Danger and disappointment are parts of life: 4 reasons to stop running from them.

Aside

waves of pain. learn to surfWhen something deeply troubles you, how do you manage? Are your thoughts about yourself and your life at these times helpful or do they cause greater harm? Does the experience of pain open the floodgates for an onslaught of negative thoughts to fire away at you, cataloguing all the ways you aren’t good enough, or is it compassionate in its resolve?

If your thoughts are of the negative kind, then it is possible your brain has transformed your experience of pain into one of suffering and misery. How long this suffering persists for is defined and controlled by your own outlook rather than the severity of the event. This is because pain is a natural response to life being difficult or a problem being present, and is therefore inevitable for us all at varying degrees. Suffering, however, can continue long after the initial pain has eased. Some people live their whole lives in a state of ongoing suffering, either for past regrets and hurts they cannot accept, for all the persistent fears they have for their future or for the minor day-to-day stressors of life.

Learning to stop running from pain requires a basic acceptance of it as part of the awareness of a mortal being. This type of life skill is called Radical Acceptance, and it is one of the core components of Dialectical Behaviour Therapy, a specific type of cognitive-behavioural psychotherapy developed by psychologist, Marsha M. Linehan. Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) gets its name from the notion that the mind interprets life by appreciating its polar opposites. The therapy weaves in the dialectic between acceptance and change. So while we work towards changing our lives in a positive direction, we also work on accepting those unfavourable or painful permanent fixtures in our life or history. Embracing this dialectic is critical to our happiness in life, particularly when life has involved persistent and ongoing hardships or trauma.

Consider these 4 reasons why we must stay in the drivers seat rather than become a passenger driven by emotions running out of control.

1. What you run from, you strengthen.

You may eat away your sorrows or drink to deal with a breakup. You may work late to avoid fights at home or hang onto others to avoid your own company. Whatever distraction tactic you use, it’s all escapism with a neat little bow. The fear gives you an intense need to save yourself, to protect yourself from those feelings in any possible way. Enormous pain requires massive defense.

Numbing or running from pain may provide relief in the moment, however it strengthens your fear. And every time you run away, you reinforce the strategy to manage painful emotions. So the very next time you feel this emotion, you go to the lolly jar or packet of chips. Or you arrange a beer at the pub. Or you run to a friend to save you. And you keep going and going with these habits until it becomes an addiction. When you look at this pattern of addiction (to food, alcohol or work), you may start to realise that it’s not simply the taste of the food that drives you to this habit, but the need to escape feeling horrible, distressed or out of control.

The difficult thing about this pattern is that you cannot face an addiction without facing the truth. The food is not the problem. Running away from your pain is the problem. And there is only one answer: abstinence. It’s the only answer for a true alcoholic and the only answer for anyone addicted to escaping pain. You must literally go cold turkey on running away from pain. You need to learn to cope another way.

The study of pain is an interesting one. According to McKay & Fanning in their book Self Esteem, pain comes in waves. Perhaps the best illustration of this is in the pain of grief. With grief, a sense of loss whelms up, a feeling so intense that one cannot imagine an end to it. But then, after a time, a numbness comes, a period of calm and relief. Soon numbness is replaced by another wave of loss. And so it continues: waves of loss, calmness, loss, calmness.

This is the natural cycle of pain. As soon as you reach an overload, your emotions shut off. You literally stop feeling for a little while. These waves continue, with smaller amplitudes and longer rest periods, until the hurt finally eases. Both your body and mind have natural mechanisms that dampen pain for periods so you get a chance to catch your breath. Your emotional pain has exactly the same oscillations. When you face the pain, you’ll notice that soon enough the wave passes. Soon, the worst of it will be over.

2. Rather than self-harm, try self-love.

Self-loathing, self-harm and self-sabotage are all destructive means to cope with emotional pain. They compound your pain by adding another layer of negativity such as guilt or a sense of failure. These are all ways to attack yourself in a desperate attempt to escape pain. But instead of automatically going into attack mode when triggered, there is another option you could try; self love.

Self-love does not have to mean telling yourself how awesome you are each time you catch your reflection (that is, it’s not about being narcissistic or completely self-indulgent). It is about simply finding your middle ground between self-attack and self-obsession. It does not matter who you are or what you believe, we could all learn a thing or two about self-compassion. As the saying goes, “Compassion will cure more sins than condemnation” -Henry Ward Beecher

3. Whether you caused the pain or someone else did, it’s your job to fix it.

Come with me for a minute. Imagine you are wrongly accused for committing a crime and sent to jail. All attempts to legally challenge this fails. Every day you wake up and face the reality of your situation, being that the law has decided you are guilty and deserve the punishment the crime yields. Every day you wake up in prison, needing to decide how you will get through another day, another year, another decade with this life. Is it right that you are in jail? No. Is it fair? No. Is it your reality? Yes. So what do you do with this life? Do you live each day of your sentence writhe with anger, being highly distressed and agitated with your predicament, or do you work hard on focusing your mental energy on accepting your reality? Who is happier? Who is working on utilising his emotional resources for the things within his control rather than all the things outside of his control?

Essentially, we could all learn a thing or two from the person who works on accepting his reality. This is not about approval. Approval is a very different concept. It is about accepting what cannot be changed so you can focus your skill on what can change to bring about a sense of inner peace and contentment. Life does not exist in terms of absolutes like right and wrong. Reality is reality, and it is all that exists. Avoid adding on all the suffering of the past and future as well. You only have one life to call your own. It is your job to make it a good one. “You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf”– Jon Kabat- Zinn.

4. Even a moment of suffering can be deeply meaningful and a vehicle for greater self-awareness.
Emotional pain cannot kill you. It cannot destroy you, send you crazy or completely take over your life. However, learning how to manage emotional pain takes skill, and if you are someone who feels emotion intensely then you will need to master these skills in order to live a purposeful life. When you stop avoiding what makes you scared, you have a chance of overcoming your fear. This brings with it a chance to be free. What greater feeling exists than the freedom of truly accepting and embracing who you are?

Try these strategies to build your skills of Radical Acceptance in your life:

A. Thought Challenge. Rather than getting caught up in negative thoughts such as ‘It will last forever’ and ‘I can’t stand it’, use coping thoughts such as:
It will pass
– The feeling comes from past hurts, it has nothing to do with my true worth
– I can FEEL bad and still BE good

B. Self Love. It can be as simple as telling yourself you are good enough when someone tries to put you down or buying yourself flowers or a small treat when you’re having a bad day. This strategy involves treating yourself to the same thoughtful acts you would give to a friend when they are down (if we do it for people we love, why can’t we offer ourselves that same level of comfort and consideration?)

C. Grounding Techniques. Grounding techniques teach you to anchor yourself as you ride the wave of emotional pain (sometimes we need to get out of our heads and into our body and the world). This could be via meditation, prayer, yoga, exercising, squeezing clay or mud or slowly tasting food. These strategies don’t solve the problem, but they could stop you from attacking yourself or others in a desperate attempt to escape pain.

D. Accessing Your Higher Self. This strategy helps to remind us that everyone has value and purpose that can be found in large and small things. It involves helping someone else, thanking someone for how they’ve helped you, volunteering or contributing in some small way to a greater cause. It could be making an effort to smile at strangers and seeing how many smiles you get back.

Ultimately, building the circuitry in your brain around coping with pain involves learning how you can get your needs met in other ways. The message is simple: stop running, because you’ll be running forever. Life is hard enough as it is, it does not need to be made harder by an inability to accept your reality, whatever that happens to be right now. By searching for the message in life’s lessons, you are well on your way to healing and growth.

References:

DBT Skills Workbook, by Marsha Linehan

Self Esteem, book by Matthew McKay & Patrick Fanning

Coping Skills worksheet, by Indigo Daya. www.indigodaya.com.

The Complete Buddhism for Mothers, book by Sarah Napthali.

By: Alison Lenehan, psychologist

Hope: The light in times of uncertainty

By: John Shin
Psychologist

On August 16th 2015, the world witnessed one of the most emotional and moving moments in sporting history. Australian golfer, Jason Day, was at the final hole at the PGA Championships and he broke down into tears, no doubt filled with a myriad of emotions. He had just won one of the world’s most prestigious golfing tournaments.

2015 Champion Jason Day

Photo: Montana Pritchard/The PGA of America

Jason Day was born to an Irish-Australian father and a Filipino mother. His family did not have a lot of money and Jason’s first golf club would be a cut down three-wood his father had found at a rubbish tip. Jason recalls seeing his mother cutting the lawn with a knife because his family could not afford to fix the lawn mower. He also remembers using the kitchen kettle to have hot showers as his family did not have a hot water tank.

At the tender age of 12, Jason would see his father pass away from stomach cancer and began drinking. In his own words, Jason became an alcoholic and would frequently get into fights. These events make Jason’s heroics a great story of hope, not only for Jason himself, but also for his family.

Hope researcher, Charles Richard Snyder, outlined that hopeful thinkers tend to be higher achievers and are more likely to be physically and psychologically healthier than less hopeful thinkers. Hopeful thinkers are also more inclined to respond proactively to uncertainty and usually persist and seek different avenues to accomplish their goals when faced with obstacles.

In his extensive research on hope, Snyder proposed three key components of hopeful thinking (Hope Theory):

Goal directedness – Goals are based on one’s purpose and values in life and hold importance to take action. This direction provides clarity on the goals but generates uncertainty in how to achieve these goals.

Pathways – Pathway thinking refers to one’s ability to think of and generate different routes and strategies to achieve their desired goals.

Agency – Agency thinking refers to the belief one has that they can undertake the routes towards their goals, and the belief that they are able instigate change and achieve their desired goals.

The Day family’s actions exemplify hopeful thinking. Despite not having the finances to fix their lawn mower, Jason’s parents used other methods to maintain their lawn. And despite not having access to a hot water tank, they utilised unorthodox approaches to effectively access hot water for washing.

But the ultimate hope was perhaps displayed by Jason’s mother. Dening Day. In an interview following her son’s win in the prestigious PGA Championships, Dening stated that she felt “golf” was the only thing that would keep her son alive when Jason became a troubled alcoholic at the age of 12. Her goal was clear, and it was for her son to continue playing golf. And despite having recently lost her husband to cancer and needing to support her three young children as a single mother, Dening was thinking of different ways to financially support her son play golf. Soon after the passing of her husband to cancer, she sold the family home and worked long hours as a shipping clerk and sent her son to boarding school/golf academy.

Dening and Jason Day

Source: News Corp Australia

Being hopeful is not a form of wishful thinking. Hope is the psychological state that helps one proactively navigate through life’s difficulties by having clear goals (goal directedness), thinking of different pathways to achieve the goals (pathways), and believing that they are able to attain their goals (agency). Hope is about moving forward in spite of obstacles and times of difficulty. For Denning Day, the hope that she had when her son was a troubled 12 year old led to the unveiling of a new golfing champion.

 

John ShinJohn Shin is a psychologist at The Resilience Centre and is a researcher in the area of uncertainty, resilience and hope. John’s profile can be found here.

 

 

7 Secrets of the Mentally Strong

mental strength image
No one wants to be the toxic one. The draining one who exhausts all of their mental energy analysing the many different ways life has been unlucky or unkind to them. Or all the reasons they have to feel sorry for themselves. Let’s be real though, we have all probably found ourselves there on occasion, ultimately leading us down a path of damaging and self-defeating behaviours. But however strongly entrenched these negative patterns are, or however much we are hurting, we do not have to succumb to the allure of negativity, for overcoming misery and misfortune involves making a choice. An important choice. A choice that can remove the shackles keeping us trapped in a web of repeated failure, chronic guilt and pain. One that can help us foster enormous mental strength and acceptance of the person we are. Or the person we want to be.

Feeling mentally strong is not necessarily an automatic gift bestowed on those who easily see the glass as half full. It is a choice that requires cultivation every day (despite what life decides to throw at us). Cultivating this choice repeatedly time and time again creates a habit. And it takes time, patience and a whole lot of hard work to create a new habit (just think of how hard it is to create a habit around regular exercise, eating well or quitting smoking). The good news? Once the new habit is created, the rest is history and we are well on our way to living the life we want.

So how do we train ourselves to exude a ‘can do’ attitude? Well, let’s be real for a minute. Part of this depends on how determined and committed you are to changing. Try to adopt the following principles and evaluate how they make you feel. Chances are you’ll feel a little better. The important thing is to persist- changing negative thought patterns takes time and causes discomfort initially. But practicing these principles repeatedly is a massive step towards breaking out of the vicious cycle of pessimism and toxicity.

1. Realise that the only one who can make yourself feel good is you. People with good self-worth foster internal validation that functions completely independently from others’ opinions of them (the flipside is where you only value yourself when others do, placing an overemphasis and even desperation on the need to please others and be noticed). As the saying goes, ‘what others think of me is none of my business’. Move away from worrying what others think of you and an unhealthy NEED to be liked. If someone likes you, that’s a bonus. If they don’t, move on because someone else will.

2. Avoid comparing yourself with others (this comes from a place of being unsure of your worth). If you find yourself doing this compulsively, you are probably always coming off second best. And how can you foster a positive self-image when you always tell yourself you aren’t good enough?

3. Stop watching for signs of rejection from others and avoid acting based on a fear of getting hurt. If you are acting with this as a motivator then you are ultimately making some bad and self-destructive choices. Be relaxed and confident in the wonderful person you are with your unique gifts and qualities.
Someone can’t get inside and change your feelings of yourself without you letting them.

4. See that no one has a perfect life and is able to be happy all the time. Therefore, when challenges arise they should be viewed as problems needing solutions. Just focusing on the problem and the pain (or the ‘circle of concern’) drains your energy and you will quickly and easily become overwhelmed (and probably build up the problem to catastrophic proportions in the process). Instead, focus on your ‘circle of influence’, or what you can do to solve the problem. If the problem cannot be solved now (or ever), then choose to focus your energy on working at accepting what cannot be changed, thus freeing up your mental energy to change what you can in your life and not stressing on all those things you can’t. The two mantras of the depressed and anxious are the ‘If Onlys’ relating to all the hurt and regret of bad decisions made in the past and the ‘What If’s’ which are the myriad of negative and catastrophic possibilities for the future. These two mantras will only serve to make you unhappy, negative and ‘stuck’.

5. Recognise that the only one responsible (and to blame) for your choices is you. You are not that vulnerable child anymore and you are not the product of other people’s opinions of you (sure these things could contribute to who you have become up until this point but ultimately the job is yours now and into the future). Take your life into your own hands and try to not blame others for your own choices and mistakes. It takes someone with good self worth to admit they are wrong (when this is justified) and to take steps to acknowledge this and repair the relationship (even when the relationship needing repair is with yourself!). Being free of the pressure to please others allows you to take on what you want to and leave the stuff you don’t (could it be that simple?). In the famous words of Dr Seuss:

You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself in any direction you choose.

6. Stay true to yourself by not fearing your uniqueness from others. For its this individual difference that makes you, you and not the person next to you. When we were children we could live disinhibited and free to play in whatever way we wanted. Then why can’t we accept all the facets of our character as adults? We all function best when we are slightly outside our comfort zones. So get outside of yours and take some calculated risks. It can be quite liberating when you do!

7. Leave others alone to steer their own lives as they see fit, not as you do. It takes a strong person to accept that others think differently to you and that’s ok. You can agree to disagree without sensing that as a personal threat. Others need to grow and learn from their own experiences just as you have. Let them do that and you will empower them in the process. Do not be the one who is a caretaker for someone because YOU have a need to feel valued (coming back to that unhealthy need for external validation). If you find yourself being the caretaker of another adult be warned: you risk not being appreciated. This comes from a view that your behaviour represents an attempt to control rather than to provide genuine support.

Even though we can’t control the adversities that happen to us in life, we can control what lens we choose to see our lives through. Good decision making starts with understanding how powerful our thought patterns are and how closely they dictate our actions. Positive begets positive. Negative begets negative. Approaching life using the above principles helps to create more positive experiences into our lives. This typifies mental strength. And builds our sense of self-worth.

Every moment is a place we’ve never been. Meet today with expectation, enthusiasm and surprise. It’s time to start living the life you’ve imagined!

References

Taming the Black Dog, by Bev Aisbett
All of IT, by Bev Aisbett
7 Habits of Highly Effective People, by Stephen Covey

By: Alison Lenehan, Psychologist

Living with chronic pain

Sally (not her real name) walked slowly into my office and chose an upright, less comfortable chair. She took quite a while to find a comfortable posture and then looked at me with eyes that knows suffering. After the normal introductions I asked Sally how I can be of help. She started to speak and then, eyes brimming with tears, she continued to tell me about her struggle with her debilitating, excruciating and seemingly never ending chronic pain. It all started 18 months ago with a cycling accident and subsequent soft tissue injury to her back. The pain however never subsided and is in fact getting worse. Sally stopped cycling, spends a lot of time in her bed and had to resign from a job that she loved. “I am not even half the person I used to be” she said and “I am surprised my husband has not left me”

For most of us, our past experience of injury or surgery is that the pain fades away once we have recovered from the illness or the wound has healed. For people like Sally, who suffers from chronic pain, the pain just continues or just appeared out of the blue and is ongoing. In Australia three out of ten Australians have experienced chronic pain and twenty percent of us live with someone with chronic pain.

It is normal for people with chronic pain to experience a deep sense of loss of the old pain free self. Not knowing what sort of a day it will be makes it very difficult to plan ahead and hard to look forward to a holiday because of the knowledge that the pain will follow you there. It goes without saying that no one ever chooses to have chronic pain. One of the most challenging for us is to accept physical limitations and a body that is not functioning as it is supposed to.

Most people want their pain to be fixed. Many individuals try to fight the pain and believe that with enough tenacity they can break through the pain barrier. Unfortunately this mostly leads to aggravated pain and being worn out. Pain saps energy and all the willpower in the world will not make it go away. Ignoring pain only works in the short term. Chronic pain is tenacious in its ability to make itself known and will eventually be too much of a presence to ignore.

Chronic pain not only robs people of their sense of a wholesome self but often severely restricts their physical functioning and significantly impacts on their lifestyle. Remember Sally ?, her beloved bicycle lived in the shed and her memories of early morning rides with friends felt like a dream.

Living with chronic pain, really living, means that sufferers come to terms with the idea that despite the best efforts of the medical profession it is unlikely that their pain will go away in the foreseeable future. Accepting your pain does not mean that you are giving into it. It means that you adopt a stance of “it is what it is”. Instead of focusing on how badly you want the pain to stop, you accept the pain as is and find ways to continue living.

You need to find people who will take your condition seriously. Talk honestly about how you are feeling and obtain support for your actions to continue living. It may be a family member, your GP or someone at the many specialised pain management clinics (PMC’s) around Australia.

Psychologists are becoming increasingly more involved in helping people with chronic pain to live fulfilling lives. You will discover how to use Mindfulness to pay attention to your pain with inquisitiveness rather than judgement. Cognitive Behaviour Therapy techniques will help you to develop a positive mindset and a Solutions Focused approach will help you to action your plans. Over time you will be able to increase the amount and quality of things you can do. This may be different from the things you did before but your life can be full of meaning and enjoyment again.

Sally discovered that as a person she is infinitely more than her pain. Being curious rather than judgemental about her pain helped her to discover that her pain varies in intensity throughout the day and with good planning and resources many tasks can be accomplished.

You don’t have to be pain free to really live!

Joe is a Clinical Psychologist at Alpha Psychology.  He has extensive experience in helping people to manage chronic pain.

Coping with Difficult People

Posted by Joe Alberts, Clinical Psychologist

If you are like the rest of us, you will have to cope with difficult people from time to time. Some people are mildly annoying, but then there are also those who go to astonishing lengths to be difficult. Examples of this could be the boss who keeps moving the goal posts, the client who acts and speaks aggressively or the ex that seems to spend all day planning how to make life miserable for you! Their behaviour causes you to overreact, run away, freeze, swear, cry, a combination of the aforementioned – and others. How do we cope with the difficult people in our lives?

A wise sage advised long ago that the secret to dealing with a person with a malevolent disposition is not to change the person but to change yourself. A modern sage, Stephen Covey, counsels us to “Seek first to understand and then to be understood”. What needs to change in you to help you cope better with the difficult people in your life?

Let’s face it, we are all animals and as such we tend to react when we feel threatened. Walter Cannon, an American physiologist, first described the fight-or-flight response in the 1920’s. This physiological reaction, also called the acute stress response, is a chain of rapidly occurring reactions inside your body that help mobilise you to deal with a threat. A sudden release of hormones increases your heart rate, blood pressure and breathing rate. You can run faster, jump higher, scream louder and hit harder. Your rational thinking brain switches off and your reptile brain kicks in and this turns you into a fighting machine that has no regard for the consequences of your behaviour. This is a good thing and has saved countless lives but unfortunately also often escalates the conflict between two people who react to one another’s stress reactions. Some of us, however, freeze when we feel threatened enough and are unable to respond appropriately.  We are all unique and so is your specific response to feeling threatened. Know what it is and when the first sign appears take a long and deep breath. This will slow you down and in most instances greatly reduce the intensity of your fight-or-flight response, making it a lot easier to cope with your difficult person.

It is also helpful to identify your specific anger button(s). Do you react with anger when you are criticized, blamed or threatened? Some of us cannot stand whinging, nagging or people who tend to find excuses and not accept responsibility. The list of anger buttons is unending and you need to know what triggers your anger response. Knowing this will arm you when your difficult person pushes your anger button, in that you will immediately become aware of your acute stress reaction and you can breathe to calm yourself down and defuse the situation rather than escalate the conflict.

This does not mean that you always have to let your difficult person get away with it. Making your needs known in an assertive (not aggressive) way will help you maintain yourself when dealing with difficult people. One way to effectively communicate your needs in to use an ‘I message’. The term was first coined by Thomas Gordon in the 1960s while doing play therapy with children.

An I message has three components:

1. A specific and non-blaming description of the behaviour of the other person,
2. The effects of that behaviour on you (and significant others),
3. Your feelings about the behaviour. If appropriate you could also communicate a preference for different behaviour.

An example would be:

1. When you say I am always acting childish,
2. I feel frustrated and even angry and
3. I would prefer that you give me more specific feedback and allow me to explain why I chose to act the way I did.

In some cases, simply becoming aware of the effects of one’s behaviour and the feelings it provokes is enough to make people change negative behaviours. There is however some of you who find yourself in a toxic relationship(s). Toxic relationships are verbally or physically abusive and the difficult person does not respond to your repeated I-messages. If this is you it is time to take action. Talk to someone you trust and start to care for yourself. You may also need professional help. Psychologists are experts in the area of human behaviour and will help you to cope with your difficult person or find a place of emotional and physical safety.\

To find out more about Joe and his professional profile please Click here

  

 

Hope

by May Lim
Registered Psychologist
Alpha Psychology and The Resilience Centre

Hope.

HopeA reason for surviving. A reason for living. A reason to keep going despite facing adversity.

I really do feel encouraged and hungry to know more every time someone introduces me to Hope. This thing called Hope – it’s amazing and powerful. I’ve seen it when it’s full and generous; when it’s fragile and fading and also when it’s been lost and found.

When I encounter people who have experienced suffering in their lives, I like to be respectfully curious about what has encouraged them to persevere. My experiences supporting asylum seekers and refugees living and waiting in detention has further allowed me to witness the significance of hope in keeping life alive. I would invite them to consider, “If you are a candle and your hope is your flame, what would your flame look like now?” Many responses communicated that their flames were weak and faint. Despite the condition of their flames, one thing was for sure – though their flames were often flickering unsteadily, they certainly were not extinguished. Though their hope was not at its strongest and at grand heights, it was still alive and served a purpose.

Despite living through trauma and torture, witnessing atrocities and death, being displaced from their homes, enduring separation from family as well as facing an uncertain future for an unknown length of time, just how did Hope manage to stay alive and keep its job?

From my conversations with people I’ve met, it was love.

A strong and steadfast love for their family and all of its members – children, their spouse, parents, siblings and grandparents. A hope for a future filled with safety, promise and new beginnings for themselves and their loved ones. How powerful is love in its ability to protect and engineer hope? I witnessed how individuals can grow and strengthen their hope as a result of deriving meaning from suffering. It is truly encouraging to experience the positive changes that occur when one’s relationship with suffering shifts into a purposeful one.

Friedrich Nietzsche stated “He who has a why to live for can bear with almost any how”.

“A man who becomes conscious of the responsibility he bears towards a human being who affectionately waits for him, or to an unfinished work, will never be able to throw away his life. He knows the “why” for his existence, and will be able to bear almost any “how” ” , Viktor Frankl outlined in Man’s Search for Meaning (2006), detailing descriptions of life and spiritual survival in Nazi concentration camps.

Frankl continues to describe, “We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms- to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way. And there were always choices to make. Every day, every hour offered the opportunity to make a decision, a decision which would determine whether you would or would not submit to those powers which threatened to rob you of your very self, your inner freedom; which determined whether or not you would become the plaything of circumstance, renouncing freedom and dignity to become moulded into the form of the typical inmate”.

“The way in which a man accepts his fate and all the suffering it entails, the way in which he takes up his cross, gives him ample opportunity- even under the most difficult circumstances- to add a deeper meaning to his life” (Frankl, 2006).

I am inspired and encouraged by people who have met adversity and suffering with a deliberate attitude of hope. Moreover, it is of such value when experiences of suffering become much more than just a narrative – when there is meaning accompanying it. This distinction often makes the difference in the growth of hope for the person as well as others who later learn from this.

It is also noteworthy to highlight that suffering is not necessary to find meaning, only that “meaning is possible in spite of suffering” (Frankl, 2006).

Hope has a beautiful recipe of turning challenges into triumphs. It can propel us to choose how to cope with difficulties, draw meaning from it and coax us in a forward facing direction. Hope can be instrumental in the formation of helpful attitudes and can also be contagious.

When we reflect on the “why” and our purpose for travelling through hard times, this may be unique for every person. Perhaps it’s out of love and commitment to loved ones, a promise made to ourselves, a test of our spiritual faith, a relentless goal for the future, a need to experience positive changes, a lesson longing to be passed down to the next generation, a desire to acquaint ourselves with a stronger developed self, a hope for healing and restoration, a want for reconnection to others or maybe a search for a deeper meaning in life.

Whatever your reasons are for persisting through hardship, may they arm you and fuel you with Hope and more of it.

 

 

Reference:
Frankl, V. E. (2006). Man’s Search for Meaning. Massachusetts: Beacon Press.

May Lim is a Registered Psychologist at Alpha Psychology and The Resilience Centre.
Read more about her @maylim