• Marianne Gernetzke, MS, NBC-HWC, A-CFHC

Shifting Our Focus: From Darkness to Light

“People are like stained glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light within.” Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

This is one of my most favorite quotes.

We’ve all have experienced or will experience darkness at some time: the loss of a loved one, the onset of illness or disability, disappointments in our career, financial hardships, or perhaps the end of a relationship. When the darkness sets in, we can feel alone and isolated. Life can seem to lack hope or meaning. We may experience this as an emotional/existential crisis as well as spiritual crisis, a dark night of the soul. This is a time of confusion and loss.

Our natural response to these circumstances is to focus on the darkness. We refuse to take our eyes off of it. We think obsessively about it, and we resist acceptance of it. It feels like it engulfs us.

This is a natural human response.

As humans, we have a negativity bias. Negative experiences impact us more profoundly than positive ones. This is why we often dismiss positive experiences – like receiving a compliment, for example -- while instead ruminating on insults, worries about the future, or past traumas. We are wired to focus on any signs that darkness is looming on the horizon.

The great news about human wiring is that it can change. Our brains have a characteristic of neuroplasticity – the ability to be reshaped by our own choices and experiences – and each of us can take part in the reshaping of our brains, our thinking habits, and of our lives.

What if, instead of focusing on the darkness, we choose to focus on the light that remains within? Even if it is ever so dim?

Sometimes it can be very hard to access the light within us. In some cases, this may mean that we are experiencing symptoms of panic or depression. These symptoms should be taken seriously. If you are in this situation, please reach out for help: call the national suicide prevention helpline (800-273-8255) or consult a psychotherapist for support.

The onset of darkness can be a wakeup call to look within ourselves. This journey can be a difficult one. Thankfully, we do not have to enter into this journey alone. The support of friends, family, a therapist, or a coach can be most helpful.

When we first look inside, we may not know how to access our inner light or inner truths. We may have unconscious thought patterns that have obscured our own authentic inner light. Perhaps we are focused on judgment, misinterpretation, toxic shame/regret, blame, fear, addiction, or a lack of self-acceptance. We might be trying to please others at the expense of our own being. We may be unknowingly suppressing our emotions or trying to hide from our own vulnerabilities. Our mental or behavioral reactivity to situations may be leading us astray. Working to manage these obstructions can lead to fruitful discoveries – and rewiring of our brain as well.

The place we can look to find these obstructions is within our own story. Taking a hard look at the stories that we tell ourselves about our lives may unearth the realization that WE are subconsciously dimming our own light. We can detach from these obstructive thought patterns through a gentle process of self-awareness, adapting our thinking, and offering ourselves kindness and compassion.

How will we know when we have reconnected to our inner light? When we are able to revisit those experiences that make us feel most alive. When we are in our truth, we express it through creativity, wisdom, spirit, joy and love. We discover in these situations we are utilizing our personal strengths, living true to our personal values, or thriving within an activity or state of being that causes us to experience a flow state. Our lives begin to feel harmonious.

When do you feel most alive?

Shifting our focus to positive thought processes and the light within ourselves and others can be transformative. We may start to see each and every person around us as a stained-glass window. And the light that we share through our unique lens can be experienced by others. Our light and authenticity brings new sources of connection to others and the world.

As a holistic health and wellness coach, I believe we all have light and the capacity to shine. It is my privilege to help individuals engage in the work of shifting focus and uncovering their authentic light.

Shine on, beautiful soul!

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