In theory, no one in their right mind would want to feel sad about success. And yet, there’s something very subtle happening behind the scenes, every time we complete a relationship, job, or even book. What happens when the pursuit of something comes to an end? And how does that affect our spiritual journey?
Here’s a unique article about the grief of completion and overcoming it to find our way to enlightenment.
What is the Grief of Completion?
I’m going to start by sharing a few examples and see if you answer YES to any of them. Have you ever felt:
- Nostalgic after completing a class, course, or book?
- Bittersweet after a change in your environment, like moving, changing jobs, etc?
- Sad for an old friendship or relationship that you don’t even want to be in anymore?
- Disinterested the moment you “have” what you want (e.g. relationship, goal, material object, etc)?
In all of the above, the common event is completion. And the common feeling is the grief of completion.
How have I never realized I’m sad about these things, maybe, even about my success?
Of course, you don’t want to be hard on yourself for this if this is new awareness for you!
I’d like you to also remember that our body and mind are really smart – so we may have never actually slowed down to befriend this grief if that emotion was too scary for us to sit down with.
In other words, if dealing with grief feels like a threat, it will take us outside our “window of tolerance“. And so, what’s likely to have been happening all this time is that the survival brain unconsciously kicks in to make sure we’re safe – aka distracting our focus to the next thing.
So, as an “unconscious programming” developed to protect us from feeling our feelings, here are some typical responses, based on the examples above, of how you (and I) have been HIDING from our grief:
- Immediately starting or searching for a NEW class, course, or book
- Distracting yourself with the “change”, like getting busy buying new furniture, meeting new people at the new workplace, etc.
- Either “drunk dialling” the ex or running away from the pain by being with the NEW person / binge-watching TV shows / uncontrollable eating (emotional eating). etc.
- Realizing you don’t really want the thing you were chasing and immediately finding the next thing to run after!
In all of the above, what’s common in this distracted way of living, is really the pleasure of pursuit. You see, there is unspoken heroism, a “masochistic” pleasure in that feeling of chasing the unrequited.
This realization was reflected to me as I sat through my 1:1 with the amazing coach, Sorina. She helped me see why I was buying one course after the other, and why I had so many unread books on my shelf.
And what does all of this have to do with spirituality??
Feeling either sad about success or even happy is an impediment to our self-actualization. Why?
Because true enlightenment is about the realization that there’s nowhere to go, and nowhere to be. There IS nothing to pursue and this is the only moment – and this moment is perfect.
It’s a long way to get there, then. And how on earth will we even, ever do that?
3 Tips to Overcome The Endless, Unconscious Chase
Some self-healing practices that I’ve been engaging in, and am inviting you to try are:
1) NOTICE your urge to do the next thing, the moment you complete one thing.
And see if you can take DEEP breaths and create a few moments to just be aware of this feeling of urgency/pursuit of the next goal. Sometimes, the desire will go away, and sometimes, you’ll just have gained insight but you might still end up acting from the survival brain.
Either way, you would have succeeded in bringing an “unconscious”, shadow behaviour to the light. And one step at a time, you and I will be able to let go of our unhelpful patterns of infinitely chasing.
Related Read: Why is it so difficult to be in the present moment?
2) Celebrate completion.
Something I recently talked about on my Instagram story is that in many cultures, death is embraced and celebrated. In the same way, we can honour the time we have had in a relationship, job, or even with a book.
Related read: Making peace with death / loss
It’s important for us to energetically (and not just intellectually) realize that something has come to an end. This is so that we can create the next leg of our chapter with more consciousness and intention, versus trying to “replace” the previous thing.
Some ideas of celebration could be: journaling how grateful you are for the experience, talking to others about the lessons that this completed thing helped you learn, etc. You can get very creative with what the celebration looks like here!
3) Understand your need for the pursuit.
When I asked myself what the “chase” was doing for me, I had a long list of revelations –
- It helps me wake up everyday, because I have something to look forward to,
- Not being able to fulfill a goal has often helped me trust (but first hate) the Universe more,
- The pursuit feeds into my martyrdom wound,
- It feels like I’m growing when I’m constantly trying to do something new,
- And more. It really made sense that I would feel sad about success and might have been blocking my own growth in the grander scheme of things!
In the same fashion, you might have needs being met through not being successful – ask yourself what they are? Maybe the pursuit gives a perfectionist the permission to make mistakes. Or for someone who is uncomfortable with boredom, the pursuit helps them feel “alive”.
Whatever you realize is a great opportunity for you to see what your underlying needs really are, and then to develop ways to fulfill them in a way that isn’t so unconscious and focused on dopamine hits.
As you and I become more aware of the moments ‘between’ the doing, we will grow our moments of enlightenment. I’d love that for myself, and for you!
So I’d love to hear back from you about how this resonates, and if you try any practices out (or if you have your own rituals around this). Drop a comment below to share your thoughts with me!
Vasundhra is the Founder & Writer of My Spiritual Shenanigans. After seeing 11:11 on the clock one fateful night, her life turned around. Ever since, she has been blending modern psychology and ancient spirituality, to help herself and people around the world elevate the quality of their lives.
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