There. I've said it. It stinks, it hurts sometimes, it's depressing. And it's true: there is no magic wand to wave and make our troubles just disappear.
I always wanted to be Samantha on "Bewitched" - even if she got into messes, she could twitch her nose and all would be well. (Of course, she did have to put up with that dork of a husband Darrin...anyway...) Wouldn't it be nice if we could make ourselves look the way we want, make other people behave the way we want and do the things we want? If we could control everything and have it our way? (OK, there's an Endora streak in me too - I admit it.)
Well, believe it or not...no. As hard as it is sometimes, we learn from our struggles. We don't choose or deserve many of the things that happen to us or are done to us - but we have a choice in terms of learning to how deal with it without letting it control us. I know that sounds harsh, and I apologize - I never, ever want to minimize someone's pain by being flip. Here, though - this really is our choice. Recovery, healing, and moving forward are all "dealing with it." No matter what happens - we always have a choice: We can choose how we react and what we do with it,
The thing is, it's awfully easy to let whatever happened or whoever hurt us control us and I know that from experience. Emotions and mood states are POWERFUL, and can distort how we perceive reality. These things are also REAL - depression, anxiety, PTSD, anger, fear - they all are very real and affect us deeply. As tough as it is, our task is to try to see ourselves objectively and to try to do the best we can without further hurting ourselves or hurting other people. And doing so is not easy at all. It's a growth process, and a rebirth in many ways. It IS a process.
This process is not an easy thing to learn either. When I was doing my training, I used to keep a kid's magic wand in the little office where I did my counseling. Sometimes people would come in and would want to change someone else - like their children or spouse, their boss or coworkers, or extended family members. Other times, I'd hear people talk about how unfair things were and how others should do things/see things their way, or how life should be different. At this point, IF I'd established good rapport with my client, I'd take the magic wand and bang it on the end table or chair and say, "Look...it doesn't work. NOW what are we going to do? We've got to figure how to handle this, because the magic wand doesn't work!"
This almost always got a laugh - and made an important point. There is no easy fix for a lot of these issues. In fact, many of the issues that people talked about WERE unjust. However, we can't change other people, and sometimes we can't change what happens to us.
What we can do, however, is change ourselves. Again, it's not easy - this really is hard work. It involves letting go of our "shoulds" for others, our attempts to make them do what we want them to do or treat us the way we want them to treat us. Our challenge is to accept them as they are, and deal constructively and effectively with the things that happen to us. (For the record: Accepting other people as they are does NOT mean approving of, liking, or agreeing with their behaviors, the harm they do, or the hurt they cause. We're not condoning or accepting in any way, shape, or form abuse or other harmful/hurtful behaviors. What we're doing is letting go of trying to change them, and instead focus on what we can do to help ourselves.)
This is the essence of psychological healing, in my opinion. Therapy ideally gives someone a safe place to learn about and practice letting go, acceptance, and self-change. It's not a magic wand, but it can be a magic place because the work that's done in the therapy room, when successful, is transformational.
The old analogy of the caterpillar going into the cocoon and emerging a butterfly really is apt. It's a cliche, but it's one that fits. The struggle to emerge from the cocoon is not only difficult, it's necessary for the butterfly to survive. Helping the butterfly emerge - even when well-intentioned - kills the butterfly. Human birth is similar - the process of being born and being pushed/squeezed out the birth control compresses the newborn's lungs, so that when s/he emerges, they expand to bring the infant the breath of life. (With humans, we've learned to compensate - the "magic wand" of medical science helps here.)
The point with these analogies is that the "magic wand" - the quick fix, easy way out, getting someone else to do it for us, etc. - robs us of our ability to grow into the person we're meant to be. Without that struggle, we don't get to learn and grow in quite the same way. In my field, we call this ability to "bounce back" and heal resiliency - and resilience can be developed and strengthened over time. We learn to develop healthy boundaries, we learn to cope with strong emotions and tolerate distress, we learn to think in a healther and more effective way, we learn to be mindful of ourselves and all of these things as we grow and heal. We learn - or relearn - how to interact with other people and grow relationships.
These things said, would I wish abusive, harmful, traumatic, or painful experiences on anyone in the sake of growth? NO. I can't say that emphatically enough - NO. We can't control what other people do or many times We CAN work to heal ourselves and grow, though. We can die in our cocoons, or we can struggle and emerge reborn to face the world. It's up to us. It's not easy. It's not pretty - and there really is no magic wand.
The magic is instead in us, in our ability to overcome.
Please Note: The content on this blog is intended for informational purposes only. This is not therapy, and if you wish to work in therapy, please contact your local mental health agency or your physician for a referral.
If you are in crisis or danger, please call 911 for immediate help. Please, again, realize that seeking out help really IS a sign of strength and not a sign of weakness. You don’t have to be alone in facing these things – there are people who care and who will help. Email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org