignment, burn out, and bad temper; the fury and the frantic, a grasping wraith trying to horde whatever of life’s bounty into a pantry only for it to rot. Idolizing the antithesis to emotional fulfillment and connection. That is the invisible illness. Dis-ease. Ill at ease. Sick care as a means of redemption.

We are the “troubled” because we feel this malady.

Previously published on


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