When Our Greatest Strength is Also Our Greatest Weakness

When Our Greatest Strength is Also Our Greatest Weakness - ATH BlogMost of us have an area of our life that we give a dominant part of our energy where we might be most gifted. We could dominantly like to interact with people, devote ourselves to our work, or do something centering on the arts, nature, academics, family, pleasure, success, fitness, beauty, or being likable and unique. But sharing so much energy with this part of our life can lead to an imbalance. We could say it is “too much of a good thing.”

It is almost always beneficial to ask ourselves: 

“Would I be in greater balance and fulfillment if I were to trade some of the time in my dominant area of strength with other important areas of my life that are neglected or not cared for enough?”

It may not be easy for you to find this answer; if you can, it may not be easy to make the change even though you have the insight. Most of the time, this is because the central area is a major source of validation and self-esteem. Or it could be the exact opposite, where the areas you would have to face that you aren’t focusing on or where you have fallen short. These would bring up undesirable feelings of inadequacy, guilt, or fear. 

It takes a crisp awareness, honesty, humility, and courage to discover which area is taking up too much of your inner or outer life. It is likely an area where you have a fleeting awareness that it doesn’t serve you to keep doing, thinking, or feeling something as much as you do. 

At a level of deeper wisdom, you may be aware that you know you want to implore yourself to seek a greater balance. You know that you are fixated on how you live your life within a narrow area. You might also be aware that even though it is your greatest gift, you see that it is draining your energy or keeping you frozen from other beneficial needs in your life. 

As you read this, let yourself identify where you lose yourself in this imbalance because your identity relies too much on it. It could be a desire or action in any area. For example:  wanting more money, more sexual intimacy, a developed love relationship, peace regarding your own mortality, feeling better, having more capacity in any area, and the list is endless and unique to you.

The key is to clearly identify that whatever you over-rely on comes at the expense of other essential needs. If you can identify one area or more that is too extreme (without ambiguity), this would enable your potential to liberate yourself in progressive ways. 

Staying in a state of half-believing makes you think it’s okay to continue this compartmentalized way of experiencing life’s greater potential balance and fulfillment. In actuality, it is often, for many people, draining and is one of the deepest ways we unwittingly sabotage our greater sense of well-being. 

The first step to gaining insight and conviction is by being laser-clear that this identification or pattern is distinctly out of balance. We need to recognize this as a good thing to have this awareness and not be critical of ourselves or at least not get deterred by the criticism. We can trick ourselves into believing that it’s a little bit extreme — one of the most common and dangerous half-truths we can use.

How can too much of a good thing be a bad thing?

There are at least ten people that I have seen with this wrongly dominant energy in my practice, from philanthropists to celebrities. Each of these people were among the most gifted people in the world in a certain area. In most of these situations, the persons were world-renowned for a specific capacity. For our example today, I will focus on only one person, although this is all too common for most of us, especially extreme when you move into the area of great success or gifts.

This woman is a philanthropist is gifted in harvesting one of the greatest hopes for reducing carbon emissions. They have made movies, done projects worldwide, and, to the best of my knowledge, have the most extraordinary expertise and gift of anyone in the world in this niche. So, of course, at one level, I wouldn’t want to mess with the dominant part of what she is giving to the world in such a needed area. 

However, she has left a trail of collateral damage due to being so focused on the progress of working with the United Nations, presidents of countries, and powerful contributors to reducing carbon emissions on the earth.

This damage starts with not being a communicator who builds a much-needed team to optimize her mission reliably. This communication is also needed to develop a deeper trust with those around her. This has impacted her work and self by leaving films incomplete. Due to a lack of communication, she continued to move across the globe for her work, but failed to let others know. This also meant that other people contributing to the project didn’t realize their contributions had been left off. This led to a lot of unintended consequences. Instead of fostering partnerships, communication, and shared fulfillment, it created competition, gossip, and power struggles.

There were many times when she could pull off getting the movies and the publicity done, and an equal amount of times where there was a trail of people, some of which had an equal amount of gifts in other areas, that were left in the dark. This sabotaged the completion of many projects and led to a series of discussions with me about the importance of corresponding with them to sustain the support for some very important projects. In addition, she was not able to develop her capacity to be an empathic, caring mother or wife and left injuries unaddressed in her familial life.

How much is optimal for your life to be centered around your family?

Having worked with a wide range of people, from the impoverished to celebrities, a fair amount in the last 45 years, this area of imbalance occurs quite frequently. This has led to a series of communication that has helped to bring some balance in hundreds of situations, but it is still a work in progress in almost all of the families and individuals that I’ve worked with. The important issue here is to look at your situation where you might have too much of a good thing and see the areas you would give and receive the benefit if you gave it more balance. 

Interestingly enough, it is frequently one of two extremes involving the family. Either the gift is reaching out too much into the world for success or contribution or being so devoted to the family that the world is neglected, resulting in the impoverished and the world not really being taken care of

This isn’t easy to see, and it is all too common that many people who are liberal in their ideas give the vast majority of their time and money to themselves and their families. The price for this is why we face global warming and threats of all kinds today. This is so universal that it is very hard to see for most of us.

Both situations have a great deal of innocence, as the ones I’m highlighting are people who have developed at least one good (or great) capacity. It is helpful to ask yourself, “Where do I see myself relative to the spectrum of family and outreach to the world?” 

This is only one of the areas where we might be split, as it could relate to success in a company where there is a gift, and the collateral damage is how the people in the company are treated. It could be at a hospital where a surgeon develops their gifts and is negligent in their bedside manner. It also could be a person who is doing outreach in the world and is neglecting their own body and is setting themselves up for illness or early death. 

There are too many ways of splitting off to cover anywhere near all the possibilities, but I can say it is a very common form of suffering. These issues have been the bulk of my therapeutic practice. It doesn’t have to be grandiose to be significant, and I urge you to look at even more minor ways that you put excessive attention on and where you ignore areas that are also important to you. 

It is particularly tricky to see this as it’s common to believe we are generous or sincere, but when we look closely, it isn’t true. It is just a devotion in our beliefs and thoughts. For example, as is stated in my podcasts and other articles, it is so common for people with deep spiritual beliefs to be very dependent with their lack of money. People who see themselves as charitable only give a tiny percentage of their wealth away. In these cases,  the greatest strength would be seen as being spiritual or generous, when in reality they were compartmentalized

As mentioned above, this takes a certain amount of honesty, humility, and courage to face and is particularly easy to avoid if you are successful in any area of life. Nevertheless, asking this question throughout our lives is a great starting point to help us increase our chances of moving toward balance. 

We want to ask ourselves, “Are these patterns and degrees of extremeness benefitting my life and those we love?” We are looking for the part of ourselves that we might be missing or unwittingly sacrificing, including elements of our passion, strength, love, inspiration, discipline, and wisdom. The mind is tricky, so we must look for rationalizations or partial truths.

In the past, I have had patterns of being a helper, suppressing my anger, being too much in my head with not enough vulnerability, getting lost in anticipatory anxiety with health issues, excessively believing I was spiritual and humanitarian, and putting too much emphasis on being an “innovative therapist.” This at stages of my life let me ignore more sensitivity with parts of my family and seek out friends that were my peers instead of those I could have a very good way of giving, but avoid my needs to receive.

These show how tricky the mind can be — it is not hard to see in retrospect how these can be exaggerated in my mind as a good enough thing to lessen my focus on family or self-care. Only by doing a careful inventory of the actions, qualities, thoughts, and attitudes can we identify the most significant source of lessening our potential. 

Keep the focus on either one of two things and continue to:

  • Identify your biggest source of where you give excessive energy.
  • Inquire about what areas you’d like to expand in your life.

It is often helpful to seek allies during this process of self-understanding. Make sure that it is someone who knows you well enough that they probably already see this tendency. It needs also to be someone who won’t collude with you by saying things like, “That’s not so bad.” 

You need to tell them about the challenge this presents and that you want them to be an advocate to help you gain the strength to face the issue of being extreme and avoidant directly and be open to change. This requires maturity, insight  and strength of character, and most likely, the only ones who can best help you are the ones living a life of greater openness, inquiry, and balance.

Once you have identified your central issue of either putting too much emphasis on a particularly good thing or a challenging one, you are ready to develop an action plan not out of pressure. But instead, your actions are now arising out of caring, self-love, and a need to live the most fulfilling and balanced life you can envision.

How to improve upon the things that have dominated?

Learn to say no to them and yes to the new!

Most of us haven’t been taught how to summon inner strength with intensity, clarity, and focus, especially when we need it. This is your authority, the optimal balance for you in your own determination of your masculine and feminine energy. 

Simple words like “NO,” “Enough,” and “I’m putting my attention on XYZ instead!” are like developing a muscle. It is a psychic muscle. There is an old saying that goes, “A wise man is one that has his “yes” and his “no.” 

This sounds simple enough, but in my many years of counseling, it is very rare that one person has developed both capacities. As a result, most of us can’t deeply say yes when it matters. For others, it is much harder to say no when we need to set boundaries, and in this issue, I am talking about saying yes or no inside and outside ourselves. Our emotional patterns are usually hard-wired, so it requires summoning up this strength to make a new move toward balance.

As you read this, let yourself in your inner voice as passionately as possible, recognize where you see an imbalance, and give it a yes or no in the areas involved as much as possible (even if you know you’re not ready to change). Keep developing this capacity and realize that you are attempting to reach yourself. You might get clearer about what you most need to say yes and no to as you inwardly intensify your strength. This is a gift to us if we realize we are trying to reach ourselves and be closer to the source of our most balanced voice. 

Another nuance is being able to say no to yourself and have it carry strength and love. It may sound like a contradiction, but the most developed way to say no is to have a high caring quality and respect, as you say it. This reminds me of a movie about St. Francis of Assisi (Brother Sun Sister Moon) when he was in a church and was being shown a vision of Jesus that was false to him. He said “No” in a moving, tender way, with vulnerability and love. 

Another way to think about your yes and no is to add sensitivity along with the power. The no sounds like a firm, strong limit to yourself, and it comes from your heart, which you can feel is protective of another part of you.

This requires us to practice like it was a sport, except this time, the sport is reaching our truest selves and the potency that we each can continue to develop. It is fun to be able to say yes and no and be more and more whole and balanced while we say them. 

As the issue arises that drains or weakens us, we need to be able to say “no” to the repetition or fixation and “yes” to the new and beneficial ways of focusing in our new sense of balance. This is a simple but rarely easy way to develop our hearts and souls. 

It is a way to develop intimacy with both ourselves and others. But there is no way we can have a deep intimacy until we find deeper and deeper levels of our yes and no and let them move us toward balance. So may we all spend time developing this capacity of sincerity to the truth and what is beneficial.

As we end this article, I implore you to contemplate your areas of extremeness— that might disguise themselves as areas of ‘yes’ in your life. But your life would benefit by saying no and improving upon these areas. There are many times throughout my life, personally and professionally, when opening up this way was the key to greater fulfillment than was ever anticipated. 

I wish this for all of us.