As a therapist, I witness people whose lives have fallen apart or have become unbearable to continue as is. I often hear the simple but dreadfully difficult question to answer, “Why?” People naturally long to create meaning from their emotional pain.
Resilience is called upon when we face tough situations. We want to bounce back, become stronger, and flourish from those nasty moments. These adversities may include death of a loved one or the hurt of being bullied, verbally abused, harassed, or dismissed. They may include enduring illness and physical discomfort. They also may include loss; loss of a job, identity, sweet-heart, or self-respect. But we are not hapless or helpless. We, alone, can create meaning to our circumstances.
Creating meaning to our hardship or loss is a process. It cannot be rushed. Here are some ways that have worked for many.
12 Ways to Create Meaning
- Notice the grit and strengths that surface to sustain you. Then acknowledge them. Tell someone, “This is hard and I can do it.”
- Acknowledge both your strengths and weaknesses. Ask for help with your weaknesses.
- Turn inside and discover parts of yourself not yet known. Sometimes this is called Personal Growth. The first step is to acknowledge your feelings.
- Use the crisis as an opportunity to discover places and experiences that need to heal. Take some self-time and consider therapy to help mend your wounds.
- Learn who your true friends are. Notice who responds to your distress. Notice who is reliable, supportive, caring or unreliable, unavailable or judgmental. Maybe you need to find new friends.
- Allow yourself to ask existential questions such as “Why me?” “What is my purpose?” and “Who am I?”
- Begin a spiritual practice such as yoga, meditation or prayer to discover your internal essence; a part of you that is a BEing, separate from DOing.
- Make a difference to protect others from future pain. Becoming a therapist gave meaning to my own childhood abuse. Writing the book, Love Her As She Is: Lessons from a Daughter Stolen by Addiction helped. It gave meaning to the challenges of loving our dear Kelly during many disturbing years. Participating in the Father’s Day Walk for prostate cancer helped give meaning to my husband, Les’ prostate cancer—his operation, radiation, and continued treatment. Mothers, who had their children killed due to those who drank and drove, created MADD—Mothers Against Drunk Driving.
- Realize that life is filled with paradox — shadow and light, yin and yang, the wise fool, and endings are beginnings.
- Develop a practice of self-compassion to help you contain negative self-chatter and embrace yourself with loving kindness.
- Discover the wonder of forgiveness, gratitude, and hope.
- Collect sayings that support you in the tough times. Here are four of my favorites:
- If I am not for me, who will be? If I am only for me, what is the point? Hillel, Ancient Philosopher
- Grant me the serenity to accept what I can change, the courage to change what I can and the wisdom to know the difference. Reinhold Niebuhr, American theologian
- The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain. Kahlil Gibran, Philosopher and Poet
- Whenever something negative happens to you, there is a deep lesson concealed within it. Eckhart Tolle, author of The Power of Now
How do you create meaning from your life pains, hurts and challenges?
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