How To Stop Struggling

How To Stop StrugglingWhat is your biggest fear? I have a few, mainly having to do with my kids, my husband and loss. But my longest held fear is that I’ll be buried alive in a coffin, six feet below the ground. I’ve spent many hours at night thinking about what this would feel like; not being able to move or see or breathe, then dying that way, eventually.

The fact that I can write about this today and not work myself into a panic attack is huge progress for me, and I’m actually surprised to find myself not really believing in this fear anymore, even as I’m writing about it!

I know how I got here. It’s because I’m learning to give up control of my thoughts.

When people tell me I’m a control freak they don’t understand the depth of it. I’ve always known I like to be in charge of things. I mean, I really like to be in charge. I like picking the restaurant, having people over to MY house, a good Cabernet—not a Malbec or a Pinot Noir, thank you very much. I like things to be my way or the highway, as they say. But that’s not it. I also try to control everything I think and everything everyone else thinks. Oh, and I can’t leave out how I think I can control situations, my health, my family’s health, the reviews I get for my books, animal abusers, people abusers, politicians, natural disasters and universal law.

That’s quite the list, isn’t it? Of course I now know I can’t control any of these things. Well, except for one. Universal law.

Okay, maybe I can’t exactly control universal law, but I learned that I can work with it. And in a way, that’s a form of control, so it makes me happy. Let me give you a great example of how universal law works.

I often have a dream where I’m sleeping, and I know I’m sleeping. My comforter is over my head and I can’t breathe. I desperately want to yank the comforter off, but I can’t move a muscle. Not even my pinkie finger (I’ve tried). I panic then, and struggle to wake myself up, but the more I struggle the worse it gets. I always wake up eventually, but it’s traumatic.

The other night I did something different. Instead of struggling I tried to relax. At first it felt like if I didn’t fight I would die. Relaxing felt harder than struggling; it felt like I was giving up. It went against my natural fight or flight instinct, but for the tiniest of moments I let my mind settle, and my body followed suit, and that’s all I remember before waking up peacefully in the morning.

In many areas of my life I’ve experienced first hand what struggle does and what non-struggle does, and it’s obvious to me that there’s a universal law at work here. Think about the ocean. When the waves are raging on a windy day, the ocean lets them. And when they’re done raging, they settle down and everything is calm again. But what if the ocean decided it didn’t like how the waves were acting? It didn’t appreciate how the waves made it feel, so it attacked them or tried to get rid of them. The waves would have to fight back then, wouldn’t they? Because that’s the order of things. There would be conflict then, and who knows how long the conflict would last.

The only reason we suffer is because of our thoughts. But don’t go bad mouthing your thoughts now! Thoughts are neither good nor bad, even if they feel good or bad. Your thoughts about your thoughts are just thoughts too, and they come and go like the waves. They become a problem when we believe in them and judge them and try to do something about them. And just to be clear, every thing we think is a thought. From our opinions to our judgements to our fears.

So relax. Stop struggling, and let the universe work for you instead of against you.

Denise Barry is the author of the award winning children’s picture books “What Does the Tooth Fairy Do with Our Teeth?” and “Soap On A Rope.” She also writes inspirational articles for various websites, including Positively Positive, Manifest Station, Karen Salmansohn and Dirty Girl Mud Run. She writes a parenting blog on her own website called Raisin’ Kids, to help parents raise children who become adults, not adult children. Please visit her website at

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