Tragedy and mass shootings have been front and center in the news for a while now. I found myself weeping over the most recent one that occurred in the yoga studio, as that could have easily been you or me.
As we cope with our own struggles and witness other people’s struggles unfold in the news, a typical response is to look for an underlying meaning that might make our devastation a little more tolerable…..and this process of turning wounds into wisdom can be beneficial. For example, cancer patients who find meaning from their medical experiences have been known to find greater psychological adjustment. Likewise, after the death of a loved one, people who make sense of their loss and even see benefits in it experience significantly less distress. In one of my all-time FAVORITE books, Man’s Search For Meaning, author, doctor, and survivor of the Holocaust, Viktor Frankl……wrote extensively about this process after observing that his fellow inmates in the concentration camps had a higher chance of surviving the gruesome conditions if they held on to a sense of meaning.
You might be wondering……How can I find meaning and experience positive changes resulting from a major crisis? My answer to this question is that by actively looking for good in something bad, you can take adversity and use it as a catalyst for advancing to a higher level of psychological functioning. For example, I have worked with people who have survived truly horrific sexual assaults, yet they have been able to heal from this and to find meaning by giving back to other survivors in some way. Though, it is worth mentioning that the timeline and nature of healing can vary from person to person.
Tragedy exposes our vulnerability in a highly unpredictable world and therefore might cause us to feel helpless, yet paradoxically, it can also lead us to see ourselves as stronger and able to rise above the suffering. Some people feel empowered by realizing that overcoming a past challenge = they will be able to overcome any future problems that may arise.
Ultimately, tragedy can shift our perspective, to inspire us to value life more, and to renew our intention to make the most of it. Right in this moment, I want you to try to fully savor and enjoy the things that bring you joy, such as a hot cup of your favorite coffee or tea, your pet, the sunset, or spending time with a loved one.
By focusing on savoring the moment, as well as analyzing how we can turn our wounds into wisdom, in turn, this enables us to further develop and unfold into our highest potential. It means that we approach (rather than avoid) the task of coping…..by accepting the tragedy as irreversible and then embracing the process of grief. And ultimately, we are in control of how we move forward, and thereby how we perceive control over our recovery. Nobody is exempt from suffering, yet we can flourish and thrive despite it…..and, in some cases, because of it!
“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
~ Viktor Frankl
Rebecca Capps, MA, MFT
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*And in case you missed it….here are some of the recent articles I’ve been featured in: