Official blog for the book "Just Behind the Door"

Posts tagged ‘healing takes time’

Adversity can be a Double Edge Sword!

We all know someone who just seems to experience so much more adversity in life than others. We may think to ourselves if they didn’t have bad luck they wouldn’t have any luck at all. How do they cope with it? How do they continue to put one foot in front of the other and face another day? These individuals can teach us a great deal about compassion and resiliency.

Two studies soon to be published by Dr. David DeSteno and graduate student, Daniel Lim of Northeastern University help us understand the real effects of adversity in a person’s life. We may think that living through adversity would naturally cause a person to be more compassionate but there’s more to it than that. DeSteno says, “Living through hardship doesn’t either warm hearts or harden them; it does both. Having known suffering in life usually heightens the compassion we feel for others, except when the suffering involves specific painful events that we know all too well.”

In the later case it seems our minds can quickly move into a judgment mode. The studies indicate that when we see someone living through an event similar to one we have lived through the natural human response is to downplay the difficulty we had in dealing with our life challenge and think to ourselves, ‘Well, I made it through and they just need to buck up and move on.’ Oh, if it were only that easy.

Each of us has chosen specific life challenges for the lessons involved. We cannot equate or compare one individual’s ability to cope to our own even in similar circumstances. Another way to think about it is that no two dramas are the same because of the human factor. We may have overcome a hardship or life altering event but it doesn’t mean that someone else can heal at the same pace. That’s what the stages of grief teaches us. Everyone has a right to heal and overcome at their own rate and time. Recognizing the needs of the individual and giving them the gift of time and understanding is where compassion comes in.

When we live through the loss of a loved one or experience,moor example, emotional or physical abuse the loss, fear and anger affects each of us in our own way. Some scars are deeper than others and take longer to heal. There is no blueprint to follow for the complex task of healing. Each of us struggles to understand and accept life according to our own strength, tenacity and reserve.

The next time we hear of someone who is experiencing a difficult time coping with an event in their life maybe we could put aside our own life experience, especially our words of advice, and just be there to listen and show we care. The greatest healing energy comes from the power and honor in the human connection.

The pay off to accepting where someone is at and offering an empathetic ear and caring heart is double fold. The person has a shoulder to lean on as they attempt to right themselves after the onslaught of their latest challenge and by bonding with them during a critical time in their life we fuel greater compassion and resiliency in ourselves. Something to think about.

Have a great few days!

A Lesson on Loss – Flight 370

My last blog entitled, ‘Fear of Change, involved the predictable stages of grief/loss that we all experience when faced with life altering changes. I used the topic of seniors about to graduate from high school to demonstrate that even when happy events (graduation) happen it is normal to experience a sense of loss. Why? When we leave the familiar and move into new unchartered territory fear rears its ugly head and can paralyze our thinking and action temporarily. Recognizing our fear for what it is (fear of the unknown) and verbalizing it to others helps diminish the negative effect and allows us to move, albeit, slowly, carefully forward.

These grief stages can be witnessed even more dramatically in sad or catastrophic events such as the disappearance of Flight 370. As of this writing, despite all the valiant search efforts by many countries there is still no information on the fate of those 239 people on board.

The 24/7 news coverage demonstrates the Stages of Loss (known by the acronym DABDA) of denial, anger, bargaining, depression and finally acceptance. We have seen people yelling, protesting, crying, praying, in shock, even unable to stand unaided as they experience the first 4 stages of grief/loss. The last stage involving acceptance is not even on their radar screen as yet. Why? How could anyone hold on to even a shred of hope after two full weeks?

For those of us who have lost a loved one … we get it. Sadly, reaching the final stage of acceptance takes an immense amount of time. The mind cannot process what the heart cannot yet accept. While concrete evidence or reasons help immensely for closure they cannot, in themselves, hasten the ultimate stage of acceptance. In the meantime, the families and friends of the 239 people number in the 1000’s – each of whom are experiencing the emotional roller coaster of grief in their own way and time.

We have all been swept up in this tragedy. Our hearts go out to those who wait with hope in their hearts to hear that a miracle has happened and their loved ones have been saved. Unrealistic expectations? Possibly, but who among us could simply say we wouldn’t be walking in those same shoes?

It does not seem to compute in our minds how in our technologically rich world a disappearance of this magnitude is even possible. Yet, as we hear of the heroic attempts being made to locate even a scrap of evidence we realize how small we are in the scheme of things in our world. A fact that truly humbles us.

What can we do as observers of this event? First and foremost we must realize that our thoughts, prayers and good intentions for the families of those who were on board the plane need to continue unabated. Regardless of the outcome we must remember that with love, understanding and time healing will take place. It is the type of healing that results when acceptance of the event finally begins to sink into our psyche and we move to the question…now what?

Acceptance of a loss forces us to a new level where we begin to question the meaning of our lives. We realize that tomorrow is not a given and only this very moment can be assured. We recalibrate our life compass to help us appreciate a bit more each and every moment we have on this earth. We try, with each new encounter, to make a more positive impact on others as we face our latest life challenge. We remember with humility that we have not walked in the another’s shoes and we learn to accept them unconditionally as we all work on our own unique life lessons. We appreciate life in a different way as we accept the fact that an expiration date is stamped on each of our souls. Ultimately, we move on with a greater sense of dignity and grace in this classroom called life.

Until next time remember, ‘All is as it Should Be.’

Forgiveness takes Work

Practicing the art of forgiveness is essential to a happier life. It is not for the faint of heart. Although it doesn’t cost any money and takes less time than perseverating on the injustices in our lives it is none-the-less a job that requires serious effort. As illogical as it sounds, however, many of us choose to use more time maintaining a list a mile long of grievances and hurts. The time spent reliving the injustices keeps us locked into a victim mentality.

Each time we remember a specific person or situation that hurt us deeply, as we mentally replay the tapes WITH THE EMOTIONAL FEELINGS ATTACHED it is, as if, the situation is happening again! The subconscious mind simply records the emotions felt at the moment. We may, in essence, live through a tragic, difficult or hurtful event millions of times in our minds. Each time, the memory of the event causes a deeper etch of pain in our minds and hearts. We continue to feel victimized.

Mentally replaying these tapes for years is not only unproductive but keeps us stuck in yesterday rather than looking forward to tomorrow. For example, I knew a person in his 60’s who continued to mention a roommate who 40 years earlier moved out and took some of his records! This may sound like a ‘light weight’ example but I use it for a purpose. Some of our ‘rememberings’ of hurtful events can begin to take on a life of their own. Whether big or small issues, they all constitute, over time, wasted energy that will leave us little more than vessels filled with hurts and grievances that we hold on to as proof that life has been unfair. Life may be many things – challenging, difficult and at times nearly impossible to comprehend but unfair- I don’t see it that way. It is just as we designed it to be no more – no less. It is what we do with the hurts and grievances that makes all the difference.

Granted, when we experience a challenging or hurtful situation we need time to process through it with someone we trust. It is important and necessary to verbalize what happened, what we learned from it and what we intend to do differently the next time a similar situation presents itself. Regardless of the time involved it is time well spent by analyzing the who, what, how and why the situation happened. Most importantly, it gives us confidence to know that we will recognize a similar situation in the future and be ready to manage it more successfully. We are changing from being a victim to circumstance to being a victor by developing our proactive problem solving skills based on our own real life examples. Therein lies the lesson of forgiveness. When we admit and take ownership for our own part in the situation we learn to forgive ourselves first then are able to apply the lesson of forgiveness to others.

Learning the art of forgiveness involves a process. It’s not simply a matter of saying to yourself that you choose to be more forgiving and then doing it. The first step is to examine – from whence you came – to unearth the beliefs behind the behavior. Your family members and close friends dealt with forgiveness in their own ways and served as examples or models to you. Before you were even aware you were internalizing their behavioral messages. It is important to consider what effect each had on your present ability to forgive. To start on the process of learning true forgiveness, make a list of the names of these people and then add the first word that comes to your mind when you think about them and how they dealt with forgiveness. As you make the list you may begin to see patterns that help you understand why you respond the way you do to issues. Keep the list for now and we will use it in subsequent blog posts as the process of learning forgiveness is further discussed.

Stay tuned, helping yourself learn true forgiveness is worth the time and effort! Make it a great few days.