HOW TO GROW FROM YOUR PAIN

A 10-minute read by Mark Manson

Original may be found on Mark’s site HERE.

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Marguerite Johnson was born in the late 1920s in Arkansas. A poor black female in the segregated South, Johnson didn’t exactly have a bright future to look forward to. She endured the hardships that virtually all African Americans endured during and beyond segregation—second-class citizen status, economic and social exclusion, living in near-constant fear of physical threats and terror, and so forth.

As if that weren’t enough, the particular events of Johnson’s life wouldn’t make it any easier for her either.

At age 7, she was raped by her mother’s boyfriend. She told only her brother about it. A few days later, her attacker was found dead.

She was so traumatized by these events that she didn’t speak a word out loud for another five-and-a-half years. An outcast, both from the outside and from within herself, Johnson was seemingly bound to a hard, lonely life of struggle and isolation.

Marguerite Johnson, however, would later change her name to Maya Angelou and become a dancer, an actress, a screenwriter, a poet, a prominent leader in the civil rights movement of the 1960s, and the first black female to write a best-selling nonfiction book, her memoir, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. She won multiple awards across multiple fields and even gave a presidential inaugural speech in 1993.

And what was perhaps most impressive is that, at one point, Angelou admitted that she didn’t become what she was despite her early trauma, she became what she was because of it. When she wrote, she said she wrote over her scars—scars that only she could see and touch and feel.

Let’s be real: trauma is not a “good” thing in life. All things being equal, none of us should have to experience these horrible things. But all of us do, at some point or another. That’s just a fact of life.

Most of us live through at least five or six traumatic events in our lifetime—we lose someone close to us, get divorced, lose a job, get a scary diagnosis at the doctor’s office, get assaulted and on and on—and more often than not, after one of these events, we’ll come out at least a little bit stronger, a little bit wiser, and a little bit of a better person.

THRIVING IN THE FACE OF TRAUMA

Up until relatively recently, the field of psychology mostly studied the ways in which trauma fucked us up. It makes sense why psychologists thought this for so long.

When starting out 100+ years ago, as a “quack science,” initially it was only the most desperate and disturbed who resorted to seeking psychiatric help. Mainstream people with mainstream problems didn’t go see shrinks because it was still something stigmatized as embarrassing or shameful (and still kind of is).

As a result, the first 50 years or so of psychological/psychiatric practices dealt with the really hard cases. You know, schizophrenics, manic depressives, suicidal people, and so on.

This created a sort of selection bias. Since psychologists were only studying the most extreme mental health cases, and pretty much all of these cases involved the patient experiencing some terrible trauma at some point, early psychologists came to the logical conclusion that trauma leads to mental health issues.

But this, it turns out, is wrong. And, in fact, it’s often the opposite.

It wasn’t until psychology and psychiatry became more mainstream that the field began to realize that trauma is incredibly common. In fact, trauma is actually a fact of life. And not only do most of us not succumb to severe mental breakdowns, but many people end up growing and developing into stronger people due to their past pains. As many as 90% of people who experience a traumatic event also experience at least one form of personal growth in the following months and years.

These people eventually come to feel a greater sense of appreciation in life, their priorities change, their relationships are warmer and more compassionate, they draw from a greater source of personal strength, and they see new possibilities in their lives they never even considered before.

Now, before you go on thinking, “OMG, Mark Manson says all I need to do is experience some of that rip-out-your-heart-and-spit-in-your-face trauma and then my life will finally be the way I want it. Let’s get this trauma started!”

Uhh… No. There’s more to it than that.

THE TRAUMA IS NOT THE END, IT’S THE BEGINNING

It turns out that trauma in our lives, in whatever form it takes, isn’t actually the thing that makes us “stronger” in this case. All those inspirational quotes with cheesy sunsets about enduring adversity and “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” they all kind of mislead you into thinking that just enduring some form of hardship is enough to steel yourself against future hardship.

That’s not entirely true.

It’s what comes after the trauma that really matters. It’s not the survival of trauma that makes you stronger, it’s the work you put in as a result of the trauma that makes you stronger.

Traumatic experiences shake us to the core. They make us question our fundamental beliefs about the world and our place in it. They make us question the degree of benevolence and kindness and predictability in the world and of the people around us. Some traumas serve as stark reminders of our mortality, something most of us don’t want to think about.

And then there you are, traumatized and bewildered, lost and questioning everything about your life. At that point, it can basically go one of two ways:

  1. You fall off the proverbial mental cliff and experience some Real Shit™ that leads to a lot of dysfunction (less common than you think);
  2. You use this as an opportunity to forge a new set of beliefs and a new worldview that is more resilient and enduring than your previous worldview (a lot more common than you think).

Think of it like an earthquake that rips through a city. Everything is pretty much fucked after the tectonic violence wreaks havoc beneath. But after that, buildings can be rebuilt with new knowledge of structural integrity and people have the opportunity to design more resilient systems to guard against future earthquakes. The city doesn’t just “bounce back” to its previous state—it’s made into a wiser, more resilient city.

And so, when our lives are disrupted by some tectonic-shifting personal shit, we have the opportunity to rebuild ourselves. We’ll carry the memory and the pain of the experience with us no matter what, just as the people of a city carry the memory and loss of a natural disaster like an earthquake.

The question at that point is, how will we rebuild ourselves?

 

LIFE AFTER TRAUMA

Trauma creates a distinct before and after point in our lives. Trauma creates moments that we’ll likely never forget.

The extent that we can experience personal growth after trauma depends a lot on the narrative we construct around this before and after point.

It’s normal to ruminate about your pain, to question the meaning of it all, and to feel any combination of guilt, shame, fear, and loneliness. This can really suck. You end up playing the trauma over and over again in your head, like a bad movie you’re forced to watch in a theater where you’re strapped to the chair and your eyelids are taped open. It doesn’t feel real. And each replay feels almost as painful as the last. It’s like your brain punching itself over and over again for months, or even years, on end.

But as shitty as this is, it’s actually a crucial step in creating a narrative around your trauma. The narrative you construct will help lead you out of the dark corners of your mind and ultimately to a better place. As humans, we need to make sense of the world around us, and like I said before, trauma rarely makes sense as it’s happening to us.

So what should that narrative look like? Well, there are a few things to keep in mind:

  1. IT’S NOT ABOUT DESERVING

Our natural inclination when something horrible happens is to ask, “Why me? What did I do to deserve this?” Generally, the younger we are, or the worse the experience, the more we will naturally come to blame ourselves for our pain. We will come to feel that there must be something inherently wrong with us and that we did something to bring the situation upon ourselves.

The most important step in forming the meaning of our pain is understanding that it’s not about deserving. That goes for ourselves, but it also goes for others as well. It’s not about deserving. Pain is not a zero-sum game. If somebody hurts us, hurting them back doesn’t make it better.

In fact, pain is the opposite. Pain is contagious. It’s like a virus. The more we hurt, the more we will feel inclined to hurt ourselves further and to hurt others further. Our own perceived shortcomings will be used to justify further destructive behaviors towards ourselves and towards those around us.

It’s important to recognize this and to stop it before it goes too far. We did nothing to deserve our trauma. Nobody deserves trauma. But deserving is not the point. It’s just something that happens.

  1. A NEW APPRECIATION FOR LIFE

I remember when a close friend of mine died, it immediately made me aware of my other friendships and how fragile and tenuous they were. I found myself making the point of telling my friends that I cared about them and that they were important to me. This had the effect of actually strengthening some of my relationships, despite the fact that I had just gone through an intense loss.

Because trauma confronts us with the possibility of our own mortality, and with the possibility that most of what we thought was true about the world may not be, it has the interesting side effect of exposing what we’ve been taking for granted for most of our lives.

It’s extreme pain that has an uncanny ability to clarify what actually matters in our lives, and removes any inhibition or doubt as to whether we should take advantage of it or not.

  1. TALK ABOUT IT

Narratives don’t form in a vacuum, they only exist when they’re communicated to others. Researchers have found, over and over again, that a strong predictor of personal growth following trauma is a willingness to open up about the trauma in the context of a supportive social network.

Find a friend, a family member, a therapist, your pet iguana, and share your experience, your feelings, your doubts, and your fears that surround your trauma. Get out of your own head and share your shame.

Some of the most profound wisdom in your life will come from your trauma, but that wisdom can never be realized if you don’t share it in some form or another.

There’s a stigma in our culture around sharing our pain. Unfortunately, disclosing that we’re hurting runs up against a number of taboos — that we should be positive and pleasant, that our problems are just that, our problems, and that the self-reliance of people means we get what we deserve.

But squelching our trauma only makes it worse. It festers and infects us. And this is perhaps the greatest lesson we get from Maya Angelou. Her ability to transmute her pain into a message of hope and empowerment is what led to her healing, not the other way around.

It’s sharing our own personal pain that allows us to move beyond it. Because it’s one thing to just sit and intellectualize our problems to ourselves. But once we share and mold that meaning out in the world around us, our pain becomes something outside of us. And because it’s now outside of us, we are finally able to live without it.

 

Happy Valentine’s Day…

Happy Valentine’s Day…

Or Whatever….

Don’t mean to sound like an angsty teen, I’m just not feeling the “love”

On a positive note Valentine’s Day Candy and chocolates will be on sale by Wednesday….

Ah, POOP!!!  I’m doing Keto!  I’ll have to make myself something….meh!!!

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Here’s something worth the effort…..Keto Coconut Raspberry Cupcakes

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Photo Credit KetoSizeMe.com

Ingredients

For Cupcakes:

  • 1 Cup Coconut Flour
  • 1 Cup Almond Milk (Unsweetened)
  • 7 Large Eggs
  • 1/2 Cup Butter
  • 1 Tbsp Baking Powder
  • 3 Tsp Pure Vanilla Extract
  • 1/2 Tsp Salt
  • 3/4 Cup Erythritol
  • 1/2 Tsp Liquid Stevia

For Frosting:

  • 16 oz Cream Cheese
  • 28 Fresh Raspberries
  • 1 Cup Butter
  • 1 Tbsp Pure Vanilla Extract
  • 1/4 Cup Erythritol
  • 1/2 Tsp Liquid Stevia

Note: The frosting recipe makes enough frosting to frost 32 cupcakes so you can always cut it in half if you don’t want to use the rest as a dip.

Instructions For Cake

  1. Preheat oven to 350
  2. Powder Erythritol in a food processor
  3. Mix all ingredients in a large bowl and mix until well blended
  4. Pour into silicon baking cups and bake for 28 – 30 minutes (until toothpick comes out clean)
  5. For Frosting:
  6. Melt butter
  7. Mix all ingredients in a large bowl until light and fluffy.

 Baking Tips:  The fat and butter in most keto cupcakes will destroy cupcake wrappers and cause any color in them to bleed all over the place. So I recommend that you forgo the wrappers or use silicone baking cups. Silicone baking cups are great because the food doesn’t stick to them, so it’s easy to make beautiful cupcakes every time. You can still use festive wrappers after they have cooled.

Nutrition

Serving Size: 1 Cupcake (makes 16)

Calories: 225
Total Fat: 19g
Carbohydrates: 6g – 3g Fiber = 3 Net Carbs
Dietary Fiber 3g
Sugars: 1g
Protein: 5g

New Venture

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Ladies and Gentz,

I am thrilled to introduce you to Chloe + Isabel, a fashion and lifestyle brand based out of New York City. The company’s mission is to connect stylish, creative and confident women through a modern-day social shopping experience, and I couldn’t be more excited to be joining the team as a Merchandiser!

My online boutique (now live!) features my personalized selection of beautifully crafted, reasonably priced, and high quality fantasy jewels from c+i.  You’ll find everything from on-trend statement necklaces, to chic wrap bracelets, to easy everyday essentials.

Check it out here: https://www.chloeandisabel.com/boutique/bymaruca.

I can’t wait to hear what you think! If you like what you see, please share my boutique link with your friends and family – after all, who doesn’t love to accessorize with a little sparkle and shine?

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Mother’s day is just around the corner….

 

She wasn’t being rude

pay it forward…..

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My receptionist Ericka was in tears. The caller had said some pretty mean things, and she’s sensitive to what people say to her. She thrust the phone towards me, and pleaded for me to deal with it, “She doesn’t understand we don’t have any appointments available and, anyway, we’ll be closed in 45 minutes.” Some lady’s dog hadn’t “eated” in 4 days, and so she thinks she’s really pretty sick, and what was I gonna do about it? On such a hectic afternoon, I was glad to take the load off the front desk, and proceeded with the best defense being a good offense. “So he hasn’t eaten in 4 days? Wow, you rushed right in! What makes you think it’s serious now” The colloquialism of her words and accents made it difficult to understand, even for a small town Missoura hick like myself, but I did make out something…

View original post 1,519 more words

Daily Prompt: Happy Happy Joy Joy

If you’ve read some of my more personal posts you are aware that I’ve been struggling financially.  I try not to focus on it but I cannot deny that I the “anxiety” monkey has been slowly creeping up the top of my shoulders as the calendar inches closer to January 22nd; which is the day we have to be completely moved out of my Brother and SIL’s house (they’ve made arrangements with the bank).

It just seems like Dad and I just can’t catch a break.  Although Dad is slowly branching out on his own, getting small cabinetry jobs here and there; remodeling work has been scarce for him since he ended his partnership with Brother’s construction business.  My job is steady but it is still part-time.   Our combined incomes have been barely enough to pay all the utilities and put food on the table but not enough to save any money towards a deposit on an apartment.

Leasing requirements being what they are – most apartment complexes require that one’s combined income should be at least 3X’s the amount of the rent – means that neither of us qualify to lease an apartment unless of course we moved to an unsafe neighborhood.  We’ve also scoured the internet for other families looking to rent out rooms in their homes but haven’t had any success yet.  Last week in desperation I wrote a message to some of the leading Brothers in our local church.  Everyone has been praying for us.  We’ve been praying, crying, praying, searching, praying, posting ad looking for roommates, praying some more……

We have yet to find alternate living arrangements; however, today I was overcome with emotion when one of these leading Brothers showed up at our doorstep with a monetary offering of $600 dollars to help us get an apartment.  With tears in my eyes I thanked him profusely then wept as soon as he walked out the door…

I still don’t know where we will live but I have faith the Lord will provide.  In the meantime, I’ll continue searching for the right place for us.  It’s getting down to the wire but I know He always gives us what we need, exactly when we need it.

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On A Positive Note

So today I started a part-time cleaning job for a local family. This is what she texted me:
Omg!!!! I just got home and LOOOOOVE YOU!!! Lol!! Thank u!!!!!!!
We just love you!! And I haven’t even officially met you!! Hubby is so glad we found you!! I hope you don’t think it’s just a “maid” position!! 😀

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Faux Freedom

Faux Freedom

Faux Freedom

We (humans) fill our life with distractions, both positive and negative, to avoid dealing with how trapped we really are.

Check out this insightful post by Mike Foster, one of the Storyline Contributors.  It’s a timely message for me; one that I’ll be considering as I continue to “recalculate” my life.    I want to be able to honestly say,  “I am in no place that I don’t want to be.”

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The Awakening – (Author unknown)

I’m not sure where this originates from but I had it saved in my computer and I thought I’d share it with you all:

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A time comes in your life when you finally get…when, in the midst of all your fears and insanity, you stop dead in your tracks and somewhere the voice inside your head cries out…ENOUGH! Enough fighting and crying and blaming and struggling to hold on. Then, like a child quieting down after a tantrum, you blink back your tears and begin to look at the world through new eyes.

This is your awakening.

You realize it’s time to stop hoping and waiting for something to change, or for happiness, safety and security to magically appear over the next horizon.

You realize that in the real world there aren’t always fairy tale endings, and that any guarantee of “happily ever after” must begin with you…and in the process a sense of serenity is born of acceptance.

You awaken to the fact that you are not perfect and that not everyone will always love, appreciate or approve of who or what you are…and that’s OK. They are entitled to their own views and opinions.

You learn the importance of loving and championing yourself…and in the process a sense of new found confidence is born of self-approval.

You stop complaining and blaming other people for the things they did to you – or didn’t do for you – and you learn that the only thing you can really count on is the unexpected.

You learn that people don’t always say what they mean or mean what they say and that not everyone will always be there for you and everything isn’t always about you.

So, you learn to stand on your own and to take care of yourself…and in the process a sense of safety and security is born of self-reliance.

You stop judging and pointing fingers and you begin to accept people as they are and to overlook their shortcomings and human frailties…and in the process a sense of peace and contentment is born of forgiveness.

You learn to open up to new worlds and different points of view. You begin reassessing and redefining who you are and what you really stand for.

You learn the difference between wanting and needing and you begin to discard the doctrines and values you’ve outgrown, or should never have bought into to begin with.

You learn that there is power and glory in creating and contributing and you stop maneuvering through life merely as a “consumer” looking for your next fix.

You learn that principles such as honesty and integrity are not the outdated ideals of a bygone era, but the mortar that holds together the foundation upon which you must build a life.

You learn that you don’t know everything, it’s not your job to save the world and that you can’t teach a pig to sing. You learn the only cross to bear is the one you choose to carry and that martyrs get burned at the stake.

Then you learn about love. You learn to look at relationships as they really are and not as you would have them be. You learn that alone does not mean lonely.

You stop trying to control people, situations and outcomes. You learn to distinguish between guilt and responsibility and the importance of setting boundaries and learning to say NO.

You also stop working so hard at putting your feelings aside, smoothing things over and ignoring your needs.

You learn that your body really is your temple. You begin to care for it and treat it with respect. You begin to eat a balanced diet, drinking more water, and take more time to exercise.

You learn that being tired fuels doubt, fear, and uncertainty and so you take more time to rest. And, just food fuels the body, laughter fuels our soul. So you take more time to laugh and to play.

You learn that, for the most part, you get in life what you deserve, and that much of life truly is a self-fulfilling prophecy.

You learn that anything worth achieving is worth working for and that wishing for something to happen is different than working toward making it happen.

More importantly, you learn that in order to achieve success you need direction, discipline and perseverance. You learn that no one can do it all alone, and that it’s OK to risk asking for help.

You learn the only thing you must truly fear is fear itself. You learn to step right into and through your fears because you know that whatever happens you can handle it and to give in to fear is to give away the right to live life on your own terms.

You learn to fight for your life and not to squander it living under a cloud of impending doom.

You learn that life isn’t always fair, you don’t always get what you think you deserve and that sometimes bad things happen to unsuspecting, good people…and you learn not to always take it personally.

You learn that nobody’s punishing you and everything isn’t always somebody’s fault. It’s just life happening. You learn to admit when you are wrong and to build bridges instead of walls.

You learn that negative feelings such as anger, envy and resentment must be understood and redirected or they will suffocate the life out of you and poison the universe that surrounds you.

You learn to be thankful and to take comfort in many of the simple things we take for granted, things that millions of people upon the earth can only dream about: a full refrigerator, clean running water, a soft warm bed, a long hot shower.

Then, you begin to take responsibility for yourself by yourself and you make yourself a promise to never betray yourself and to never, ever settle for less than you heart’s desire.

You make it a point to keep smiling, to keep trusting, and to stay open to every wonderful possibility.

You hang a wind chime outside your window so you can listen to the wind.

Finally, with courage in you heart, you take a stand, you take a deep breath, and you begin to design the life you want to live as best as you can.

 

Every Party Needs Cake

On many of the blogs I’ve been reading lately authors talk about the many situations they are going through, how trying these are and how incredibly stressed their lives have become  – myself included.   We each have our particular way letting off steam: knitting, writing, crafting, reading, participating in one or several fandom activities…

Life is hard and complicated enough without others judging how one chooses to let off steam.  I think that when we live and let live, we don’t have the need to criticize, judge, or condemn others. Each of us is dealing with our own set of situations – some severe, some not so much yet all are struggles for each of us individually.  So why not let others live their own lives and we live ours in the best way we know how.

In the meantime, let’s enjoy this lovely cake, perhaps with a side of chocolate ice cream!  When in doubt, chocolate is always the answer!

Cake baked this afternoon in honor of Ancient Armitage

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Chocolate Ganache Glazed Bundt Cake: Lots of cocoa powder with a dash of friendship and sprinkled with love

And of course this post would not be complete without a gratuitous Richard Armitage cap

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