Or a breakthrough?
A breakdown implies malfunction, failure or collapse.
A breakthrough is a discovery, a revelation, a way forward.
Which would you rather have? Most people would choose a breakthrough, because it sounds positive, uplifting and progressive. It means you know more than you did before. You’re on your way to greater things!
But an interesting way to look at these two seemingly opposite processes is to see them as working hand in hand.
You can’t have one without the other.
A breakdown precedes a breakthrough.
Without the breakdown, there will be no breakthrough.
Both processes involve a break. Something gives way or crumbles. When we experience a breakdown, it’s our sense of self that caves in. This can lead to a breakthrough, because our collapse lets in the light. It’s light that breaks through, illuminating reality, allowing us to see clearly.
It’s like we contain ourselves in a brittle black bottle with a cork thrust in the top so tightly nothing can get in or out. We begin to ferment, pressure builds, and pop! goes the cork and our container shatters. While experiencing depression, anxiety or a generalized inability to cope with everyday life, we think we’re broken, irreparable, useless, pointless.
But the shattering of our self-image into a million pieces is a good thing.
It makes personal growth possible.
The American Tibetan Buddhist nun, Pema Chödrön, explains it well:
It is so basic for us to feel that things should go well for us, and that if we start to feel depressed, lonely, or inadequate, there’s been some kind of mistake or we’ve lost it. In reality, when you feel depressed, lonely, betrayed, or any unwanted feelings, this is an important moment on the spiritual path. This is when real transformation can take place.
A breakdown provides an opportunity for dramatic change — a change in outlook, perception and direction.
A breakdown is a challenge you’re ready for, otherwise it wouldn’t happen.
A breakdown is your deeper self talking to you because it knows you’re ready for a breakthrough.
In The Transcendental Game of Zen, the religious leader and mystic, Osho, wrote:
It is the greatest adventure in life to go through a breakdown consciously.
That’s the key: to go through a breakdown (an opportunity for dramatic change) consciously.
To be conscious is to be super-aware. To be still. To observe what’s going on around you, and inside your head. To let go of repetitive thought patterns. To release expectations. To accept what is.
This will let light in, through the holes life has made in you.
Experience a breakdown in a positive, useful light. See it as a way forward.
A breakdown isn’t a retreat. It’s an advance.
When you’re living through a breakdown because your life seems incomprehensible or unbearable, remind yourself that you’re on the cusp of a breakthrough.
It’s time for your deeper self to manifest in the world.
It’s darkest and coldest just before dawn.
With love, Marlane
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Article first published on Medium.com/Illumination