No matter where on the planet we live or how we live, we will all come upon situations that will challenge us with every fiber of our being. These situations will appear in any facet of life, personally, professionally or emotionally, and will stretch us into contortions that bear pain. While digging deeply into my own psyche and meaning for life I found a way to handle all difficult situations with great success. Being faced with the serious, life-threatening illness of my child, addictions in people I loved, relationship challenges of every sort, and debilitating physical illness myself, these drove me to finding another way to cope with all of these and more. The result has been to reduce the pain associated with the situation and to decrease the amount of ego-investment I have in life itself. As a result, life is lived more fully and suffering is often kept at bay.
I literally read hundreds of books on how to cope with difficult life challenges. I searched in every church, temple and holy place I could find around the world for solutions. I turned over every stone I could in hopes for a way to cope with those things that hurt so much. I suspected that a solution could be found since humans have been suffering for so long; surely someone knew how to do this better than me. I’m not sure how the solution came to me but I suspect after the considerable information gathering I did the knowledge meshed together and provided a simple answer that I could use. I now do this in every situation where I feel a negative emotional reaction arising and I stop it in its tracks as best I can.
First, when I feel any negative emotion such as fear, anxiety, or angst of any kind, I immediately stop what I’m doing and look at the situation that is eliciting the reaction. When I know what this is, I then decide that the situation is neutral. It’s not good or bad, it’s simply neutral and I do this in several ways. One way is to engage in an intellectual response until the emotion is gone. For example, if my child is ill I decide that I cannot know why he is facing this challenge. It may be part of his own life path or it will take him on a journey that I have no knowledge about. Case in point, my son who had a life-threating illness came to discover he wanted a career in neuroscience through his own health challenges. I could not possibly have known he would find his calling through his illness at the time. Another situation occurred during his illness when a member of the medical staff made a medication error and he became critically ill. Through this, I learned the lesson of forgiveness in a way that I have never known. I learned forgiveness with every cell of my being.
Another way to neutralize emotions and a situation associated with them is to simply decide it’s so, with no further thought. I make the decision to make it neutral; I attach no meaning at all and accept it as such and I hold this firmly in my mind until all emotions subside. I remind myself over and over again that this situation is neutral until all emotions have cleared. I remain steadfast in this process.
Once a neutral stand has been taken and I am clear of any emotional reaction at all, I begin to assign meaning to the event. It is here that all the power lies. The command of life situations are made manageable by assigning meaning to events rather than reacting to them. In truth, we are all assigning meaning to everything in life and often doing so in a reactionary manner. We have the same thoughts over and over with the same results over and over. Our parents told us what was good and what was bad and we often adopted this. The media tells us what the world is about, skewing our minds with their impressions and interpretations. It’s when we begin to think for ourselves that life changes dramatically because we assign the meaning that is right for us.
A job is lost. This is neither good nor bad. It’s an opportunity to define ourselves in the world in a new way. We are either a victim or a warrior. A friend or family member passes on from this life to the next. We cannot know the big picture for that person and therefore we cannot decide what is best. We can grieve our loss and then simply choose to make life better for ourselves in each and every situation. The loss becomes a force to love in a greater capacity and propels us to experience the world with new eyes.
We create our reality with the thoughts we choose to have and the world is exactly as we choose to see it. Many great writers, prophets and teachers have imparted this lesson but one day when we have had enough suffering and enough of a world that creates pain we will choose to see a world that creates new opportunities. In this new reality, all situations present themselves for growth, love, kindness, compassion, and forgiveness when we choose to see them that way. Life is lived less from the ego and more from the true essence of who we are. This is the essence which is trying to expand and become more of itself here in the physical world with each and every challenge that surfaces.
With love and humility,
Teresa L. DeCicco, PhD is the author of “Living Beyond the Five Senses” available at the “BUY NOW” button at the top of the page and in bookstores everywhere