Carina’s text brightened the screen of my phone a little bit after midnight.
Three words, in upper case letters.
flickered on the screen.
What the %@#&*?
It was just the other day that we were discussing wedding plans. Should the wedding take place in sunny Santorini or at the country club of a Connecticut town where his family belonged for three generations?
No dilemma now.
Is there anything one can do when there is pain? A sense of overwhelming loss?
I think there is. My experience also tells me that many people are afraid to see that, for a simple reason- fear of not succeeding in dealing with the pain. This fear is as agonizing as the painful experience itself.
Recognize it’s a hard time and accept it. That means stop angrily asking yourself “why did this happen to me?” or “how did I bring this to me?” Most people fight the idea that something bad happened and have a hard time realizing that this is really happening. It feels like a bad dream. Like one of those nightmares when you try to run, and you are stuck. When you try to scream, you open your mouth, and nothing comes out. And then you are frozen with fear. And hopeless. Feeling lost. Because when we don’t acknowledge our reality, there’s nothing much we can do about it. First step is to accept the fact. It’s happening, to us, right this minute. And you know what? It doesn’t even matter whose fault it is, because still, it is.
Analyze the situation objectively. Take my word that ruminating and playing over in your head what happened is not all that useful after a while. Press the pause button. Step away from the situation. What really happened? What would a third person see? Why this thing or situation happened? Did you do something wrong? Was it out of your control? It’s better if you do this in writing. The key here is not to just let your anger sweep away your ability to see things objectively. Concentrate on the facts. See who or what went wrong. Allow yourself not get tangled in the game of finding the “culprit.” Give yourself some space to see things from a different perspective, in the light of “what is,” not what “it might have been.”
List solutions- small, big, easy, difficult, immediate or that can work in the long-run. Make a plan on when you are going to start implementing them. List S.M.A.R.T. goals (small, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound). Which goal/solution pair comes first? That’s where the work comes in. Trying to figure out a solution. To manage the situation. To manage your thoughts and feelings. Because if you don’t do it for yourself, nobody can do it for you.
Think of other instances in the past when you had hard times in your life (and your survived them and you are here reading this post)- what did you do then? What qualities that you have helped you overcome them? List your qualities. I know it’s hard. Please do me a favor- don’t, don’t tell me that you don’t have any qualities. I know you do. Everybody has qualities inside them. Our amazing self is there. Granted, sometimes scared, sometimes angry, sometimes, hiding. But the true qualities are there. Be gentle with yourself.
Connect with people. Even reading this article is a form of connection. Commenting on it goes a bit further. Sending a mail, text, message of any kind to a friend is even better. Picking up the phone and arranging to see them face-to-face would be the best. Yes, you may need time to gather up your pieces. Yes, you may feel vulnerable. Or you may have lost the ability to believe in others, or even yourself. Broken trust. It takes time to heal. But living just in your head, simmering in a bad mood and thinking negative thoughts is not going to get your anywhere anytime soon. Be careful. Be selective. Socializing with others doesn’t mean necessarily that you confide in them, that you open your heart and reveal your secrets and your feelings. It’s about being with other people, who think positively, who have common interests with you and can engage at a personal level.
Focus on the positive in your life. Most people tend to see things black or white, and at hard times they focus exclusively on the negative. This may be truly a survival mechanism, focusing on the negative in order to solve it or to know what it is so that you avoid it next time. The human brain as different researchers attest is like Velcro for the negative experiences but like Teflon for the positive ones. So we need to learn and consciously focus on the positive, if we want our lives to have more of that. Our brain process information in many different ways and sometimes it tricks us. In the following optical illusion, do you see a duck or a rabbit?
Of course, your life or your well-being are not depending on that, but that’s how you process information and that’s what your experience is- a duck or a rabbit. Positive or negative. Negative or positive. I don’t have anything against ducks or rabbits! If you saw the duck first, for example, alerting you to the fact that there’s a rabbit (or vice versa) gives you this aha! experience. “Yes, I see it.” Even if it takes you a while, even if you search, and squint, and turn the image around trying hard to see the other animal. Eventually you will see it. And that’s the whole point. Where you choose to focus, the positive or the negative, is going to be your perception, your thought content, your emotions and, ultimately, your actions. And all of the above make up a bigger whole, the amazing you!
So next time you deal with a difficult situation, please remember this amazing you and treat her/him with love, kindness, and respect.
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