What a waste, to just get through it but not grow from it.
As I ponder what to say about tragedy, loss, and suffering, I can’t help from musing about the meaning of it all. I wonder how many people waste their tragic moments trying to avoid another one. Which is ultimately trying to control the uncontrollable. I also wonder how many people waste it by clinging even harder to things in the concrete world that provide fleeting pleasure, in an effort to “just get through it.” Through this effort they do find a little relief, but no growth. Everything we go through, even the most traumatic and distressing experiences, have a gift for us if we are able to find it. We only get to unwrap this gift when we find the meaning we derived from the experience and use it for our own inner growth.
There is growing understanding that those who suffer with PTSD after a traumatic experience and those who experience Post Traumatic Growth have one big difference, the feeling of being helpless/hopeless. When things feel hopeless or you feel as though you are helpless. We we feel this way we stop trying to find the meaning in our circumstances, stop growing, and we begin to deteriorate emotionally. When this happens people begin to try to control things in the external world, shut down their emotions, dissociate, get really angry and lash out, abuse substances, over/under eat, or engage in many other maladaptive behaviors. This is because of their efforts to control things that can’t be controlled like life and death, or our emotions.
So how do we gain a sense of hopefulness and agency over our life without resorting to these behaviors? It is really difficult to image how this can be done when so much is beyond our immediate control. Well, there are lots of ways, but one best is to find our meaning. We can try and find out how this tragedy is developing our personal story, our inner being in positive ways. Begin by searching for what the experience has taught you about yourself or the world. Find out what you beauty this experience has given you that you can bring with you for the rest of your life. Are you more appreciative of the people around you? Are you realizing something important about your work/family life balance? These insights can be many and pervasive when difficulty strikes. You can also ask yourself good questions. Don’t be afraid of the darkness that may come from the answers. Don’t judge yourself. Here are some questions to get you started on your quest for meaning, should you want to find some: Where do most I feel at home? What am I learning about myself? What are my beliefs about death? What would I change if death was closer than I thought? Do I have something I still need to do? Is my work meaningful to me or to the world? Why am I in this relationship? Who are my true friends? What role does play and creativity play in my life? What am I missing?
Don’t waste this time by just getting through this crisis, find a way to grow and connect to yourself more deeply.
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