Try harder – or try softer, compassionately listen?

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By Dave Henning / November 8, 2020

“Dear reader, there are truly times when the best, healthiest, most productive thing we can do is not to try harder, but rather to try softer; to compassionately listen to our needs so we can move through pain — and ultimately life — with more gentleness and resilience.”- Aundi Kolber

In the Introduction to her debut book Try Softer: A Fresh Approach to Move Us out of Anxiety, Stress, and Survival Mode — and into a Life of Connection and Joy, Aundi Kolber describes a tough year she had as a therapist.  Aundi felt suffocated, exhausted, anxious, and amped up.  Also, she believed the very fiber of her soul might give out if she tried to do or figure out one more thing.

But, Aundi grew up in a dysfunctional and chaotic family.  Consequently, she never fully learned how to hold the pain of others without fully internalizing it.  Therefore, she talked to her clinic supervisor.  And he advised Aundi to simply change the way she cared for her clients.  Rather than trying harder, perhaps she needed to try softer.

However, while trying softer sounds really nice, how do you survive if you don’t try harder?  Because, at some point, trying harder fails to work.  In addition, while such strategies help you survive for a time, eventually they take their toll.  Thus, you feel less in control, not more; weary, not wise.  Furthermore, as long as that pattern of behavior persists, those unhealthy actions keep you from being truly present.  Also, they keep you from paying attention to what matters most.

Finally, you wonder, if I simply ‘try softer,’ who will pick up the slack and do the hard stuff?  Certainly, you don’t wake up every morning and try to sabotage your life as you opt to push hard.  Above all, Aundi concludes:

“While hard work is valuable and necessary, there is a difference between pushing ourselves well and hurting ourselves by perpetuating harmful patterns.”

Today’s question: Do you find yourself often opting to try harder?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: the annotated bibliography of The Sacred Chase

About the author

Dave Henning

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