When told to just daven about stuff, many people feel like that sounds as if they're supposed to say, "Hashem, help me" a million times or for half-an-hour -- which is admittedly very boring and more of a mantra rather than actual prayer. (Prayer is supposed to consist of praise/gratitude, confession, and request, not just request.)
Many people also don't sit down and verbally discuss even one issue with God, they don't mind-map it, or freewrite it, or anything. They maybe notice something they did wrong, mumble "Well, I'll just try harder next time", and then go on with life, thinking that this is teshuvah, i.e., "Anyway, changing one middah is harder than learning all of Shas," they philosophize to themselves. "It's a lifetime of work. Need to just keep chugging along, I guess..."
The REALLY serious penitents may pick up a particularly good frum self-help book in English and then make an effort to apply the advice contained within. (I'm not knocking this, BTW. It's genuinely helpful and there are some good books out there. My point is that it ultimately isn't enough. It cannot replace the good old-fashioned and halachically mandated chesbon hanefesh.)
Delving into Pain can Alleviate Pain
However, maybe Hashem fine-tunes your life so that seeing those warts and stains on your soul are not nearly as painful as certain life situations you may be experiencing. (This is what happened to me.)
However, many people still resist even though talking to Hashem and trying to see the message in the nisayon is ultimately less painful than problems with your kids, shalom bayit problems, neighbor problems, and more. (It is for sure less painful than dealing with your warts during a Heavenly Court proceeding after death, may we all live until 120.)
Why do people resist a deep-reaching cheshbon hanefesh, despite all the pain they're suffering from Hashem's wake-up calls? A lot of people feel angry at Hashem or don't trust Him. They find it hard to believe that He really controls everything and that He really has our best interests in mind.
That's pretty normal, even among the most sterling FFBs.
But normal doesn't mean acceptable. At some point, a person needs to face Hashem. Better to do it in This World rather than in The Next.
Why Worse than You Imagined Still isn't So Bad
However, I still try to feel good about the above because despite my frustration, shame, or befuddlement, I'm doing exactly what Hashem put me here for. And I remind myself of this whenever I feel overwhelmed with teshuvah.
On the sidebar Categories, you'll see "Minchat Yehudah." You can click on that to read a series of posts taken from a book by Rav Yehudah Fetiyah, a fearless tzaddik who could rectify even the filthiest dead souls and converse with frightening angels.
The most amazing and inspiring aspect of his experience was how just a moment of teshuvah really can prevent decades of unimaginable suffering in the Next World.
Even more amazing and inspiring, teshuvah works wonders for even really heinous sins. You'll see that Rav Fetiyah encounters lost & tormented souls who committed sins you would never commit, sins you can't imagine why anyone would want to commit. And yet even a moment of teshuvah would've saved them so much suffering!
Better to Cringe Now than Later
I've even had such people say, "I'm a tzadekes for putting up with this situation. No, really, Myrtle. Don't you think I'm a tzadekes?"
Or, "Hashem gives me so much suffering because I am so good. Tzaddik v'ra lo."
And disturbingly enough, they wholeheartedly believe what they're saying. Yet it's so clear that they either cause their own suffering (because people start to hate being manipulated, slandered and lied to or about) or are likely being punished for all the bad they do, the suffering being a wake-up call rather than an atonement.
(Although I want to say that at least some of their suffering really does seem to be atonement-oriented, like if it happened when they were a child. Other aspects of it may also seem unrelated to their behavior. But
The same is true for people who knowingly indulge in unethical or hurtful behavior because they are convinced about their own victimhood. The other person deserves to suffer because the self-proclaimed victim is merely helplessly lashing out or just protecting him or herself. Lashon hara is okay "because I'm really hurt and just need to get it off my chest." (This kind of lashon hara really can be permissible under certain conditions and with only ONE, maximum two listeners.)
If only they would sit down with Hashem and speak to Hashem as if He is their One True Loving Friend (because that's what He really is).
If only they would realize that they could avoid a lot of suffering in This World if they just took baby steps toward a cheshbon hanefesh and real teshuvah.
If only they would realize that the suffering in the Next World is so much worse and that any shame they feel in This World is no comparison and happily enough, is considered a wonderful atonement and preventative for suffering in the Next World.
I try to remember the above whenever I start cringing or getting prickly or trying to ignore a particularly cringe-worthy aspect of myself, and to feel happy and good about it, despite the pain.
Very Extreme Example:
"Ew, I've just realized that I have repressed cannibalistic tendencies when I've always considered myself the supreme vegan. Even worse, this isn't a normal flaw, but something considered particularly loathsome even in today's most immoral society. I'd really rather not see myself this way, but the shame I feel is part of the cleansing process, and that's a really good thing. Also, I'm happy that I discovered it now and can take care of it, so no need to suffer in the Next World for it! Also, it's not that I'm intrinsically loathsome; Hashem placed that cannibalistic tendency within me--it's not my fault! Please Hashem, help me to overcome my secret desire to chow down on my fellow Man. I really don't even want to admit that I have these tendencies, but no matter how bad I feel, I know I'll end up feeling even worse if I pretend they're not there. Please eradicate them from me Hashem, and save me from them!"
I purposely chose a very disturbing and unrealistic extreme example just to show you how this can work.
So here's the cheerful motto for dealing with cumbersome teshuvah pains:
"Better now than later!"
- Minchat Yehudah Part I: Teshuvah and What Happens After You Die
- Minchat Yehudah Part II: True and Astounding Compassion
- Minchat Yehudah Part III: The Reassuring Truth about Hell, Punishment, Avenging Angels...and How to Avoid Them!
- 4 Things to Know about Beneficial Lashon Hara
For dealing with questions and frustrations about Hashem, please read Garden of Emuna with an open mind.
It's the only book I've seen that deals with all these issues head-on in one place. Mistrust of Hashem, anger at Hashem, why bad things happen, suffering, all the hard questions, etc...it's all covered within.