How many times have we had something happen to us, and all we can do is stand there wondering, “Why me?” Why did this awful thing happen to me? And why can’t I move on? Why?
I’ve been inspired to write, by a person who’s been struggling to move through some difficult feelings. They asked why something happened to them.
“Why did this happen to me, a good person? What did I ever do to deserve this? And why does it still hurt?” Those are age-old million dollar questions.
The quickest way I’ve found to move through why bad things happen to us, is to reframe how we see and interpret the entire scenario. To change our perspective or our take on things. Easy to say and not easy to do. I know it’s not easy, because it’s taken a lot of therapy and healing work for me to move past my own childhood experiences. And as far as I’ve come – which is very – I’m still a work in progress.
I know it’s a bit of an adjustment to shift how you see something that happened to you, but in time, and with some help and practice, it can be done. Sometimes it really helps to have a professional work with us to create a shift in perspective.
Instead of thinking about a life event as something that happened TO you, if we think of things in our lives as happening FOR us, right there, it creates a change in how we feel about the event. I have learned that we have painful experiences in life to allow us to grow. As we grow up, we interpret life as happening to us when we are children. That’s just how it rolls out because of our brain wiring, and because children aren’t given many choices in life.
And when we become adults, our brains develop the capacity to see things from more than one perspective. This is the tool we can use to help us deal with life’s hurts.
When I first got into therapy as an adult, I had been so messed up by the psychiatrist my parents had me see when I was 15, that I didn’t even realize how absolutely dysfunctional my family dynamics were when I grew up. My first new perspective was realizing how much a victim of all sorts of shit I really was. My therapist helped me reframe my story.
This helped me understand why I was in so much emotional pain all the time. Understanding that I was a victim was my first step to reclaiming myself. I was able to know that bad things that happened to me were not my fault. This helped me start to let go of decades of shame, and it was a great first step.
Once I had a clear understanding that I had every right to feel the pain I felt, and that it was absolutely valid and justified, it was the first step in feeling like I had some power in life. But after time, holding onto all of that pain got very old and very heavy. Being justified in my pain didn’t help it leave. In time, it began to fester and ooze.
Time to shift perspective again. And this time, it was all about letting go of the hurt.
In order to let go of hurt, we must take ownership and responsibility for our feelings. We must understand that it takes two to tango in every relationship, and we must own our part in our pain.
From there, I moved on to a therapist who helped me understand that my emotions are generated from inside of me. They begin and end with me. Emotions are like waves of energy that spark our biochemistry. They create sensations in our brain and affect things like our heart rate, perspiration, respiration, and more.
We generate feelings in response to other people’s feelings all the time. Our feelings and emotions ping pong back and forth. They say something that we interpret as some form of attack. We go on the defensive and attack back. Wham! Bam! We have all sorts of emotional triggers in us. And becoming aware of our triggers is step one to controlling our emotions.
I actually used hypnosis to find out about and to release my triggers. But just becoming aware of my own emotions helped a lot. Knowing that certain situations or certain words and phrases could set me off, gave me an opportunity to walk away from the situation and to recognized that I was upset and needed time to myself to settle down. And knowing that what is really happening when I’m triggered, is old fear or pain shooting up, helped me to be aware to not spew my fear and pain all over my loved ones.
But how to let go of pain when to my mind, someone else caused it? At this point, I knew that my own brain and body generated the pain I felt, and I had to find a way to let it go. The only way I know how to completely resolve pain is forgiveness. Because we have the capacity for empathy, we can appreciate another person’s pain. Pain and fear are pain and fear. There are variations in the volume and flavor, but every human feels these emotions.
I had to find a way to forgive the people who hurt me, and I had to forgive myself for creating my pain in the first place.
One of the first things I saw during hypnosis sessions, was that my brain created fear when I was little. The heart only knows love. Our heart is the doorway into our authentic and true selves, and when we have an experience that feels contrary to the unconditional love that we are, our brain comes up with stories to justify the uncomfortable, painful feeling. These stories (beliefs) stick with us, and in fact, grow more and more solidly stuck to us every time we have an experience that validates the same painful feeling.
The reason our brain has to justify these painful feelings when we are little is, if it didn’t we very literally wouldn’t be able to survive. Life would be too painful. Let’s face it, life here in the world feels far from the unconditional love that we come from and are made of at our center core.
The brain has to find some way to keep us here, and believing that we actually deserved the pain and discomfort we feel during childhood is a critical step in life. Another wonderful thing our brain does for us is to relegate these painful feelings into our unconscious mind most of the time. They hopefully only rise up from time to time.
These feelings are what become triggered in life. Once I understood that my own brain created fear and sadness, it made it a bit easier to take responsibility for when I became upset, and also to forgive myself when I directed my hurt feelings at someone like my son or husband. I also apologized for my actions. These days I’m much quicker to apologize.
Finally, I learned that people lash out in pain and act like asses when they are hurting. The family members who hurt me when I was young, carried mountains of pain. In one case, the person was so unconscious about their pain that they were and are quite disconnected from their true selves. In some respects, they are like a walking zombie. And in the case of my mother, she was mentally ill, wasn’t medicated until I was about 16 (the damage was long since done), and carried down generations of her own pain.
I grew up in a home where when someone loved you, it hurt. Love equaled pain. Parts of me didn’t even know love until I was almost fifty.
But with a lot of work on myself, I began to be able to allow love to flow through me again. I didn’t automatically reject it. And once my heart felt safe to open up, I was able to understand the pain my family members had suffered, and I found it in my heart to forgive them. The only way I could forgive them, was to let go of my own pain FIRST, so I could open up my heart to them.
Just saying the words, “I forgive you” can create miracles if the other person is able to open their heart to you and accept it. But the act of their opening their heart means they are letting their own pain go. Many people refuse to forgive themselves and allow themselves to let their own pain go. (It can be a martyr thing).
The best thing I ever did to help my heart open was to forgive myself for being human. To fully accept that in every moment in my life, in every action and every decision I’ve ever made, I’ve always done the best I could in that specific moment. Considering my age, emotional development, mental status, driving emotions at the time, and more, I believe every decision I’ve made was done to further my survival. And without that, we don’t have life.
In every moment of life, when we have an experience, it is we who chooses how to interpret the experience. It is we who get to decide whether to assume a perspective of power or victim, of positive or negative. Is it always easy? Absolutely not. But is the work and the process to empowerment and feeling better worth it? Without a doubt!