We all face adversity in life – adversity that becomes embedded deep within our psyche and can lead to issues later through life, but we also all have the key to dealing with it.
If there’s one certainty in life, it’s that, somewhere along the way, we’re going to face adversity – and it’s not just going to be once or twice or a handful of times; it’s bound to happen repeatedly.
We all have relationships that have their ups and downs, or break-up; we have jobs we don’t like, or where we’re frustrated because we’re under-appreciated and taken advantage of; we have parents who age, grow ill, and pass on; we have partners who can anger or disappoint us; we have children who can infuriate us – and this is barely touching on the panorama of our experiences.
Think about your life and what you’ve gone through to get to where you are now. In all likelihood, you’ve endured your share of heartbreak and pain. It’s the human condition. From the time we first stumble as children, scrape our knees, and cry (usually seeking our parents’ assurance), we grow to experience lives of amazing discoveries, achievements, and wonders, not to mention debilitating lows and tears.
It might not seem this way to you right now, sitting where you are. You might think you’ve lived a perfectly mundane life: get up, have breakfast, work your job, come home. If you’re single, you might catch up with friends here and there. If you’re half of a couple, you might come home to your partner, yet still do routine things. If you’re a parent, you might be caught in the cycle of taking care of the kids, ferrying them around, and running a home. And while this is going on, you mightn’t think a second thought about any of it. It might only be extraordinary (to you) in how ordinary it is.
Think about the way a child approaches the world, though, seeing things for the first time with innocent and yet unfathomable wonder. Even animals seem to get it right, when they stare at something with quizzical eyes, tilting their heads as they try to puzzle something that is truly, marvellously incomprehensible to them.
Somewhere along the line, we lose that. We become dulled to the world around us and are only touched at rare times – if our children accomplish a first, or we see some photographer’s sweeping vistas via social media. Then we pause, take a breath, and for a moment – but just the moment – we open ourselves to not only the world around us, but to our capacity to enjoy it.
Trauma works differently. Trauma doesn’t need such subtlety. It hits us with the violence of a freight train, knocks us down, and leaves us usually shocked (at least to begin with), and then trying to deal with whatever the issue is in a kind of stupor.
And we’ve all done it, whatever the trauma is – from our first break-up to the most adult and significant problems that affect us as we grow older.
Some of us become inept in dealing with issues. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. For whatever reason – whether it’s the nature of who we are, the nurture of who we’ve been groomed to be, or just some totally random element – weighty issues in our lives can incapacitate us, or force us into measures where we medicate to cope, whether that’s through drinking, or binge-eating, or simply feeling incapable of facing the world for however long.
Others tackle issues head-on, break them down into practical steps that need to be taken, and then go about taking them. For instance, if a loved one dies, instead of dealing with the grief, we break it down into the components of what’s required, e.g. notifying the family, funeral arrangements, etc., but all these actions are, ultimately, physical actions, designed and executed to impose order upon our physical world. Certainly, there are emotional resolutions in taking these courses, similar to the way we might feel freer and clearer after a bout of de-cluttering our office or home, but the thing with emotional trauma is it can take root, and while we can unburden ourselves (or seem to unburden ourselves) from what’s on the surface, it’s what’s burrowed under the surface that causes issues.
How many times have our responses in the present been governed by something that’s happened to us in the past? Sometimes, we respond unthinkingly, on autopilot, irrespective of whether it’s the right course of action or not. An example is somebody who had an untrustworthy spouse in the past, treating their current spouse suspiciously, even if they’ve done nothing to warrant that suspicion. The biggest issue is when these courses are destructive (and/or self-destructive) and yet we continue to let them govern our lives.
And if you believe the philosophies of spiritual gurus such as Louise Hay, Caroline Myss, etc., illnesses, pains, disease are all born from deep-rooted and – most importantly – unresolved emotional issues. They stay with us, scarred into our psyche, potentially malignant, like a tumour that might grow and demand immediate – yet belated – attention.
Look around and there are lots of solutions – affirmations, meditation, books on discovering your energy, and the list goes on. If you have the time these can be great investments, but another reality is that life can (and does) get in the way of affording us the time to do the things we want, particularly when they seem ancillary to everyday responsibilities.
A simple exercise to help us not only cope, but explore feelings that might be locked inside us, is writing. The writing can take any form. Some people recommend keeping a journal/diary, getting our thoughts and innermost feelings down on the page as a way of exorcising them from ourselves.
While this is a good idea, we shouldn’t feel that, if we’re going to write, we need to be limited exclusively to journalling. Writing can take any form – write non-fiction if you have an idea, write about your experiences if you feel that they can help others, write fiction, or try your hand at poetry.
The beauty of writing is the absolute lack of boundaries, while the truth of it as an exercise is that whatever we write – even if we’re writing some outlandish story based on another planet and featuring a war against aliens – is an ongoing expression of who we are and a continuing reinterpretation of self, and what we have locked within us. By finding words to give form to what’s inside us, we take a step towards understanding ourselves. It might not happen instantaneously, or as an epiphany, but piecemeal, like the image of a jigsaw taking shape before us.
Whatever form you give it, appreciate the world around you. Purge yourself of feelings locked deep within you. Write and write and write. It doesn’t matter if you’ve never done it before or if you feel you’re no good at it, because that’s not the point of the exercise (although you will improve just through the act of doing). Just write until you leave everything on the page, whether it’s a blog, non-fiction, fiction, poetry, or whatever it may be – write and you will find a therapy in the process.
You never know either – you might just write something that’s of value (as a guide) to others, or be publishable. We are all as people the sum of our experiences, and if we look deep inside of ourselves, if we look deep, deep down, the sum of those experiences has produced wisdom. But we’re dismissive of that truth when the one thing we should learn, that we should acknowledge to ourselves, is that we all have something unique to offer, and something that can help others.
For whatever reason you do it, just write.
It can help you find your way.
Les Zigomanis is the publications manager at Busybird Publishing. He has been writing for over twenty-five years and has been published in various print and digital journals. He believes everybody has a story to tell.
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