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.

 

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They say…

They say…
#MindOfBrando

Dicen que ya nadie se enamora. Que el último romántico ha muerto y que las flores ya no saben de floreros. Dicen que los besos a ojos cerrados pasaron de moda, que las cartas a puño son muy lentas, que agarrarse de la mano es cosa de viejos. Dicen que abrirle la puerta a una dama, para qué, si hay igualdad de derechos. Dicen que hay que pretender que uno no siente; que si te llaman bien, y si no, también, y si te he amado no lo recuerdo; ¿cómo te llamabas, que no me acuerdo? Dicen que para todo hay que hacer una cita, consultar el calendario, la fecha, el horario, dos cafés sin azúcar y pagamos a medias. Dicen que no hay diferencia entre el amor y el sexo, y que eso de querer con el alma es puro cuento. Dicen que no aman porque les da miedo el amor, y aunque tengan razón, nunca voy a estar de acuerdo. Porque digan lo que digan, aquí estoy yo, escribiéndole al amor. Queriendo, besando, sufriendo, muriendo y resucitando; solo para amar de nuevo. – Brando


Found this quote on Facebook and loved it so much that I decided to attempt to convey the same sentiment by translating it. Here goes:

They say that no one falls in love anymore. That the last romantic has died and that flowers don’t know about vases. 

They say that kissing with your eyes closed went out of fashion, that handwritten letters are too tedious and that holding hands is for old people.  

They say, about opening the door for a Lady, what for if we have equal rights.  They say you must pretend not to feel anything; that if they call great and if they don’t that’s fine too. If I have loved you I don’t remember. What was your name? I don’t recall. 

They say you must make an appointment for everything, check the calendar, date and time – two coffees, no sugar and we split the bill in half. 


They say there’s no difference between love and sex and that loving with your soul is just a story. They say they don’t love because they are afraid of love yet even if they are right I will never agree with them. Because regardless of what they say, here I am, writing for love; loving, kissing, suffering, dying and reviving just to love again. 

❤️💔❤️💔

We Really Are Okay

We Really Are Okay

To My Son’s Father,

While you truly do not deserve an ounce of my energy or a moment of my time, I am writing to you on behalf of our son and his unfulfilled desire to experience some glimmer of a healthy and functional relationship with his father. I use the term “our son” extremely loosely as your contribution to his existence has been minimal, yet this beautiful young man still longs for your love.

I could hear it in his trembling voice this evening as he enumerated all the reasons why he would rather not have you in his life any more.  Frankly this has been a long time coming. You’ve missed out on so much: a lot of skinned knees and ear infections, a lot of late nights and early mornings, a bunch of empty pockets and unfulfilled promises. You don’t feed him or clothe him or cuddle with him. You do not help him with his homework. You don’t listen to him, comfort him or respect him as an individual.

In the 16 and a half glorious years that our child has graced this planet, you have managed to not only miss out on countless memories and milestones, but also to contribute a surplus of disappointment and daddy issues to his life. Time and time again you have failed to show up, forgotten to call, and messed with your son’s emotions and sense of security. You have become famous for incoherent conversations and infamous for sleeping off hangovers instead of spending your free time with him. You’ve made limited attempts to support your child in any manner whatsoever. You take no initiative to be involved in his schooling. You take no steps to take part in his healing. You ignore all monetary obligations to assist in his surviving. Oh that’s right, you did pay rent two months in a row last year, half the rent back in April of last year; and of course there was that time back in 2004 when I had to sell you our big screen tv so you could actually help me pay rent.  Yet somehow you believe that the few times that you did help us equates to you being there for him all his life. When in reality you’d often say things like “I’ll see him when I see him.”
Most recently you claimed that me being unable to pay rent is my problem and that you are not responsible for me.  You are right.  However, you do not seem the least bit concerned about how this affects our son – where will he sleep, what will he eat, how will this affect his grades?  Perhaps this is your way to force him to live with you, again without any consideration about how doing so will affect him.
In spite of that I never kept him from you. I never prevented you from seeing him and I never told him anything disparaging about you. I let him make his own choices.
I am thankful to you for many things. The first, and most obvious, is for contributing your genetic material to create him, albeit the solitary shining achievement in your legacy of fatherhood. Secondly, I would like to extend my sincerest gratitude for the many lessons you have taught our boy. Thank you for teaching him to be strong. Without your constant onslaught of spectacular screw ups, he might not be as fiercely resilient as he is today. Had you not failed him in every way imaginable, he might have only had the opportunity to be a typical little boy. Thank you for teaching him to be independent. He doesn’t need you. Not for anything anymore. Thank you for teaching him one of life’s most valuable lessons: expect nothing and you’ll never be disappointed. Thank you for teaching him how to cope with grief, and anxiety, and depression at such an early age.
Thank you also for all of the unsolicited advice you continue to dole out to your son: he should play a sport, he should eat more vegetables, he should be thinner, faster, smarter, better.  Because according to you he belongs to a superior, highly educated family. Since you seem so interested in working in the advice department, allow me to return the favor. Get a life. Get a grip on your selfish, self-centered, childish and petulant behavior. Get it together for your son.
Our son is special. He is smart and funny and all-around awesome, and he is tough, independent and successful. He has a spectacular sense of humor and a well-rounded sense of self.
Although I am concerned about how this decision will affect him as he rushes into manhood I am relieved that my silence about you is finally over. My protection of you in the eyes of my son has ended. I will no longer bite my tongue about your questionable parenting, and I will no longer force him to make any attempts to contact you. My son, will determine from this point on whether or not HE wants to deal with you.
Despite the fact that I am currently unemployed and our future seems bleak and uncertain; I know Baz and I are walking out on the other side of this dark tunnel holding hands, mother and son – an unbreakable bond of love and support. We are stronger than we’ve ever been because of each other, because not only did I guide and show him the way, he showed me too. He gave me the reason to believe in myself and push hard to become who I am. He taught me how to love, and he showed me what the meaning of work ethic is and what the word fight really means. We really are okay.
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Giving Up Not An Option

Giving Up Not An Option

Last Thursday I was unexpectedly laid due to “budget cuts” they said. Yet I’m aware that the current political climate within the Union I was employed by is unstable so I am certain that the “budget cuts” excuse is not accurate but I have no way of proving it. So there I was feeling like a pitiful sad-sack of emotions. The thirty minutes it took me to reach the bus stop I alternated between worrying about projects I left behind and sobbing uncontrollably. My friends M, K & R all called to let me vent and reassure me. As did my Sister, my Father, Aunt, and cousins. My Facebook friends all rallied to cheer me up. Even my son’s father called to let me know I can count on him if I need anything. I am loved. My cup runneth over…

  

So now what?

While I would love to be able to work from home and/or create my own business truthfully I am terrified!  How am I going to make ends meet? What bills am I going to have to defer and for how long? I forgot how disorienting, stressful and difficult it can be to be unemployed and without any prospects.  

Although I did start updating my resume I mostly gave myself a break over the weekend and allowed myself to mourn the loss. Then early Monday morning I finished updating my resume and scouring the want ands for my next admin gig. 

  

The immediate plan is to use my severance pay (when it finally arrives) to pay rent this month while I search for a new gig. The fear is still there. However, I realize that  the layoff is simply the end of one chapter in my life. I have to take this opportunity to build myself back up and find that new beginning for myself and my Son.  

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The lack of a 9-to-5 also opens up my schedule to market my online Chloe+Isabel jewelry boutique full-time which I really didn’t have time for while I was stuck in the office.  

Generally I market my business through social media, holding online events to drive traffic to my boutique.  Now that my schedule is completely open I am excited about using this time to have some personal or group styling sessions.   

 

If you haven’t already, please visit my boutique. The jewelry is so versatile, especially the convertible jewelry.  Each piece can be worn in a variety of ways for maximum use and value.  Plus, all C+I jewelry is hypoallergenic, lead safe, nickel free and comes with a LIFETIME REPLACEMENT GUARANTEE. Yes, I said lifetime!!! 

 

You can find a something that suits your personal style on my boutique:

http://www.chloeandisabel.com/boutique/bymaruca

 
I’ll be re-launching my boutique and am working on a special offer. In the meantime please feel free to message me at candibymaruca@gmail.com, if you have any questions. 

On Your 16th Birthday

On Your 16th Birthday

You are sixteen today. SIXTEEN! How is this even possible?!!? I remember being sixteen. I loved being sixteen! (It doesn’t seem that long ago actually.). For the record, I think you’re going to be way better at it than I was. You have a better sense of who you are than I ever did.

Many changes will be arriving soon enough and experiences are going to be pouring in, just remember to always be true to yourself. You were born in this world to be an original just as you are. Of course there will be times where you will sometimes blend in with the world, but at the end of every day, remember to hold on to your individuality. Stay caring, loving, humble and as confident as you are and allow these characteristics to become permanent elements as you continue to grow into your future self.  As much as I celebrate the ever-more-amazing you, and want to wrap you up in super-duper extra strength bubble wrap to keep you safe and sound as you navigate the next few years; I know I have to let you cut your path.  I pray that you make good decisions. But if you make bad ones, I pray that you be given a moment of grace so that the consequences aren’t life-altering, heart-breaking or soul-crushing and that you appreciate that moment as gift and a chance to grow. 

Oh, yes, remember to always call your mother. I know this sounds cliché but do it anyway. For as long as I roam this planet, there will never be a time that I don’t want to hear about the latest in your life, your friends, your studies, your job, what you hope to achieve or even just what you had for lunch. I may not always have all of the answers, but I can promise you that I will always be here to listen, nurture, and comfort you. So call me.

Don’t be afraid to be all in. Explore, read, see the world, get involved, defend a cause, right a wrong, step out of your comfort zone, sing, dance, make a fool of yourself, swim, run, hike, watch sunsets, play games and look at the stars. 

I am so very proud of you my son and I am ridiculously blessed to be your mom. I know your future holds great things.  And I feel privileged to claim a front seat in watching it all unfold. Live long and prosper. 

Happy birthday, Sebastian!  

 

Feeling Accomplished

Feeling Accomplished
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Exhausted, swollen and tomato-faced but very proud of myself.

I did it!  I completed my very first 5k and jogged most of the way. YAY ME!!!

 

The thought of a 5k was intimidating but I wanted to push myself just to see if I could do it.  I am supper grateful for the nice lady that kept me company for the entire race – even though she’s an experienced runner and could have easily left me behind.

My intentions were to walk most of it but with her encouragement and in an effort to keep up with her I did a mix of jogging and walking and managed to finish in 58m 30s.  Of course other people’s time was better while others took longer to finish the race so I am not concerned about how long it took me to complete the race.  The important thing is that I got up on Thanksgiving morning and kept my word.  Instead of sleeping on my day off, I rose up at 6am, drove myself to the Turkey Trot and FINISHED the race without quitting even when I felt like throwing in the towel. It took a lot of willpower to keep pushing while my body felt like it was about to collapse but I was proud of myself that I didn’t give in.

While my body certainly took a beating yesterday I am actually thinking about doing another 5k and see how I can improve.  I know, me, the gal who hates running is looking forward to another race!!!