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I’ve had my share of troubles – times when I thought my whole world was coming apart at the seams. So many times I’ve wondered what I did to deserve all these problems.
I have a good friend who’s had her share of troubles too. I think it’s what bonded us in the early days of our friendship. We had something in common, something we could understand about one another at a deep, deep level.
Over the years, we’ve helped out each other, talking, trying to dissect these issues so we could move beyond them. Sometimes we’ve been successful and other times – well we’ve struggled.
Of course, our natural instinct is to move away from pain, but collectively we tried to go towards it in an attempt to find a different way of dealing with our ‘stuff’.
This was the primary lesson I learned many years ago when I read Pema Chodron’s book When Things Fall Apart – Heart Advice for Difficult Times. Based on the Buddhist wisdom, it goes against the grain of what we would want to do when things go bonkers.
Typically when confronted with painful situations our gut reaction is to run as far and fast away from the pain as we possibly can. Of course, it seldom is a permanent solution to the misery. Eventually the pain we pushed aside rears its ugly head, and we are faced with confronting it on its terms rather than ours.
When Things Fall Apart
All of us have at one time or another had our lives fall apart. A loved one is diagnosed with a terminal illness; we lose our job, our lover leaves us for another, our identities are shattered, we are battling an addiction or someone we love dies.
Whatever the event, we typically fall into victim mode. We feel sorry for ourselves. We lament over our misery and misfortune. Before we know it, we begin to make statements such as, “Why is this happening to me?” and What did I do to deserve this?”
But herein lies the problem with this thinking. We believe in some warped way that the universe somehow conspired against us, and we’ve been fooled by the powers at be.
But the reality is much different. We did nothing to deserve it.
Bad things happen to good people all the time. Don’t believe me? Stop and think of all the individuals who have been confronted with misfortune in their lives. Were not these people good people who had something terrible happen? I immediately think about all the people I’ve met who’ve lost children. I can’t imagine anything more devasting and horrible.
So how does one shield themselves from falling into the victim mentality trap?
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The trick is to reframe what is happening. We need to pull ourselves our of our own story and examine the situation for the gifts and opportunities the chaotic situation presents to us.
Is it easy? Hell no, it’s not. Far from it. But it is possible IF you can surrender to what is happening.
Imagine for a moment you’ve been betrayed by your husband. You discover after 15 years of marriage; he’s having an affair with another woman who happens to be a friend. For most of us in recounting this story, we would identify ourselves as victims; victims to our husbands lie, betrayal and hurt.
But if we can reframe the story it might sound something far different. Instead of your husband victimizing you, he is actually your greatest teacher. He showed you who he truly was and freed you so you could go and live the life you were meant to live.
Instead of you feeling inadequate and not enough for him, you would see yourself as more than enough.
The universe just provided you with an incredible opportunity to prove to yourself and the rest of the world what a strong person you truly are full of dignity and grace in the face of betrayal.
And instead of feeling angry and bitter you would embrace the ultimate gift and the opportunity to show compassion and forgiveness towards someone who had hurt you.
Kind of sounds Pollyannaish doesn’t it?
Well, I know for many of us seeing our circumstances in a different light, one which empowers us instead of tears us down might be a hard story to embrace.
It’s always easier to be the victim in our story because it doesn’t require us to go beyond, to dig deeper, to see the lesson waiting to unfold in front of us like a flower blooming on a spring morning. And compassion – for the other person who just hurt us so deeply? Well, we can brush that aside like a crumb on a table because we know we won’t be giving it that much thought.
Luckily we have time on our side.
Over time we start to see the lessons, we get to experience the new and amazing things that have to come to pass in our lives and maybe with time we even get to forgive the other person who has wronged us.
Time also allows us to learn more about ourselves. We begin to discard old patterns of behavior. Maybe for the first time in years we finally have enabled ourselves to ask for help, and as a result friends and family are showing up for us in ways we could never have imagined.
As things fall apart – as we’re broken open – we get to come together like never before.
As we go through our own trials and the subsequent spiritual journey, we become keenly away of other’s who are going through their own issues.
You watch your brother in law succumb to ALS, witness your friend suffer yet another miscarriage, and another battle Stage 4 breast cancer.
Through job losses, loss of family and relationship trials friends and family open up and confide in you. You now have a choice. Be the beacon of light and show others how they too can reframe the tragedies of their life and create something different or show them through another choice they can become a victim too.
Everyone on this planet is going through something. But nothing stays the same for very long. It’s always temporary. Eventually, the trials and tribulations of our live pass by and happiness and joy find their way to us again.
So the choice is yours. What will you choose today? Will you choose to be a victim of your own story or will you be an example of all the glorious and wonderful things that can happen when things fall apart?
Because it’s not in the falling apart that the greatest lesson is learned but in the coming back together.