Overcoming Suffering

There is a certain transformation that can happen after someone experiences a traumatic situation. Those who experience suffering often see and feel positive growth afterwards.

Bill Gates’ first business, a data processing company, failed miserably. Stephen Spielberg was rejected – twice – by USC, the nation’s top film school. Bethany Hamilton was just 13 and starting to surf competitively when a shark bit off her left arm. Benjamin Franklin’s family didn’t have the money to keep him in school after he turned 10. Jewish Psychiatrist Viktor Frankl was interred in a Nazi death camp during WW II. Albert Einstein didn’t speak until he was 3.

The one thing all of these people have in common was their refusal to give up when faced with horrific odds. Being able to tap into deep emotional resources in challenging times and not only survive the obstacle, but actually thrive, is such an important trait that psychologists have even coined a name for it – “post-traumatic growth.”

It’s something deeper than “resilience,” the ability to rebound from setbacks and resume your life. Of course, resilience is a positive reaction to negative situations, and represents a healthy ability to stay mindful in the present moment and keep putting one foot in front of the other.

The difference, though, is people who exhibit the quality of post-traumatic growth actually end up using the major setback – personal injury, betrayal by a trusted acquaintance, losing everything in a devastating storm or fire, the tragic death of a loved one – as a steppingstone to redefining ‘normal,’ and creating a more purposeful life path.

Frequently, too, the person will re-dedicate themselves to being of service to others in a similar situation. For instance, Dr. Frankl counseled other prisoners in the concentration camps, and saw proof that those who had deep meaning in their lives – something purposeful left to do – survived. He created the equation, “Suffering without Meaning equals Despair,” and after his release wrote the ground-breaking book, Man’s Search for Meaning.  Bethany not only resumed an award-winning surfing career – she is at the heart of the non-profit foundation, Friends of Bethany, that offers spiritual support to those in need. Franklin, Einstein, Gates and Spielberg all helped elevate and change the nation, and the world despite their early bleak experiences.

If you find yourself emotionally overwhelmed after an unexpected challenge, there are ways to cultivate the powerful and positive road to post-traumatic growth.

  1. 1. Remind yourself, “Pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional.” Acknowledge the hurt, but also know you have the power to gradually move through it, into a space of acceptance, and then growth.
  2. 2. Don’t define yourself by the challenge. You endured something intense, but that doesn’t detract from who you are.
  3. 3. Realize healing, and growth, take some time. Even if the incident was instantaneous, coming back into optimum balance isn’t. Be gentle with yourself.
  4. 4. Rely on spiritual disciplines. Meditating, prayer, journaling – all are essential for helping you process your emotions, and guide you in a positive new direction.
  5. 5. Consciously choose foods and beverages that nourish, replenish and fuel you. A healthy, positive, balanced mind and spirit require a healthy body.

Find the support you need to experience your own personal growth with a visit to the Optimum Health Institute. Let go of past old hurts and embrace positive new experiences with an extended stay at one of our healing missions. Call OHI at (800) 588-0809 or visit www.OptimumHealth.org today for more information.