The above example is but a relatively small issue. Stressful? Yes. Life altering? Probably not. What about the mother who sits at her child’s bedside in the hospital; the father who just lost his job for the third time; the single mother who struggles to raise her children on her own while feeling misplaced in the carpool lane; the child who lost her parents in a terrorist attack and grapples with nightmares.
I will not attempt to belittle these hardships with a simple answer. However, I’ve noticed that these experiences can become more bearable with the proper perspectives. Whether it’s “These experiences are shaping me into the sensitive and resilient person I am,” or “The relationships I’ve formed from this experience are deep and will carry me through my life,” or even, “I’ve been given the opportunity to experience more pleasure in the small things in life than I ever thought possible.”
Of course this will not make the person going through the difficult time, “happy” per se with the painful experience. However, when you are unable to change the situation, you are at least in the powerful position to give it an essence that is meaningful to you. This is a very personal process – remember the meaning you assign to your life’s experiences must come from you.
The Present Perspective
Avoid future tripping!
Not only is it helpful to focus on positive thoughts, it is also important to avoid making a bad situation worse. One surefire way to do this is to stop yourself from tripping on the possibilities of future hardships. Most of the time, when a situation is unbearably stressful it’s because you’re anticipating the grief it’ll cause in the future. You might be acting as if these horrible events will most certainly occur and begin to feel the stress in the present. It’s excruciating and quite frankly exhausting.
Typically a person interprets something as bad because of how he/she assumes it’ll turn out; how events will unfold because of today’s occurrences. But how are you to actually know what will happen? Unless you are a prophet and God has recently taken up personal conversations with you, you are clueless as to what tomorrow brings. This is quite a frightening yet liberating thought. If you are clueless and can’t be sure what the future will bring, the possibilities are endless – not just for the unpleasant but also for those amazing things that your heart desires.
Lost your job today? It’s painful, insulting, degrading and scary. Yet you only interpret this scenario as intrinsically bad because of how you imagine future events will unfold as a result. “I got laid off today, I won’t be able to get another job, I won’t have money to pay my children’s tuition or the mortgage; I’ll lose respect from my peers, I’ll be embarrassed, I’ll be at home all day every day and feel depressed….” Keep in mind though, that other scenarios are just as possible. Now that you’re not working, other great opportunities can come your way. Tomorrow you can be your own boss and do whatever you please. You can sleep in, go to a museum or spend more time with the children. Next week you just may meet someone at the grocery store in middle of the day (when you would typically be at the job you no longer have) and get the offer of a lifetime. You might even decide to change careers for something that is more fulfilling and with more success.
I’m sure some of you are reading this and rolling your eyes. I know this because I’d probably be doing the same. You may be thinking, “I know from experience there is a slim likelihood that these positive expectations will happen.” But, ask yourself, are you really 100% sure of that? Do you know beyond a shadow of a doubt that tomorrow will bring you more angst and disappointment? No? Then for today I encourage you to live in the shadow of that doubt. Give yourself real hope and the incredible exhilaration that comes with it. Don’t you deserve at least that? And if tomorrow is indeed horrible, you’ll deal with it then. Today is difficult enough. You have plenty of problems on your hands to address; you don’t need to borrow more problems from tomorrow’s potential issues. Don’t trip on the possibility of some hardship in the future. It’s just not worth it.