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chinese symbol for crisisChange is inevitable in life and often causes pain. When we experience a crisis we can feel totally hopeless.   If we can learn to face our feelings, we can accept their legitimacy in our journey. When pain happens our natural tendency is to resist and deny the feelings. But are we really denying ourselves when we resist our feelings?

How can we break the cycle and avoid needless pain and suffering? We must allow ourselves to be aware of the feeling. Then we need to acknowledge the feeling. The final step is to accept the feeling. So the thoughts change from “I have lost that person/thing and I can’t go on” (resistance) to “I have lost that person/thing and I am sad.” The suffering lessens as we accept our sadness as a normal response to the loss. Then the process of healing can begin.

I have always found the metaphor of the Chinese symbol for crisis comforting. The symbol has two parts: the first stands for the circumstances (danger) and the second part symbolizes opportunity.

So what opportunities can come from our pain?

  • Pain allows others to be there for you. It is so easy to isolate yourself from the comfort of your friends, family and others who care about you. Not everyone will understand what you are going through but having the support of those who care about you is very comforting. Sometimes sharing a movie, having a pedicure together, or another “girls’ night out” activity is very helpful and doesn’t require an in-depth discussion or understanding of the issues you are facing.
  • Pain allows you to find your own identity. We have many roles in life: daughter, sister, mother, grandmother, and friend are just a few. Pain often happens when life circumstances change such as when the children leave home to begin their own lives and you are now tending an “empty nest”. The loss of a life partner from death or divorce are examples of a “lost” role. In these instances, you are forced to find your own identity. Identifying your core values and needs and finding your own identity is a big step on the journey of recovery and to finding happiness again.
  • Pain allows for major life change and the opportunity for understanding and putting closure on “old” pain, giving relief from repressed hurt and anger. It allows you to get spiritually connected or reconnected and to reassess your life’s goals and priorities.
  • Pain allows you to become grateful for simple things. I recommend keeping a Daily Gratitude Journal. It doesn’t have to be a fancy or expensive journal. A simple notebook will do. Start out by writing the date at the top of the page and by rating your day from -5 to +5 at first glance. Then begin to analyze your day closer. List 3 “successes” you had during the day. Then pat yourself on the back: what did you do today that required courage? What did you learn about yourself today? What actions, thoughts, steps did you take today on your journey of healing? Where do you need to be kinder to yourself and therefore happier and more productive? What did you do for yourself today (self-care)? And then finally list 3 things that you appreciate and are grateful for today. The last is essential you must list at least 3 things. As you reflect on your written thoughts, re-evaluate your day again from -5 to +5. Did your rating change as you reviewed your day with a more positive mindset? End by writing anything you noticed as you reflected on the day or something you want to do differently tomorrow.

We get stuck in our lives due to many factors: wounds of the past, conflicts of the present, and fears of the future. Professional counseling can help you identify and accept your own definition of normal. On your journey to happiness, you will learn to accept the things you cannot change, change the things you can, live one day at a time, enjoy one moment at a time, and accept the world and other people as they are-not as you want them to be. With expert guidance you will begin to understand the “whys” and learn how to move beyond today with a new confidence to change your life.

Bonnie Harken, NCLC, Founder and CEO of Crossroads Programs for Women has spent the last 30 years assisting individuals begin their journey of healing. Begin your journey of finding renewal, hope, joy, direction and passion.  Each program is a blend of lectures, group discussion, and therapeutic exercises offering a healing curriculum. We explore the spiritual components of healing from a non-denominational Christian perspective.  Why continue to struggle? Tomorrow does not have to be like today. We can help you. Call 800-348-0937 or visit www.crossroadsprogramsforwomen.com for more information. All inquiries are confidential.