Adversity Part 8

This is the last in an 8-part guest series titled “Using Adversity to Your Advantage”.

Whoa, it’s hard to believe, but we’ve reached the end of our 8 part series on Adversity!  My desire is that you’re walking away with a slightly-altered view of adversity (perhaps that it’s just a blip in your story instead of your demise).  I hope you know now that, although REALLY challenging and often-times painful, adversity also brings with it a myriad of amazing, transformative gifts.

Let’s Recap What We’ve Learned

In a nutshell, Post 1: Why Catastrophe Happens, taught us that catastrophe can arise from both external sources (nature, bad luck, etc) and internal sources (health issues that arise from us ignoring a situation for too long).  The post also emphasized that what matters most is not WHY the issue came to be, but HOW we choose to respond to the adversity that’s facing us.  There is always a choice for us and that choice determines whether we’ll feel VICTIMIZED or EMPOWERED.

Post 2: Change Your Thoughts, Minimize Suffering took us deeper into the idea of choice.  It was here that we DEBUNKED THE MYTH that our circumstances must change in order for us to feel better.  What we discovered as truth was that OUR THOUGHTS ARE WHAT CREATE OUR FEELINGS and since we have the power to control our thinking, we can choose to feel better without the circumstance needing to change.  This is HUGE because, as we know, circumstances are often out of our control, so much better to invest our time focusing on what we can change – OUR THOUGHTS!

The 5 Upsides of Adversity

Posts 3 through 7 took an unconventional direction and focused on exploring the BENEFITS OF ADVERSITY.  It was incredible to see how much UPSIDE there truly is in catastrophic circumstances!

Here’s an overview of the 5 benefits:

Post 3: Relationship Overhauls

  • In Post 3 we learned that Adversity introduces an element of VULNERABILITY into our life that can have a polarizing effect on our relationships.  Some family and friends are unable to be with that vulnerability and disappear from our lives.  With others, our exposed vulnerability draws us into deeper connection.  At the end of the day, what’s important to remember here is that we DON’T HAVE CONTROL OVER THE RESPONSE OF OTHERS.  All we can do is compassionately accept their choice and invest our time with the individuals who are willing to stand by our side.
  • Adversity’s First Gift: Richer Relationships

Post 4: Boundary Setting

  • In Post 4 we learned that Adversity reduces our available time or energy (because we spend more time worrying/problem solving or illness drains our physical energy).  This decrease in time and energy FORCES us to take stock of our commitments and assess which actually have meaning to us (and which we’re simply doing out of default or obligation).  In place of being “Yes People”, we learned to make decisions that are in sync with our values, which will ensure that we naturally live from a place of alignment and fulfillment.
  • Adversity’s Second Gift: Learning to Say No

Post 5: Learning to Ask for What you Need

  • In Post 5 we looked at the flip-side of saying no – those times when we need to open ourselves up to accepting help.  Because adversity limits our capacity, we are often forced to ask for help (something we usually try to avoid at ALL COSTS).  We learned some great tips about HOW to ask for help and also discovered what is expected of us in return. (hint: not much!)
  • Adversity’s Third Gift: Learning to Assess and Use Resources

Post 6: Cultivating Comfort with Dark Emotions

  • Post 6 really challenged our thinking by encouraging us not to run from but EMBRACE FEAR, GRIEF and DESPAIR.  The reason behind this?  Our dark emotions are a powerful vehicle for transformation.  Co-mingled with the pain are profound life lessons for us to learn.  The post also made us aware of what our default response to painful emotions is and what alternative responses could look like.
  • Adversity’s Fourth Gift: Self-liberation from Suffering

Post 7: Getting Clarity About What’s Really Important in Life

  • There are 3 common characteristics of Adversity that combine to give us entirely new insights and awareness.  They are: A feeling of desperation, a shift in thinking and a sense of determination.  Ultimately, the desperation that we feel from being vulnerable acts as a catalyst that shifts our thinking and actives our courage.  From there, we are in a prime position to take meaningful action that will have a lasting effect on our life.  One additional benefit of this process is that we learn to take in information from unconventional sources like our intuition, our dreams and our body – all of which point us more accurately toward our true path.
  • Adversity’s Fifth Gift: Crystal-clear Clarity & the Desire to Act

But Will the Pain Ever End?

Yes!  At some point, after you’ve done the hard work of healing, you WILL EMERGE from your adversity all shiny and new.  Note: There is no timeline or 12 step plan for this, you simply need to journey through YOUR PROCESS.

It will feel like the Promised Land and you should give yourself full permission to bask in the abundance of joy and aliveness that are available to you here.  After months (or years) of hard work, you’ve earned this!  As you move on with life, be intentional about how you integrate the lessons you learned during your period of adversity.  Some ways to do this may include: frequent journaling, meditation, or wearing an object (like a ring or necklace) that reminds you of your resilience at moments when you’re in doubt.

You are a TRANSFORMED PERSON, so there’s no point trying to fit back into your old life.  Use the adaptability you learned to craft a new life that works for you now.  Continue staying open to new ideas, trust in yourself, and by all means – educate as many people as possible on the upsides of adversity!  Your newfound knowledge has the possibility to impact many, many lives if you let it.

*This post was originally published on www.yourlifeyourway.net.

what's really important in life (1)

This is the seventh in an 8-part guest series titled “Using Adversity to Your Advantage”.

In the first 6 posts of this series we looked at why catastrophe happens, what responses are available to us and what the potential upsides may be.  Today we’re going to explore clarity, the last of the 5 unexpected benefits of adversity.  This important benefit lays the foundation for what we’ll explore next week in the final post of this series, which is how to move forward after adversity.

What Makes Adversity a Catalyst for Transformation?

It is common knowledge that periods of great adversity lead to massive personal growth and transformation.  What we often overlook is how that end result comes into being.  The best metaphor I can give you for this change process is that of a tornado forming.

If you remember from middle school science, a tornado comes into being when 3 things happen at the same time; when there’s a thunderstorm (instable weather conditions), a change in wind direction (South to Southwesterly, for example) and a strong updraft.  When these 3 conditions are present, chances are good that a tornado will be sighted.

The 3 Conditions for Change

The clarity of thought that comes after adversity results in much the same way, with 3 specific conditions combining to create entirely new insights and awareness.  These 3 conditions are: A feeling of desperation, a shift in perspective or thinking and a sense of determination.  Let’s explore each of these more closely.

DESPERATION – Because of the absolute destruction that catastrophe wreaks on our life, there is often the realization that we can no longer continue on in the same way.  This leaves us desperately searching for a new solution.  While horribly uncomfortable, desperation has the positive effect of opening us to new options that we may not have considered before.  That’s where condition 2 comes in.

A SHIFT IN PERSPECTIVE OR THINKING – Because we are in unfamiliar territory, we turn to our right brain to find creative new solutions to our problem.  Once engaged with our right brain, we can then explore the wide array of possibilities before us without our logical mind aborting the process prematurely.  Inevitably, as we consider more possibilities for our life, the simple opening to other ways of being creates a lasting change in perspective or thinking.

DETERMINATION – As humans, we are naturally conditioned to avoid pain.  The desperation and uncertainty of adversity are at best, uncomfortable and at worst, pure hell.  Our desire to eliminate the pain creates a fierce determination within us to resolve the problem.  Our determination helps us tap into our resourcefulness, ultimately reuniting us with our courage and resilience.  Once there, it’s only a matter of time before things start to change.

And that’s exactly how it plays out.

DESPERATION ACTS AS THE CATALYST THAT SHIFTS OUR
THINKING AND ACTIVATES OUR COURAGE.

It is a rich, rewarding process that results in total clarity around what’s most important in life.  And from that place of clarity life becomes a lot easier.  We suddenly know just what relationships need to be invested in, which activities need to go and exactly what we’re going to do to make that happen.

How Clarity Shows Up

Our logical mind wants us to believe that clarity only comes via our thoughts.  In reality, there are a multitude of sources that we can gather information from.  Some of these may include: intuition, dreams, prayer/meditation, bodily awareness/physical sensations or other people.  When we keep ourselves open to ALL our possible sources of information, we give ourselves the best chance to follow our TRUE PATH.

*This post was originally published on www.yourlifeyourway.net

Dark Emotions

This is the sixth in an 8-part guest series titled “Using Adversity to Your Advantage”. 

In the first 5 posts of this series we looked at why catastrophe happens, what responses are available to us and what the potential upsides may be. We’ve explored 3 of the benefits of adversity thus far and still have 2 more to go. Today’s unexpected benefit- Cultivating Comfort with Dark Emotions – is my hands down favorite because of the radical transformation it had on my life. Let’s not waste any time getting into it, shall we?

What the Heck are Dark Emotions?

Let’s start by identifying what dark emotions are. Miriam Greenspan, author of Healing through the Dark Emotions, classifies the dark emotions as those that cause us great pain to experience.

The 3 most common dark emotions are FEAR, GRIEF and DESPAIR.

Why, you might ask, should we bother feeling them at all if they cause us such incredible suffering? The answer is, quite simply, because dark emotions are a powerful vehicle for transformation. Amidst the pain, they also carry profound information for us. By taking time to acknowledge and feel them, we are able to process the lessons they have for us and emerge to a place of unimagined joy and aliveness, liberated from our suffering.

You want some of that unimagined joy and aliveness?  Yeah, me too!

Actually, I received it in spades back in 2007 after my depression. I had spent years “stuffing” my emotions rather than feeling them. I was sure that if I felt them, they’d swallow me whole, so I just kept them locked in my emotional closet. This destructive behavior eventually caught up with me and resulted in 2 years of depression, anxiety and debilitating panic attacks.

While I fought for my life, I was forced to come face to face with the dark emotions of fear, grief and despair. These feelings I had avoided for DECADES were now threating to overtake me. At some point, I realized that THE ONLY WAY OUT WAS THROUGH.  As I focused on living one day at a time, I began to realize that they weren’t in fact killing me, but instead teaching me useful things about my resilience and resourcefulness.

I’m not going to lie and tell you it was easy, because it’s wasn’t. What it was, however, was immensely rewarding. When I emerged on the other side of the depression, I was greeted by complete and unadulterated aliveness. It was like nothing I’d ever experienced before, made possible ONLY because I had expanded my lower range by feeling the dark emotions which in turn opened me up to access high-frequency, expansive emotions like love, passion and hope. Yes, it was painful, but I’d do it all over again knowing where I ended up!

What We Commonly Do with Our Emotions

It is NOT the societal norm to feel our emotions. In fact, we are socialized from early on (by our families, no less!) to distrust our feelings and feel ashamed of them. Men are conditioned to deny their emotions, while women are encouraged to tune into others’ emotion while selflessly ignoring their own. Is it any wonder that our relationships struggle when we have such backward behavior modeled for us?

In lieu of feeling our emotions, we tend to:

  1. Bottle up or suppress them.
  2. Numb our pain with drugs, food, alcohol or shopping instead.
  3. Revert to a better-feeling emotion (like self-pity, shame or guilt) instead of the emotion that we really need to release.
  4. Think about them instead, commonly labeling them as good or bad (which once again results in us experiencing shame or guilt instead of the emotion we need to release).

These behaviors are dangerous for many reasons, especially because they lead to addiction, unnecessary suffering and health issues that will show up as a result of the suppressed emotions (see post 1 for more info on this).

An Alternative Response

Instead of bottling, numbing or thinking about your dark emotions, welcome them instead.  This can be done most easily by:

  • Noticing when they are present,
  • Looking for the lessons they have to teach you and
  • Trusting in your innate resilience.

One way or another, dark emotions ARE going to seek release. Our level of resistance is what determines the amount of suffering we will endure. Ultimately, this does mean opening yourself up to pain and vulnerability. No easy task, that’s for sure. But much like birthing a child, keeping your eye on the prize that awaits you helps to dull (but not eliminate) the pain.

Remember, like childbirth, feeling dark emotion is a process that our bodies were designed to do.  It is part of our human experience for a reason, largely because it has the capacity to deeply enrich our lives. Won’t you please have the courage to invite them in when the dark emotions are knocking on your door?

*This post was originally published on www.yourlifeyourway.net.