I have learned through my work with clients and in my own personal life that there are three pillars or foundations that I think are necessary for overcoming any trial (e.g. addiction, individual trauma, life stressors) and obtaining peace and happiness. These pillars are: The Emotional Pillar, The Spiritual Pillar, and The Choice Pillar.
1) The Emotional Pillar
Often times, we underestimate the emotional side to our problems. We live in a society that teaches us that emotions or feelings are trivial or unimportant. We focus much of our efforts in overcoming and getting rid of the feelings that we don’t like rather than trying to understand them. We hope that through the passage of time, our problems will work itself out. We tell ourselves, “I just need time.” In fact, what we are really saying is, “I don’t want to feel this way anymore so I just need some time to numb my pain and distract myself with other things.” Addicts of all kinds do this on a regular basis, and they are often completely unaware that the constant porn use, or the “just a little more television, then I will go to bed,” or the constant need to find something to eat even though they are not even hungry is most often the result of not properly managing and dealing with emotional needs. Many of us are not sure how to deal with what we are feeling without making matters worse. This is why therapy can be important. Sometimes we were never taught how to deal and manage our emotional turmoil. That’s why it’s okay to get help.
2) The Spiritual Pillar
I firmly believe that spirituality is an important foundation for happiness. However, I think that many of us often mistake religiosity for spirituality. They are actually quite different. We can go to church and show our worship for a Higher Power but still feel completely disconnected to that Higher Power. Each of us needs a connection to something more powerful than ourselves; a personal and intimate connection. Someone that we feel will lead and guide us in our lives and onto a better and happier path. We need to feel that something or someone is out there looking over us and has a plan for us. Gaining a greater spiritual connection with our Higher Power can greatly increase our individual self-worth and give us the motivation to live the life we need to be happy.
3) The Choice Pillar
I have been racking my brain on what to call this pillar. I think the choice pillar has a mixture of our individual behaviors to obtain the happiness we seek, the work we need to do for ourselves and others, and how our thoughts often determine our actions and the importance of changing them. I have realized that it all comes down to “choice.” Many of us frequently feel that we are stuck in our lives and that no matter what decision we make, it is a dead end. We can also feel at times that we are bound to certain behaviors or actions and that we cannot control them no matter what we do. This is really a hopeless place, isn’t it? It is also a lie we often tell ourselves because sometimes it is easier to give up then to keep trying and always failing. Then we start to wrestle with ourselves. A part of us knows we can do better, but the other part is telling us that we can’t. This is when it really gets frustrating. However, we should never loose sight that no matter what battles occur within ourselves that we always have the choice to do something different then what we are presently doing. Even if it is impossible to believe that we can’t envision our life without porn, television, food, etc., we can choose to make a step in the right direction. Even if it is just a small step. However, often times, we expect more of ourselves than just small steps and then if we can’t live up to our high expectations then we tell ourselves that we might as well not do it at all. I see this all the time with people setting individual goals. I once set a goal to read a chapter in my scriptures everyday. I lasted a week and then gave up. Later, a wise person said to me, “If you start with a chapter you will never meet your goal! That’s like saying that my goal is to run a marathon by next week, but I have never actually ran a day in my life. Why don’t you just start with a verse a day and go from there?” It was great advice. Since then, I have rarely missed a day. Don’t set your goals too high. Start small and work from there.
Often times, we might focus on just one of the pillars and neglect the other two feeling that we don’t need them. This often ends with failure to overcome our difficulties and can lead to feelings of despair and hopelessness. I see this with porn addicts all the time. Many of them feel that if they have faith in God, pray hard enough, and do all the work necessary to keep them from acting out (Pillars 1 and 3) then they can overcome their problem. Sometimes it works too. However, what usually happens next is because they neglect their Emotional Pillar, they find themselves starting new addictions (e.g. video games, television, food).
For myself, every time I face a problem I will ask myself about these three pillars and which of the three pillars I might be neglecting that is influencing my dilemma. First, “How am I emotionally with this issue?” or “What is happening with me on an emotional level that might be contributing to this issue?” I then ask, “How is my relationship with my Higher Power? Am I feeling distant?” Lastly I will ask, “What is my part in this? What can I do to get through this and on to the path I want to be on?”
I believe that if we focus on all three of these pillars to overcome our problems, we can gain the happiness and peace we really look for and let go of the chains and baggage that we so desperately seek to let go.