When I started writing for The Huffington Post, I considered working my articles up to a crescendo full of helpful steps. Setting the stage with the first few articles, where I would cover some basic principles of living life, followed by increasingly intense topics tackling everyday issues head on. However, I have been receiving emails from readers that have caused me to reconsider this approach. So I'm throwing away the slowly but surely style, and jumping straight in to try and provide some much sought after guidance. So where do I start? At the bottom, of course.
Hitting rock bottom is a scary and often confusing time. It is that moment when nothing makes sense, and you cannot understand or interpret your own thoughts, let alone the circumstances you find yourself in. It is the moment when you don't know which way to turn to get help, or even if there is any help to be had, whilst all the while not really sure whether you even need that help. It brings powering feelings of being alone, yet standing in the brightest spotlight with everyone looking at you. You feel so apart and distant from yourself that it is hard to contemplate that your own heart, arms or legs are even part of you. Previously perceived small, simple tasks feel like climbing Everest. You know when you hit bottom.
However, the first thing to realize about "the bottom" is that everyone has a different threshold as well as definition for it. Secondly, that threshold and definition will keep changing through your life as you experience more and more challenging circumstances. The "benchmark," as I call it, will evolve as you get older. When you were a child, hopefully the worst thing you experienced was falling over or falling off your bike. Then a few years later, your benchmark may have been altered to when your boyfriend or girlfriend dumped you. Later still, you may have lost your job and had to deal with the challenges that introduces.
And so your benchmark keeps changing. What doesn't change though is the feeling of utter shock, confusion, fear and all consuming distress that is always present at the bottom. Have you heard the expression "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger?" I truly believe that as your benchmark changes, so too does your ability to "deal and heal."
Was I better prepared to deal with my sister's tragic death because I had already experienced my dad dying? Was I better prepared for my dad dying because I had already experienced my parent's divorce? Was I better prepared for my parents divorce because I had experienced break-ups in my own relationships and could understand that sometimes things don't work out?
My first article was about preparing for suffering, and whilst this is really great advice to put into practice, I do know that it does not help those people already dealing with such challenging circumstances. It does not help people get out of the dark holes they are finding themselves in right now. When I work with new clients, we first focus on creating a stable, happy existence. To achieve that we must deal with anything current that is even slightly putting our sensitive scales of happiness out of balance. I say again, preparation is the key to future suffering but we must deal with the here and now. So below are the pointers I provide to clients to help start the "dealing healing process:"
Give yourself a break. This is about creating a mental attitude where it is okay to be confused, to be scared, to not understand. Just because your situation may not be as serious as being diagnosed with a terminal illness, it does not mean you don't have the same mountain to climb to deal with your particular present circumstances. Just because you have an alternative benchmark, does not mean you are not allowed to feel the same feelings and have the same emotions as someone with a terminal illness.
Forget what others may be dealing with and allow yourself to deal and heal with your own suffering, your own benchmark. If you have lost your job, very quickly the mental conveyor belt will sprint a race towards "not earning an income equals not paying your bills equals losing the house equals losing your family". This is very similar for those diagnosed with a terminal illness, with the exception that they also have the mortality perspective to deal with. Giving yourself a break means allowing yourself to prioritize your own challenges and take steps towards dealing and healing. If you ignore your own plight with the view that "what have I got to be moaning about," you will definitely create a deeper seated issue to bite you later. Give yourself a break!
An alternative perspective. It is very important that you focus on the positives and on alternative perspectives when trying to deal with challenging circumstances. It allows you to envisage that things could be worse. Preparation is by far the best tool for proactively helping you deal with future suffering, however, we do not all have the luxury of "future suffering" as we are dealing with it right now. So a slight change to the technique can also be used when in the motions of dealing with something in the here and now.
By focusing on finding out how your particular situation could be worse, you are in effect altering your benchmark in real time. This step allows you to gain a little positivity in the absolute present because you know that the situation is not as bad as it could be. It does not matter what you are facing at any time, if you have not prepared for it, you can definitely find some elements that could be worse. From a little positivity you can produce life changing or situation altering results. An alternative perspective creates positivity.
Move and Do. Nothing is going to change if you don't create movement. So from a position of positivity, even if created in real time, you will find yourself more capable of making a change. You must put one proverbial foot in front of the other to better your situation. Move and do, and your situation is at least in danger of becoming a better place in which to live.
I am under no illusion how tough things are right now; that is precisely why I am focusing on providing some guidance that will hopefully make a difference. If you have lost your job and have applied for 50 vacant positions without success, I know how hard it can be to post another application with any amount of positivity. I know how hard it is to pick yourself up when it feels like the banks and financial industries around the world not supporting us, and the governments not implementing any real support policies that make a difference to the people on the street. But, things will not change in your own individual playground by itself.
Create a positive place by considering an alternative perspective and move!
I would love to hear from you, so please leave a comment or send me an email at email@example.com.