Frank arrives for our session on time. Despite a sunny start to the day, mentally he is under a cloud. His body is full of aches and pains. He feels sore. He is trapped in a box-like and repetitive life: He eats cereal out of a box; sits in front of his box-like computer screen; to relax, he watches his box-shaped television until he falls asleep. For Frank, things do not feel good.
His business partner calls him after an online meeting to ask what is wrong. He cannot bring himself to admit that he feels stuck. The upshot of their conversation is that Frank is told to ‘get on with it’. He puts down the phone, takes a deep breath, and heads off in the direction of the fridge for a quick snack.
For months, Frank had felt stuck. Now, he wonders, ‘what’s wrong with me?’ as he sees others online laughing, celebrating, staying on task, and exceeding their goals. Does he wonder why life is so difficult for him? He questions the very meaning of his existence as he reflects on his daily actions and what the future holds in store.
You are needed here
I ask Frank about the times he has felt good about himself. It takes a while for him to access a memory that he feels offers an appropriate answer. He talks about a group of friends he has not seen in years and a few particularly memorable escapades. As he revisits his memories, he recalls how it feels to be happy. He lapses into silence. I let him sit with the comforting, almost nostalgic, pleasure of playful competition and camaraderie.
After a while, Frank tears up. His thoughts have led him to the sad realization that he misses his friendship group. He is missing emotional connection not just at work but throughout his whole life. ‘I need people, ’ he states in a thoughtful state. The words fall from his mouth like confetti at a wedding; a major change has occurred. He arches back as he sits in the chair and stretches. It causes something in his back to click. I say nothing but respect Frank’s thoughts as he allows his words to sink in.
I carefully observe his body language and breathing. His head is resting to one side while his right leg stretches out towards me, and the heel of his right shoe is firmly on the floor with the toes pointing up. It is like he is getting ready to move. Only his breathing is very slow and steady, each breath seeming a little deeper than the breath he took previously. I wonder if he has allowed his mind to go blank or if he is revisiting several past scenarios – he sits with his thoughts for a while before asking, ‘where was I?’
Every one of us needs meaningful emotional connections and we find them in different ways. For some people, family comes first. Faith-based groups give others a spiritual purpose in life. The friendship from both companions, whether human or animal, can also serve as a cheerful reminder of how to live life to the fullest. Alternatively, there is also value in a meditative connection to earthly elements such as clay, water, or soil.
Essentially, it is finding the connection which most resonates with you.
Genuine social networks are among the most powerful elements as they offer variety and diversity, which creates positive energy and influence. When you have the right people around you, it makes a difference.
Think of those images you sometimes see in travel blogs or documentaries of older Chinese people barefoot in the park practicing Tai Chi together. The low-impact, slow-motion exercise has them moving together to improve their balance as they breathe deeply. They are not forcing anything as they gather together. The movements are natural and slow; they are about appreciating and being in the moment. As stated in the Health Harvard, There is growing evidence that this mind-body practice, which originated in China as a martial art, has value in treating or preventing many health problems.
Tai Chi offers one way to unbox your life and move with emotional freedom and purpose.
The first step is to recognize just how boxed- off and separated from life’s opportunities and pleasures you have become. If you are wondering why your life is in a slump, a great place to start is with your body. Is it possible that your body is mirroring your emotional life? A hunched, dropped, or sore back is all ways your body asks for help – both physically and psychologically. This was the case for Frank. Realizing how much he missed his friends gave him permission to cry. It released a deep sadness, which made it possible for him to move on to the next stage of his life. To build new meaningful friendships and to engage in productive relationships at work. He felt better and brighter in himself.
Take time to discover how your life has come to be the way it is. As you remove each layer of psychological wrapping, you will get closer to revealing the true you and to living the life that was always truly yours.
Unboxing your life is a wonderful present to give yourself.
(Frank is a pseudo-name used to protect anonymity.)